Throughout my time working as a teacher with The Ladies’ Project, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to lead weekly “guided conversations.”

In case you’re scratching your head, trying to figure out exactly what a guided conversation might be – it’s exactly what it sounds like!

A guided conversation is a chat where the teacher proposes a topic, and gently guides the discussion. The students aren’t left completely on their own to fill up the hour, but they aren’t being forced into a structured class either. There’s space to ask questions, to try out new vocab and grammar, and to have an amazing conversation about a topic that’s important to everyone!

Although every teacher has their own style, I usually start my guided conversations with a few vocab words, phrases, and expressions that I know will be useful for the topic. I’m a pretty visual person, so I like to draw diagrams, charts, and really bad pictures (I never said I was an artist)! Then I just see what happens!

What usually happens is something very different from what I’m expecting to happen! The conversation goes off in new directions, a great question starts us talking about a new topic, and at least one person always answers in a way that I never would have thought of on my own!

But that’s one thing that I love about leading guided conversations – they’re never what I expect.

Actually, they’re always so much more than what I expect!

When you put five or six people in one room (or in our case, one online meeting), of course you’re going to see different ideas, experiences, and thoughts.

In the case of The Ladies’ Project, the five or six ladies participating in the chat are almost always from different countries and cultures.

Different life experiences lead to different ideas and opinions to share.

As a result, we all learn something new.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought something like, “Wow, I’ve never thought about that before!” during a guided conversation. The learning that happens in guided conversations goes far beyond English grammar and vocab.

We discuss different cultures, learn about traditions around the world, and open up points of view that we might not normally be exposed to!

I leave each guided conversation feeling as though my eyes and heart have been opened, and understanding that the world is much bigger than the pieces that I have experienced.

The other thing that I love about guided conversations is that the topics are always meaningful to not just me, but all of the participants as well.

We aren’t just practicing vocab and grammar to have small talk or mindless chit-chat. We talk about topics that are important in our lives.

We talk about the relationships in our lives, the difficulties of parenting, how to be taken seriously as a female in a male-dominated work world, and the impact that we have on the environment.

We discuss self-care, our favorite family food traditions, our travel experiences, and the effects of tourism on a place. And these are just a few examples of what we’ve discussed!

The ideas are limitless, and every conversation “hits home” for the students involved.

Finally, the absolute BEST part about guiding conversations is the growth that I see happening right before my eyes.

Guided conversations are not anonymous speeches in a room full of people. They’re intimate, with a small number of people. Everyone involved is positive, supportive, and open-minded.

As a result, each person taking part starts to feel more and more confident as the discussion goes on. They start to feel like they can use new vocab words or try to explain an idea that’s challenging to talk about.

Anxiety and nervousness don’t have a place in our guided conversations – we replace them with smiles, laughter, compliments, and positive energy. And this lack of pressure leaves so much room for growth and learning.

Although there are many amazing things about my job, guided conversations are often the highlight. I leave every guided conversation filled with pride and admiration for each of the ladies who took part.

I feel as though each of us – myself included – has grown as a person during the hour we spent together. It’s a powerful feeling, and I’m so incredibly privileged to live it on a weekly basis!

What’s been your experience? Have you participated or assisted in a guided English conversation before?

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The Ladies’ Project is an online community that helps women around the world, connect and practise speaking English. Together we help each other build confidence, make new friends and talk about the important things in life!

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