Materials writing conversations #7: circles

This is a completely imaginary conversation. No characters in the convo are based on real people – I’m just bored and imagining conversations I might have with editors…


Work with a partner. Perform a dialogue based on the following roles:

Student A: You’re a shop assistant. You are working behind the counter at a high street clothes shop (probably not Topshop as that wouldn’t make this resource future-proof). A customer (Student B) has a request. Deal with the customer’s request appropriately.

Student B: You’re a customer in a high street clothes shop. You would like to return a shirt you bought last week.

  • The shirt has shrunk in the wash
  • The colour has also faded
  • You’ve lost the receipt, so there’s no proof of purchase
  • You would like a full refund

Comment (Editor): Why is this the lead-in? This is more like a final task. Also, the language is far too complicated. This needs to change. Perhaps just some lead-in questions to orientate to the topic: How often do you shop? What’s your favourite high street store? Have you ever returned an item because it had a problem? What common problems might there be with items you buy in a high street store (e.g. a faulty gadget, a shirt that shrinks, etc).

Me: So what you’re saying is that the students are incapable of either a) inferring any meaning from the context, b) lack the pep to clarify the meaning of a word with the teacher, c) can’t get their phone out to use a dictionary, or d) absolutely won’t know the meaning of any possible unknown words? I think we are assuming quite little of the learners here, I mean…


Me: Okay, good point. Let’s start with the questions, then. That way we can see what language emerges. Maybe expand that last question into a vocabulary task. Maybe there we can input ‘faded, faulty, shrunk’, etc? Then they can do the roleplay task – the questions lead into that nicely.

Comment (Editor): I don’t see the relevance of the role play task so early in the lesson. This is a final task. We should create activities that build up to this task.

Me: Okay, just the questions then.

*Skips to section 3, a post-listening task that draws out useful language for the ‘final’ role play task*


Listen to the conversation between the shop assistant and the customer again. Add useful phrases from the text to the table.


Comment (Editor): I think most of the target language will be known to the learners here. We need more challenge.

Me: How do you know that learners already know this?

Comment (Editor): Because they should do at this level

Me: Yeah well they’ll probably know ‘shrunk in the wash’ as well then won’t they?! Seriously, one minute you assume nothing, the next, I just.. DELETE DELETE DELETE

Me: Could we maybe test what they know at the start of the lesson?

Comment (Editor): How do you propose we do that?

Me: Well, if learners attempt the task first, then we can see what they already know. Like, the phrases they use, whether they are using polite intonation, topic specific vocabulary, whatever.

Comment (Editor): Hmmm. Yes. Okay, we could do that. Could you write a role play as part of the lead in? That could act as a diagnostic for the lesson, perhaps? But don’t make it too open. You could just add some of the target vocabulary into the role play (faded, shrunk) to see if learners are familiar with it already.

Me: Yes. Yes, I can.

*Track changes, undo changes, realise previous edit was made without track changes on*


*Rewrites previous role play*

Comment (Editor): On second thoughts, this doesn’t make sense. Let’s just go with the questions.

Categories: General, materials writing

Tags: , , , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. This was fun. And by fun I mean something I can imagine as an annoying back and forth.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hahaha. My experience is with the (boring, predictable) questions, vocabulary work and the listening you won’t get round to the roleplay in 45 mins. A roleplay as a lead-in seems really nice!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I think a roleplay as a diagnostic task is a great idea, but agree that you would need some kind of lead-in first to get the students in English mode!

    Liked by 1 person

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