Pro Con Improv

Thumbs up, thumbs down

Purpose: To encourage advanced-level ESL and GED students to use transition phrases in conversation. This activity will help students use more academic language in speaking and in writing.

Prep Time: 10 – 15 minutes

Materials: none

Preparation: Based on the content of past lessons and learner interest, choose a number of subjects that students may choose from. Think about a topic you would like to speak about as you model the activity. Write down examples to illustrate the transition words you’ll introduce at the beginning of the lesson.


I do it:

1. Introduce the idea of transition phrases in speaking (and writing). For this activity, you will focus on connective words used to express thoughts in opposition to each other. Most of us tend to use the word “but” a lot, but there are other options to choose from which are more academic. These include “however”, “on the other hand”, and “then again”. Provide examples of each used in a pair of sentences.

2. On one side of the board, write a list of topics. For example: TV, travel, cell phones, computers, cars, fast food, etc.

3. On the other side of the board, write the transition phrases.

4. Check for comprehension of the terms “pro” and “con”. If necessary, pick a topic, make two columns, one with a (+) at the top and the other with a (-), and ask the students to help you outline the pros and cons of the topic.

We do it:

1. Now elicit sample sentences from the students, using the information you’ve generated and a transition phrase.

2. Ask a student to model the activity with you.

3. Tell the student your topic and explain that you will begin talking about the pros. When they clap their hands, you have to use a transition phrase and begin talking about the cons. Every time they clap, you have to switch course, using a transition phrase before you continue.

You do it:

1. Students pair up.

2. Give them a few minutes to reflect on their topic of choice.

3. Each student has a turn to speak and a turn to listen (and clap!)


“All learning involves conversation. The ongoing dialogue, internal and external, that occurs as we read, write, listen, compose, observe, refine, interpret, and analyze IS how we learn.” – Regie Routman

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