Back-to-Back Conversations


Purpose:  This partner activity helps learners to develop listening skills that are necessary for phone calls and other methods of communication that aren’t face-to-face.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Materials Needed:  handouts with 3-6 questions written on them (one for each learner)


  1. Generate a short list of questions that relate to the class unit, or general information questions that learners will be familiar with. Write the questions down on mini-whiteboards (one whiteboard for each pair of learners in the group).
  2. As a group, go over some phrases that learners can use when they don’t understand what was said. Explain that it’s not rude to ask for clarification, and that it can be very important to make sure that you are answering questions correctly and getting the accurate information from people in the community, particularly from doctors, teachers, managers, etc.


“I’m sorry?”


“Excuse me?”

“Excuse me, can you repeat the question?”

“Excuse me, what was that?”

“Could you say that again?”

“I didn’t catch that, could you repeat it?”

“Could you repeat that, please?”

“Could you say that slower, please?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you.”


  1. Pair up the learners and have them sit back-to-back. Give one of the learners in the pair the handout with the questions.
  2. Tell the learner with the handout that they must interview their partner. If they or their partner don’t understand, they must use the practices phrases for clarification until they are able to understand one another.
  3. After the pairs are finished with the interview, have the learners with the handouts report their partners’ answers back to the group (they can do this by memory, or you can allow them to take basic notes on the handouts).
  4. Have the learners switch roles and repeat the activity.

Modification 2: For an additional challenge, give a different set of questions to the learners for the second round. This will mean that the learners who are being interviewed will not know what the questions are ahead of time, and will require more clarification checks.  

Modification 1: For an additional challenge, have learners generate their own questions for this activity in their notebooks before sitting back to back with their partner.

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