Author: Deb Bullock | Published on 1 October 2023


Read what a teacher says about this activity:

I use Vanishing dialogue to practise a range of functional language for different situations, for example, arranging to meet, agreeing and disagreeing, etc. It’s a good activity because it helps learners to remember useful phrases such as ‘I’m not sure I agree’ or ‘Shall we meet up after school?’. And it’s popular with learners because they like acting out their own dialogues afterwards.

Stage 1: Introduce

Draw/stick a picture of a situation on the board (e.g. a teacher and a learner at the front of the classroom).

Explain the situation: the learner is making an excuse about not doing their homework. 

Elicit language associated with the situation. Write these words and phrases around the picture. (E.g. I’m so sorry … The thing is… The problem is … I have a good excuse etc.)

Elicit a short dialogue of 4–6 lines and write it on the board.

Stage 2: Drill

Divide the class in half. Group 1 will play the teacher, Group 2 will play the learner.  

Choral drill the dialogue so the different groups take the different roles: 

  • Model the first line of the dialogue, Group 1 repeats. Model line 2, Group 2 repeats. Continue to the end. 
  • Groups swap roles. Repeat the drill. 

To help learners remember the phrases, repeat one more time using a different voice, e.g. quiet, high, deep, funny, etc. so learners don’t become bored.

Stage 3: Erase the dialogue

Erase 2 or 3 words. The class repeats the dialogue in 2 groups.

Erase 2 or 3 more words. The class repeats the dialogue in 2 groups.

Continue to erase words and ask the class to repeat the dialogue until the dialogue has vanished.

Pairs repeat the dialogue from memory.

T: Portia, where is your __________? What’s your ________ this time?

P: The ____ ____, I did it but then I forgot it. I’m so _________.

T: Well, make sure you ______ ______ ________.

P: I will. 

T: And next time _______ ____________.]

Stage 4: Extend and share

Ask pairs to create their own dialogues using the functional language. Encourage them to be creative, e.g. My uncle’s chicken ate my homework.  

Pairs act out their dialogues in groups. 

Volunteers act out their dialogues for the class. 

What functional language could you practise with Vanishing dialogue?


Vanishing: a way of telling the learners to continue practising the dialogue, but delete some of the dialogue so learners continue practising with their classmates

Functional language: language that we use to perform various "functions" such as giving advice or apologising

Making an excuse: to give false reasons why you cannot do something

Choral drill: a technique to get learners to repeat words, expressions or sentences to help them remember and develop more accurate pronunciation