ABSTRACT: The conditions and experiences that make the use of a second language a purposeful means of communication in the intimate groupings of social living are recognized as aspects of curriculum and instruction that merit investigation. A theoretical model for small-group instruction is proposed. It consists of conversational stages in sequence that permit the discussion of a cultural narrative in a group setting of five students. The interaction in these stages (which are based upon various networks of communication drawn from sociological research) is gradually freed from the constraints of appointed leadership, thus assuming the characteristics of a natural conversational exchange. The stages are labeled in such a way as to describe the degree of freedom for personal expression, i.e., verbal action and reaction: the controlled stage, the partially-controlled stage, and the non-controlled stage.