Many foreign ESL teachers abroad, especially in places like South Korea, teach predominantly English conversation classes. Some teachers (and students too!) have the perception that teaching English conversation involves just “talking” to the students. Free-talking does have a role in helping students learn English, but it shouldn’t be the only thing we do in our English conversation classes.
If you’re looking to level-up your ESL teaching game, you’ve come to the right place! I have plenty of tips, lesson plans, and activity ideas for how to teach English conversation the better way. Help your students actually improve their conversation skills with these interesting, challenging and engaging ideas.
English Conversation Activity Ideas
Try out these games and activities that are guaranteed to get your students talking. The best part about them is that you can target some specific grammar or vocabulary, and push students to integrate these things into their previous knowledge base. This is better than free talking because I find that students often just use the same few grammatical structures and 100-200 vocabulary words they always use.
Partner Conversation Starters/Role-Plays: An excellent way to get even low-level students started with English conversation. These students can speak in English to each other if you give them the structure to be able to do it.
Teach Someone How to Do Something: Perfect for the “hobby” unit that seems to be in just about every single ESL textbook. It doesn’t have to be boring!
Small Talk ESL Activity: Small talk is a vital, yet often neglected aspect of English conversation. Give your students some serious practice in it with this activity. It’s fun, challenging and has an element of competition to it.
Surveys: I love a good ESL survey because they cover all 4-skills, are completely student-centered and can cover just about any grammar or vocabulary point. I use them so often in my own classes that my students let out a bit of a sigh, but I know they secretly love them. Haha! Here are six ESL surveys that I use in my own classes with university students in South Korea.
English Conversation Starters
If you’re looking for some ideas to get some interesting discussions going, check out the following below. They can turn into an entire class, or you can use them for a quick warm-up at the beginning of class.
Lesson Plans for English Conversation
If you’re looking for a few lesson plans to assist you in planning your English conversation classes, check out the following below. They will work for students in just about any country.
The Conditioned ESL Lesson Plan (for adults)
Technology and Sleep (for adults)
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