Have you ever noticed that if you ask students want they want to work on, they’ll often say, “free-talking.” It’s kind of like a buzzword, and even the very lowest of low students will request this.
Conversation Starters: ESL Speaking Activity
If you teach lower level students, it can be a bit difficult to get a free-flowing conversation going. Most times, it’s almost impossible. The students often don’t know how to get the conversation started, but the good news is that you can help them!
For all but the lowest level students who are just learning the most basic of vocabulary and grammar, conversation starters can really help. For these very, very low level students, basically vocab and grammar will probably be a better use of your time.
One of the reasons I love this activity so much is that it takes the pressure off the teacher, and puts it back on the students. Instead of having one big group discussion, put the students into partners, give them the conversation starter, and then assist as needed, but don’t interfere.
Student-centred classrooms for the win, that is, if your goal is to help your students speak English better.
Here’s how you use Conversation Starters:
Time Required: 5-15 Minutes
Materials Required: Nothing
Give the students a conversation starter to get them going and prevent that awkward time at the beginning of many conversation activities when your students don’t know how to get it going. For example, if you’re talking about feelings in class that day, you can use:
A. Hey _____, how are you doing? B. I’m great, how are you? A. I’m _______ (sad, embarrassed, angry, bored, etc). B. Oh? What’s wrong? A._____ B._________ A.__________ , B.___________, ……….
Or, if you’re talking about festivals in Korea:
A. Hey ________, have you been to any festivals recently? B. (Yes…I went to_________)/ (No, but….___years ago I went to….)
This works well for high-beginner, or above students. They usually have the ability to ask (and answer) follow-up questions on the fly.
To finish off this activity, I’ll often require students to tell the class one thing they learned about their partner.
If you have 12+ students, just pick and choose a few people at random. Or, choose one person from each group to do this. It’s boring, and also a waste of time to do it with 20, 30, or 40 students.
Variation for Lower-Level Students
You can use the same conversation starters for this, but with the following adaptation.
Give the students about 10 minutes to write the conversation with their partner. You can adjust the number of lines to suit the ability level. Then, the students memorize their conversation, and recite it in front of their classmates.
I always make it a requirement that students memorize their conversation, or it’s very, very boring to watch!
At the end of each group, I’ll often throw in a follow-up question of some kind just for fun.
Do you Like this ESL Speaking Activity?
Then you’re going to love this book over on Amazon: 101 ESL Activities: For Teenagers and Adults. There are dozens of well-organized, detailed activities that will get your students talking and having fun while learning English.
What’s in it for you? Easy lesson planning. Teachers always need games and activities to supplement what’s in the textbook. That’s where 101 ESL Activities comes in. You should be able to find what you need in a minute or two.
“I LOVE this book and use it every single time I do lesson plans. The activities are for a wide variety of levels, and the authors make it clear which one will work for which students.”
It really is that easy. You can check out the book for yourself over on Amazon:
Conversation Starters: Have your Say!
How do you get your lower-level students talking in English? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.