Have you ever noticed that if you ask students want they want to work on with regards to their English skills, they’ll often say, “free-talking?” At least, this was my experience teaching English in South Korea. ESL Speaking can be tough to both teach and learn. That’s where ESL basic conversation starters can come in.
Free talking is kind of like a buzzword, and even the very lowest of low students will request this. However, it can be difficult for lower-level students to keep the conversation going. And that’s where something like these basic conversation starters can come in. These easy conversation ESL starters are perfect for English learners. Keep on reading to find out more about these ESL starters and ESL conversation topics for beginners.
Basic 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, basic 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, but the students into partners, give them the conversation starter, and then assist as needed, but don’t interfere.
Student-centered classrooms for the win, that is, if your goal is to help your students speak English better.
Here’s how you use Conversation Starters with your English Learners:
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.
ESL Starter 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.
ESL Conversation Topics for Beginners
Here is a list of a few great ESL conversation topics for beginners that you can use in class when doing partner conversation starters activity. Providing engaging ESL conversation topics can help beginners speak English with enthusiasm and confidence.
1. Animals: Conversation Starters
- What is your favourite animal and why?
- Do you have any pets?
- Do you know anything about this animal? What does it eat?
- Is there an animal that you are afraid of?
- What is the most recent book that you read?
- What is your favourite book’s title?
- Is there a book that you would like to recommend to others?
- Do you like going to the library?
3. Movies: ESL Conversation Topics
- What is your favourite movie?
- Who do you like to watch movies with?
- What is the most recent movie that you watched?
- Do you remember the first time you went to a movie theater?
4. Clothing / Fashion
- What is your favourite fashion brand and why?
- What do you like to wear?
- What is your favourite color for clothing?
- What type of clothing do you want to try on?
- Do you regularly exercise?
- Do you prefer exercising alone or with another person?
- Why do people have to exercise?
- When is the best time to exercise?
- How many siblings do you have?
- Do all of your family members live together?
- Do you live with a nuclear family or an extended family?
- What do your family members all have in common?
- What is your biggest fear?
- How do you overcome your fears?
- Do you know anyone who has the same fear as you?
- What do you do when you are overwhelmed with your fears?
8. Feelings: ESL Conversation Topics for Beginners
- How do you feel right now?
- When do you feel happy?
- In what situation do you feel sad?
- Have you ever hurt someone else’s feelings?
- What is your favourite food?
- Is there a type of food that you do not like?
- What did you eat for yesterday’s dinner?
- What is the food that you eat most often?
10. Hobbies: Conversation Starters for Beginners
- Do you have a hobby? If yes, what is it?
- What do you like about your hobby?
- Why should other people try your hobby?
- Who do you like to do your hobby with?
ESL Questions for Beginners
When working with beginner ESL students, it’s important to use simple and straightforward questions that help them practice basic vocabulary, sentence structures, and communication skills. Here are some good ESL questions for beginners:
- What’s your name?
- How old are you?
- Where are you from?
- Do you have any siblings?
- What time do you wake up?
- What do you eat for breakfast?
- What do you do after school/work?
Likes and Dislikes
- Do you like [food/activity]?
- What’s your favorite color?
- Do you like to read/watch movies/play sports?
Family and Friends
- How many people are there in your family?
- Do you have any pets?
- Who is your best friend?
- Can you swim?
- Can you cook?
- Can you play a musical instrument?
Weather and Seasons
- What’s the weather like today?
- What’s your favorite season?
- Do you like rainy days?
Hobbies and Interests
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- Do you like to draw/sing/play games?
Food and Drinks
- What’s your favorite food?
- Do you like pizza/hamburgers/fruit?
- What do you usually drink with meals?
School and Learning
- What’s your favorite subject?
- What’s your teacher’s name?
- Do you like to read books?
Colors and Shapes
- What color is the sky?
- What shape is a soccer ball?
- What’s your favorite color?
Numbers and Counting
- How old are you?
- How many fingers do you have?
- Can you count to [a number]?
Travel and Places
- Have you been on a trip before?
- What’s your favorite place to visit?
- Have you been to a zoo/park/beach?
Clothing and Fashion
- What do you like to wear?
- What color is your shirt/pants/shoes?
Feelings and Emotions
- How do you feel today?
- Are you happy/sad/excited?
Time and Days of the Week
- What day is it today?
- What do you usually do on [a specific day]?
Do you Like this ESL Speaking Activity?
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 145 Pages - 03/10/2016 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent...
Yes? Thought so. 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.
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Conversation Starters Available in a Variety of Formats
You can get the book in both digital and print formats. The digital version can be read on any device by downloading the free Kindle reading app. It’s ideal for lesson planning on the go at your favourite coffee shop.
Or, keep a copy on the bookshelf in your office and use it as a handy reference guide. It’s an easy way to make your English lessons even better by using a variety of interesting ESL games and activities.
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It really is that easy. You can check out the book for yourself over on Amazon, but only if you want a serious dose of ESL awesome in your life.
ESL Basic Conversation Starters Ideas
Do you want even more ideas of things you can talk about with your students? Or things they can talk about with each other? Check out this short video on YouTube for some interesting and engaging ideas.
FAQs About Basic Conversation Starters
Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions about ESL conversation staters and topics.
What questions should I ask ESL students?
Free speaking can be quite challenging and somewhat terrifying for ESL students. Therefore, it is important to ask questions related to the most recently taught topic or a topic that the students are interested in. For example, feelings and emotions are commonly taught vocabulary and topics for ESL students. Provide basic conversation starters to make English speaking easier. Try out speaking activities if you need additional lesson resources.
What are the topics to discuss in English?
Some of the best topics to discuss with ESL students are animals, books, movies, clothing, exercise, family, fears, feelings, food, and hobbies. You can keep students engaged with basic conversation starters and interesting ESL conversation topics for beginners.
How do you teach a conversation for beginners?
Basic Conversation Starters: Join the Conversation
How do you get your lower-level students to talk in English? Have you tried using basic conversation starters before? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us about the ESL conversation topics for beginners and conversation starter activities. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2024-02-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API