Discussion Starter Questions
Have you ever met or seen a famous person?
Have you ever been in an accident?
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Have you ever experienced a natural disaster?
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Of course, there are discussion starter questions like this in just about every single ESL Textbook! This is just one example, so please adapt this idea to suit your needs.
ESL Small Group Discussion: The One Tip You Need
The key to having better results with this kind of activity is to give some thinking time! This is particularly true with beginner to low-intermediate students.
In this particular case, 2-3 minutes of thinking time works well. That way, students can have a solid story that they want to tell for each question. If you put students on the spot, they’re forced to not only think of a story, but worry about what they’re going to say in English as well.
This two or three minutes for thinking can be used in a lot of cases, especially with beginner-level students. I’ve found that the quality of answers are considerably better when I do this and the students aren’t so reluctant to speak out in class.
It also makes it easier to ask follow-up questions since the initial utterance is likely to be something of substance instead of just random things put together in no coherent order.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
I know that if someone asked me to tell a story in Korean, I could maybe do it but not when put on the spot. In fact, I’d be really terrible and would get all flustered and stressed out. If I had a few minutes to look up a word or two in the dictionary and organize my thoughts in my head, it might be possible.
Try it Out Yourself
Give students some thinking time before they have to speak. But, encourage them just to think in their heads and not write out full sentences because it then becomes a writing activity instead of a speaking one.
Need More Ideas?
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Learn More About Student-Centered Language Teaching
This activity is student centered in a serious way. It’s all about the students working out the language for themselves, instead of relying too heavily on the teacher. You can learn more about this style of language teaching here:
Have your Say about this Tip for ESL Small Group Discussion!
Do you have a tip or trick to make English discussions go more smoothly? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
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