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Are you looking for an interesting, engaging way to have your students to get some practice with small talk? It’s an important, but often overlooked skill because it’s hard to design interesting activities and games that practice this.
Want to find out one of my favourite small talk games for English learners? Then you’re in the right place! Keep on reading for all the details you need to know about this English small talk activity for ESL students.
Small Talk Activity for ESL/EFL Students
This small talk ESL activity is the perfect way to get your students speaking English. It’s ideal for a warm-up activity to start the class, or as a way to finish off a lesson on small talk. You can use it for beginners to advanced students, but you’ll have to adjust the length of the conversations to suit the level of students.
Small talk is an important, but often overlooked skill. This is because it’s not that easy to practice it in a natural way in a very artificial classroom. Of course, the best practice happens outside the class, but this isn’t possible. This game is perhaps the next best thing.
Check out this small talk ESL activity below for a fun way to do it with your students. There’s an element of competition to it so your students will be having fun, while practicing their small talk skills.
Small Talk ESL Activity: How to do it
Print off this grid, one per every 4 students.
Put students into pairs, with 2 pairs in one group (4 students total). The first pair chooses a topic such as “this morning” and must talk about it for 2 minutes (advanced), 1 minute (intermediate) or 30 seconds (beginner). The other team is the “timer” and can use their cell-phones to do this.
If the team can keep up a conversation about this topic for the full time, they get to mark that topic on the board with either an “X” or “O,” with the goal being three in a row, which equals one point. If they couldn’t do it, there is no penalty but they don’t get to mark that square off on the board. The game is essentially S-O-S/Tic-Tac-Toe.
Then, the next team chooses a topic and the game continues.
For a short activity, the winner can be the first team with one row of three. For a longer game, continue for a certain amount of time (10 minutes is good) and the winner is the team with the most rows.
It’s quite a versatile speaking activity and can lend itself well to almost any level of student, apart from total beginners. You can also use it for a quick warmer, or a longer activity that takes up much of a class.
More Small Talk ESL Activities
If you need a couple more ways to practice small talk with your students, check out these two additional activities:
What about Small Talk for Beginner Students?
If you have students who are just beginners at speaking English, please for the love of ALL things good, do not use these small talk activities. They are going to be a total bust in your classes, and you’ll likely be met with almost dead silence.
Your students will need a whole lot more structure than an activity like this can offer you. Instead, you’ll want to try out something like role-plays. They’ll work better for beginners because:
- They give students some thinking time
- They’re a nice mix of creativity, along with structure
- You can use them to encourage students to memorize some key conversational phrases, which can help with fluency later
- They help to prevent embarrassment in front of the other teacher or students when just starting out.
Check out this video below for more details:
Small talk does require a decent amount of vocabulary and a firm grasp of basic grammatical structures. Beginners often don’t have the required skills to engage in small talk in a meaningful way so give them more structured activities and things will go more smoothly.
Small Talk Questions List
Do you students need some ideas for questions they can use to start a small talk conversation with? Here are some random discussion questions to give them some ideas:
What brought you here tonight?
How do you know______ (the host of the event)?
What do you think about the _____ (event, weather, something in the news, etc.)
How’s your day going today?
What do you like to do in your free time?
Do you like the food here tonight?
What do you think about this restaurant?
Have you seen any movies/read any books lately?
Do you have any hobbies that you love to do?
Do you have any basic conversation questions that you’d like to add to this list that you teach your students? Leave a comment below and let us know. We’ll add them to this list for our teachers to use. Thank you!
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Have your Say about this Small Talk ESL Activity
What activities do you like to do in your classes to get your students working on small talk? Or, did you try out this activity? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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