Small Talk ESL Activity: Practice this important skill

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Small Talk ESL Speaking Activity

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.

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. 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.

Small Talk Activity

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.

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:

The Cocktail Party ESL Speaking Activity for Adults

The Expert ESL Speaking Activity

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:

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What activities do you like to do in your classes to get your students working on small talk? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

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