Are you trying to figure out what to actually do in your English conversation class for adults? That’s a good question.
The good news is that you’ve come to the right place! Here are some of my favourite ESL activities for adults.
ESL Conversation and Speaking Activities for Adults
If you want to make your English conversation class as interesting, engaging, and fun as possible for the students, you’ll need to check these out. They’re guaranteed to get your students speaking English in the most painless way possible! They range from warm-ups to fun games to complete ESL lessons.
Check out these activities below. Clicking on the title will take you to the article with all the information. How to set it up, resources needed, etc.
#1: The Small Talk Game
Small talk is important in the English language, but it’s an often-overlooked skill. Part of the reason people think that others aren’t great at English when they really are quite capable is that they lack the ability to make small talk.
I’m not sure why we don’t teach it more in our classes. Perhaps it’s because the textbook doesn’t really focus on it? Maybe it’s hard to teach students to do it well?
Whatever the case, help out your students with one of my top ESL conversation games for adults.
You can get students practicing it while having fun with this game. I like it so much because there’s an element of competition to it that keeps things interesting. However, it’s best for intermediate to advanced students because it requires maintaining a conversation about a variety of topics for a set period of time.
The way it works is that each team tries to talk about a certain topic for a certain amount of time. If successful, they get to mark that square off on the board and it’s kind of like tic-tac-toe. It’s a nice way to start getting students to have longer conversations in English.
Learn more about it here: Small Talk Activity.
#2: The Cocktail Party for Adult ESL Learners
This is another small talk conversation activity for adults that gets student mingling and mixing in an ESL class for adults. It’s great at replicating real life. Students will be having conversations just like they would at a cocktail party. Give your students confidence that they can venture out into the real world and use English!
Find out more here: The Cocktail Party ESL Activity for Adults.
#3: The Hobby Unit-A Fun ESL Conversation Activity
I’m so, so weary of the hobby unit because I’ve taught it so many times. Here’s an interesting activity I do that gets my students engaged, asking follow-up questions, and talking together. Student-centered language teaching at its best!
I like this activity as well because you can use it with pairs, or groups of 3-5. It’s flexible and can be adapted to most levels, ages, and class sizes.
#4: Role Plays, an ESL Speaking Activity for Adults
If you teach beginner students, it can be a little bit difficult to do some of these conversation activities that are mentioned in the list. They simply don’t have the grammar and vocabulary skills necessary to engage in a conversation beyond the very basic facts. Many ESL conversational games are just beyond their reach.
Something you can do to help your beginners is to use role-plays in class. These will help them to have short conversations, build some confidence, and also get creative. The best ones have a number of possibles ways that students can answer.
They are also perfect for a huge variety of topics and they can really help your students improve their sentence building. Before speaking, students can a bit of practice with writing.
It’s like a conversation, but it’s a bit more structured. You can learn more about how to use role-plays in your English classes here:
A quick tip: if you anticipate using these role-plays from semester to semester with multiple classes, make some cards with the details of each role-play on them and laminate them.
They can make an excellent review before a final exam as students have to work in a group through a few of them together. It’s a simple activity that’s ideal for any age of student with a few guidelines.
#5: Conversation Lesson Plans
A common question that newbie foreign ESL teachers have is how to plan a lesson. You may ask around at work and not get a single satisfying answer. Perhaps nobody really seems to know? It can seem overwhelming, but it’s actually not that difficult.
Teaching ESL is not easy, especially if you want to do it well. However, a good class starts with a good lesson plan, and they can help you bring some order out of the chaos that’s possible if you don’t have this in place.
I often plan my own conversation class lesson plans based around a topic that is in the news. Here are 6 samples to check out and see how I do it.
Or, consider using some of these ESL news articles. One of my favorite sources is Breaking News English, who regularly provide graded language articles of the most recent current events, along with activities and questions to discuss that go along with them. They also contain some nice questions and answers for vocab, grammar, etc.
Studying English in an ESL class for adults doesn’t have to be boring if you make some interesting lesson plans!
#6: Find Someone Who Bingo
This ESL warm-up game is an excellent way to get students moving around the class and getting to know each other. You can use it as the beginning of the semester on the first-day of class, or later on for an energizer if the students are low energy.
Students walking around with their Bingo Card, having fun while speaking English with lots of different partners? This activity will help to create some buzz about your lesson and around your school. Students love to play this TEFL conversation game. The main point is to have students find out more about each other.
Love it! I’m sure you will too. These are usually the best kind of ESL conversation activities.
More details here about this activity that helps with students getting to know each other: Find Someone Who Bingo.
#7: Just a Minute for Adult ESL Students
If you ask your students in your ESL classroom, many of them will mention speaking fluently in English as their top priority in your class. However, many of the exercises we do focus a lot on accuracy.
Just a Minute is a speaking activity that focuses exclusively on speaking. It’s a nice warm-up at the beginning of class that’s best for intermediate to advanced level students.
The way it works is that you write a bunch of words on the board. Then, students will have to talk about one of them (chosen randomly) for a full minute, or two minutes (depending on the level).
It’s easy to turn this into a conversation activity by requiring the people “listening” to ask 2-3 follow-up questions once the person is finished speaking. You can learn more about this English speaking activity here in this short video:
#8: Dialogue Substitution
Ask your adult students what they want to do in your class and they’re often say speaking or conversation. If they’re intermediate or advanced level, this is easy enough to make happen.
However, if students are lower level, it can be difficult to design activities and games to get them speaking that aren’t too difficult.
Basically, you take a dialogue as you might find in your textbook and then leave key elements out. Put students into a group or pair and they can work on it together.
Sounds right for your students? You can learn more about it here: Dialogue Substitution Activity. It’s one of my favorite English speaking activities for adults who are lower-level language learners.
#9: Find Something in Common
Another one of my favorite ESL adult activities is this simple one where students have to find some things in common with someone else. It’s best as an icebreaker on the first day of class when students don’t know each other that well.
Do this at the end of the semester and it’ll likely be far too easy. Students could probably do it without even talking to each other. So, keep this ESL conversation idea for the first class or two.
#10: Partner Conversation Starters
This is another one of those activities ideal for adult beginners who want to get some practice with speaking or conversation. The way it works it that you give students the first few lines of a conversation and then they have to work with a partner to complete it.
Once they’re made their conversation, they have to memorize and present it to the rest of the class. It’s a fun way for students to get a little bit creative but has enough structure for beginners. Your students will be able to speak with confidence!
Check out these ESL Discussion Topics here: Partner Conversation Starter ESL Activity.
#11: The Expert, One of My Favourite ESL Activities for Adults
If you teach intermediate to advanced level students, then you’ll want to consider trying out “The Expert.” It’s an interesting conversation activity for adults that’s ideal for the first or second day of class to use as an icebreaker.
The way it works is that students think of a few topics that they’re experts in. Then, they narrow down the choices to things that they think other people might be interested in. After that, students have mini-conversations with a few different people in the class about those things.
You can find out more about this Icebreaker here: The Expert ESL Speaking Activity.
#12: ESL Interactive Activities
If you’re looking for some more ESL conversation activities for adults, then you’re seriously want to consider trying out some of these interactive activities. They’re designed specifically to get students talking to each other and with you.
You can learn more about them here: Interactive ESL Activities and Games.
Oh, and of course, you can use lots of videos and pictures for this style of activity, which students always love. Get creative because the sky’s the limit!
#13: Small Group Discussions
If you ask students what they want to do in speaking or conversation classes, they’ll often say “free-talking.” This isn’t ideal for lower-level students because they often don’t have the language skills to do this. For higher-level students, it’s not ideal either because it doesn’t really push them to use new grammar or vocabulary.
If you are going to have some free talking time in your class, it’s best to have a bit of structure. Here are a few tips for making sure this time goes smoothly: ESL Small Group Discussion Tips.
#14: Would you Rather?
I’m sure you’ve done would you rather informally with friends. You can use it to choose between two positive things like ice cream or cake, or two bad things like how you might die. Try it out with your students too to create some fun, interesting discussions and conversations.
Find out more details here about one of the best ESL adult activities: ESL Would You Rather.
#15: Task-Based Learning Activities
For speaking and conversation classes, there are a ton of task-based learning projects you can do. The major advantage to them is that they give students some freedom to learn what they want to learn. This increases motivation and chances are, students will discover some new vocabulary that you would have never thought to teach them!
You can find out more about this style of teaching here: Task-Based Learning for ESL.
In particular, one grammar point that I like to use this style of activity is making predictions about the future. Students can select a general area like transportation, the economy, work, etc. and then make some predictions about what life will be like in those areas in 25 years from now.
#16: Making Predictions Conversation Activities
Who doesn’t like making some predictions about the future, right? They can lead to some super interesting discussions and there are also a ton of fun activities and games you can do with them. And these often turn out to be some of my favorite ESL conversation activities.
Here are some of our top recommendations: Making Predictions Activities and Games.
#17: Social Issues English Conversation Lesson Plan
If you’re looking for a conversation lesson plan, then we certainly have a good one for you right here! Most students really enjoy talking about what’s happening in the world around them and this lesson has the potential to create lots of interesting discussions and conversations.
The better news is that it’s a complete lesson plan that’s suitable for a 1-2 hour class so you can just print it off and take it to class. Yes, it really is that easy. Here it is: Social Issues ESL Conversation Lesson Plan.
#18 ESL Conversation Activities: Present Perfect For and Since Activities
I love to teach the present perfect using for and since. There are just so many fun ESL conversation games for adults that you can do with this grammar point.
If you want to see some of the best recommendations, check out the following resource: Present Perfect For/Since Activities.
#19: What are you Cooking?
I LOVE 4-skills ESL activities and my guess is that you probably do as well. If you’re looking for a fun one that has the added bonus of requiring basically nothing in the way of prep time or materials, then check out What are you Cooking?
To get the full story, you’ll have to check out the article right here: What are you Cooking?
#20: English Phrases and Expressions
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 237 Pages - 11/22/2020 (Publication Date)
Conversation goes much more smoothly if you have a variety of relevant and useful phrases and expressions at your fingertips, no matter the language! That’s why it really can be useful to spend some time working on expanding our students’ knowledge of this in class. Here’s one example:
#21: ESL Technology Lesson Plan
If you’re teaching adults, one of the things that they most often want to do is free-talking. I do enjoy this once in a while but I often find it far more beneficial to use a conversation lesson plan to assist with this. Something like one on technology is ideal. It contains:
- A warm-up question
- Vocabulary, idioms, and phrases
- Conversation questions
- Writing prompts that are ideal for homework
Have a look at this complete lesson plan for teaching English right here: Technology Lesson Plan for English Learners.
#22: Conversation Classes for Adults—Business English
If you teach English to businessmen or women, there are a ton of activities you can do with them that are engaging, relevant and will be super helpful for your students. They will likely appreciate the more targeted practice with business scenarios and vocabulary as opposed to general English conversation.
Here are some of the best recommendations: Business English Activities.
#23: Describing Games
One of the best ways to get students talking is to have them describe a person, place or thing using adjectives or relative clauses. There are lots of great conversation and speaking activities to try out related to this.
Check out some of my top recommendations: Describing Words Games.
#24: Dialogues in American English
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 66 Pages - 11/06/2020 (Publication Date) - Independently published...
Maybe your students are kind of like mine and want to learn more vocabulary, including idioms and phrases to help with their conversational skills. If this is the case, consider picking up this book on Amazon: Advanced English Conversation Dialogues.
It’s ideal to use as a supplementary homework book, for use in class, or in private, 1-1 teaching.
#25: ESL Family Activities
Talking about family is one of those classic ESL conversation activities. However, the same old powering through the textbook for this unit can get a little bit boring because it’s likely that students have seen it before many times.
The good news is that there are lots of interesting ESL activities for adults related to family and family trees. Here are some of the best ones: ESL Family Activity Ideas.
Like these ESL activities for adults?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 94 Pages - 05/30/2015 (Publication Date)
If you found these conversation games useful, then you’ll need to check out this book: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Teens and Adults. Conversation classes for adults? They’re no problem when you have this book of ideas at your fingertips.
Speaking games for adults? There are a ton of them and unlike many other ones you’ll find around the Internet, each ESL game is fun! Make conversation for adults fun again. Your students will love you for it.
There are almost 40 ESL activities that require very little in the way of preparation when teaching English. Planning your speaking classes is easy, with a wide array of fun and interesting activities.
The book is available in both digital and print formats. The (very cheap!) digital one can be read on any device. You just have to download the free Kindle reading app. Top-quality ESL activities to have at your fingertips anywhere you go? Love it!
Check out the book on Amazon today. Click the button below to learn more about this popular book of ESL activities for adults.
Conversation Class with Adults: Some Teaching Tips
If you have an English conversation class for adults, here are some quick tips that you’ll need to know in order to make your class as awesome as possible!
It’s all About Student-Centred Teaching
When you’re planning your lessons, remember that it’s your students who should be doing the hard work, not you. What does this mean?
Well, you are most of a facilitator than the one doing all the talking. Get students talking to each other and avoid the temptation to be front and center all the time.
Can your Students Read Well?
If your students can’t read that well, it’ll be pretty difficult for them to improve their speaking, grammar, or vocabulary. Even though it’s a conversation class, if your students are struggling with this skill, sneak a little bit of it in there.
Ask Them if They Want Homework
Adult students often have very different expectations when it comes to having homework or not. The best thing to do is to ask them directly what they want!
Of course, if you teach a university course for example, then you’ll likely just have to assign homework and students will have no say over it. But of course, it’s different if students have voluntarily signed up for the class and aren’t getting graded.
Don’t Put Students on the Spot with ESL Conversation Activities
This is especially important in Asia because your students will want to save face in front of their peers. Ensure that you give students some thinking time, or have them compare answers with a partner before asking them something in front of the entire class.
This is probably the most important thing to keep in mind for an English conversation class for adults, and it certainly differs in this regard from teaching kids!
Knowing a Few Things Well
My goal is that students leave my class knowing a few things really well, instead of a lot of things only a little bit. It’s these things they know well that they’ll use in the future when writing or speaking in English!
Include Lots of Review in a Conversation Class for Adults
It takes a few times when learning a language before something really “sticks.” Help your students out by incorporating lots of review into your classes. I do this in a number of ways.
Sometimes I’ll review key grammar or vocabulary at the end of a class by doing a little “mini-test,” that’s just for fun. And, I’ll often do a review game at the beginning of a class for content studied in previous sessions.
Finally, I’ll usually dedicate an entire class or two to review before any sort of test.
Use a Variety of English Conversation Activities
Mix things up a little bit and use some different activities in your conversation or speaking classes. Although a bit of a routine can be helpful, it’s nice to change things up sometimes, right?
ESL Conversation Activities FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about teaching conversation and speaking classes. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
How do you Make an English Conversation Class Interesting?
If you want your English conversation class to be interesting and not boring, here are a few tips:
- Change partners often
- Introduce a variety of topics
- Encourage free-flowing discussion
- Plan lessons well
- Use lots of different activities and games
- Get beyond the textbook
- Consider getting outside the classroom
- Have a class party
- Use current events
What are the Activities to Develop Speaking Skills?
There are a number of activities you can use to help your students develop speaking skills.
- Information gap activities
- Telling stories
- Complete the story
What is a Communicative Activity ESL?
A communicative ESL activity is one that encourages English learners to speak and listen to another learner(s) and actually requires this in order to complete the activity. The purpose of them is to find out information, break down barriers, talk about oneself, and also learn about what other people think.
What are the Advantages of a Communicative Approach?
There are many advantages to the communicative approach when it comes to language teaching. However, an increase in fluency in the target language is the most important one. This approach will help language learners feel more confident when interesting in another language. Learn more about it here: language teaching methods.
How do you Make ESL Students Talk?
Remember that you can’t make an ESL student talk if they absolutely don’t want to. However, you can design activities and games well so that it’s easier to participate than not. Something like surveys or information gap activities are ideal for encouraging communication.
What Do you Think about these ESL Conversation Activities for Adults?
Do you have one or two favourite conversation games and activities for when you’re teaching ESL students? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’re open to new ideas for teaching English!
Also, be sure to contact me with any questions that you might have about ESL activities for adults.
And don’t forget to share the word about this ESL teaching awesome on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. It’ll help busy teachers, like yourself, find this useful resource.
Last update on 2020-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API