Even the most experienced teachers can find ESL conversation activities difficult to pull off. Although conversation lessons seem easy, they can involve quite a bit of planning. The most important thing to remember when choosing ESL speaking activities is relevance. Make sure that the class has the necessary language skills to talk about a particular subject, and that they find the topic interesting.
Here, we have gathered some ESL conversation activities that can get your class talking. Some prep is required, but these ideas can be used as starters or be extended, particularly with follow-up activities.
Conversation – Dos & Don’ts
- Make sure you walk around the room and write down any mistakes you hear, particularly if it is a language item that has been taught and/or that students should know. If you have time at the end of the class write on the board or make a worksheet of class’ mistakes for the next class.
- If concerned about shy students or overpowering students in a group, assign each student certain key points to discuss. Alternatively, you could establish a turn taking system (such as a 3 minute limit per person). Use a prop such as a bell or turn on and off some music.
- Include students as much as possible when planning future conversation activities. There’s no rule that says that conversation topics have to come from ESL books/websites. If planning ahead on a certain language point or topic, why not have students list some possible topics for class discussion. You could have a class vote or choose yourself.
- Do not introduce a conversation activity that requires language areas that most of the students have not learned (i.e. do not ask them to talk about their past if you have not introduced Past Simple tense).
- Do not interrupt students mid conversation. Even though you may hear mistakes, let them speak freely. Just make note of mistakes to discuss later. You could alter the errors in such a way that do not identify particular students.
- It may seem obvious, but avoid sensitive subjects about students’ culture, religion, race, etc. Although some of your student may seem open, you cannot guarantee that you won't possibly offend other students or make them feel uncomfortable.
Basically, when you plan well for conversation activities, it shows. Students will appreciate it. There is nothing worse for ESL students than expecting them to start talking without some prep/background.