I’ve created a couple of new conversation question worksheets that are perfect for summer: Questions about water activities, and Questions about summer. They are designed to be used with ESL students of all ages and language levels, and could be a great way to get students speaking in your summer programs. Enjoy!
Tag: esl speaking
Conversation Questions About Halloween
In case you’re planning a Halloween lesson for next week, I’d like to share a list of conversation questions to get your students chatting about the holiday. The questions are mainly in simple present and simple past tenses, so they can be used with high-beginner classes and up.
I’ve posted the questions, along with a printable handout, at my new site, ESL Airplane. You can find them right here: Conversation Questions About Halloween
Three Creative Classroom Prompts for Writing and Speaking and Describing People
Today I have three new creative picture prompts to help your students practice describing people. All three prompts require some imagination, and could be used to practice speaking, writing, or a combination of both. If you are an ESL teacher, they would work well after studying descriptive adjective, present continuous, or any form of past tense.
Take a look at the prompts below, and then scroll down for some lesson planning ideas to help you incorporate them into your classes.
A Collaborative Speaking and Writing Lesson Plan Idea
- Display the picture on your classroom projector (or print copies, if you don’t have the technology available). Look at the picture with the whole class and brainstorm a list of relevant vocabulary words.
- Divide students into pairs or small groups. Ask each group to come up with a list of 10 specific details about the person referred to in the prompt. Their details might include name, age, job, appearance, personality quirks, daily routine, secrets, dreams, etc.
- After the teams have completed their lists, ask the groups to work together to write a short story about the person who they just described. All ten details should be included in the story. (If you’re teaching a lower-level ESL class, you might ask your students to write a profile of the person in paragraph form instead of a story.)
- Ask the groups to read their stories aloud to the class.
Other Lesson Planning Ideas
- If your students need individual writing practice, you can forego splitting your class into groups, and instead have students write their lists/stories independently.
- Another idea is to write a list of 10 details together as a whole class. After you finish, divide the class into groups and ask each group to write a story about the same person. I would recommend giving them a specific prompt to work with. For example, if you used the third picture (the one with the shoes), and you came up with a character named Anne who is 28 years old and unemployed, you might ask, “How did Anne lose her shoes? Write a story.” After the groups finish, they can take turns reading their stories and comparing their ideas.
What other ideas do you have for incorporating these prompts into your classes? Please share them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!
Beginner Box, Part 2 – How to fill your box with questions and get your students speaking!
*******Update: New Stufft Alert**********
Hi everyone! I’ve been working on a new site, and I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been putting together a collection of conversation questions on a variety of topics over there. Most of the questions are intended for lower-level English learners, and would be perfect for a conversation box. And best of all, every set of questions comes with a printable worksheet for you. You can find the new questions over here: Beginner-friendly speaking questions
Yesterday I posted about creating a question box geared toward your Beginner ESL students. Today I’m going to give you a big list of simple questions to fill your box with. There are tons of lists of conversation questions on the internet, but most that I can find are aimed toward Intermediate students and above. My goal is to create a massive resource for teachers of lower-level classes who want to get their students chatting.
I’m trying to keep the questions simple, with no phrasal verbs or idioms. Some of them may require students to look a word or two up in the dictionary, but not more than that. Some of them are yes/no questions, but if the student is ready, you can encourage them to elaborate. For example, if the question is, “Do you like dogs?” Your student might say, “Yes, I do. I have a dog. My dog’s name is LuLu. She is brown and white. She is friendly.” Etc…
Please keep in mind that this is a growing list, and I plan to update it regularly, so if you have any suggestions on questions or categories to add, please leave a comment in the box at the bottom of the page.
I’ve organized the list into the following categories:
- Simple present
- Simple past
- Future (Includes “will,” “going to,” “want to,” and “would like to”)
- Describe… / Talk about…
- Opinion questions
I would suggest color-coding your question cards (blue for present, pink for past, etc.) to make it easier for students to pick questions that are relevant to them. Again, this list is a work in progress, so if you have suggestions for other categories, feel free to let me know.
The Questions (so far)
- Are you happy today? Why?
- Are you tired? Why?
- Are you hungry? What do you want to eat?
- When are you angry?
- Are you hot or cold today?
- What do you do every day?
- Where do you go on the weekend? (Saturday and Sunday)
- Where do you go after class?
- What is your favorite restaurant? Where is it?
- Who is your favorite musician?
- What is your favorite comedy movie?
- What is your favorite action movie?
- Do you like horror movies? Why or why not?
- Is your city safe or dangerous?
- Is your city exciting or boring?
- Do you prefer dogs or cats? Why?
- Do you prefer hot weather or cold weather? Why?
- Is a monkey a good pet? Why?
- Is a mouse a good pet? Why?
- What animals live in your city?
- What’s your favorite animal?
- What’s your favorite food?
- What do you drink on hot days?
- What do you drink on cold days?
- What do you eat on hot days?
- What do you eat on cold days?
- Where did you go yesterday?
- What did you see yesterday?
- What did you eat for breakfast?
- What did you eat last night?
- Where did you travel last year?
- What was the last thing you bought?
- Did you exercise last week? How?
- When did you last play sports?
- What did you last cook?
- Did you speak English yesterday? Who did you speak to?
- What are you going to do after school today?
- What will you do after you learn English?
- What will you do this weekend?
- What would you like to eat today?
- What are you going to eat this evening?
- What are you going to eat for lunch?
- What will you do after you learn English?
- Who are you going to speak to later?
Note: The prompts in the next two categories (Talk About and What Do You Think About…) are intentionally open-ended. Encourage students to say anything that comes to mind on the subject. You will probably need to teach the meaning of “Talk about” and “What do you think about,” but students will catch on quickly.
- Talk about your family.
- Talk about your hometown.
- Talk about your neighborhood.
- Talk about transportation in your hometown.
- Talk about food in your country.
- Talk about shopping.
- Talk about clothing.
- Talk about a famous person from your country.
- Talk about the weather.
- Talk about your house.
- Talk about your first day in this city.
- Talk about animals.
- Talk about police officers.
- Talk about doctors.
- Talk about school.
- Talk about horses.
- Talk about summer fruit.
- Talk about recycling.
- Talk about winter.
- Talk about summer.
- Talk about spring.
- Talk about fall (autumn).
- Talk about your job.
- Talk about coffee or tea.
- Talk about apples.
What Do You Think About…?
- What do you think about animals?
- What do you think about cars?
- What do you think about bicycles?
- What do you think about books?
- What do you think about new technology?
- What do you think about sports?
- What do you think about crowded places?
- What do you think about children?
- What do you think about fast food?
- What do you think about chocolate?
- What do you think about makeup?
- What do you think about vintage clothing?
- What do you think about horror movies?
- What do you think about action movies?
- What do you think about comic books and animation?
Thanks for taking a look at my gradually-growing list. I hope you find it helpful. If you decide to use them in your class, I’d love to know how they worked out for you. And if you have any suggestions for new questions or categories, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
Links to more Questions:
Conversation questions about food: Yum!
Conversation questions about animals: Woof!
Conversation questions about feelings: Happy!
Conversation questions about homes: Home!
And the general, constantly-growing list of speaking questions for lower levels at my new site, ESL Airplane: Beginner-friendly speaking questions
Little Box of Beginner Questions – Part 1 – How to make a and use conversation box for your ESL class
Every week or so, I have some variation of the following conversation with a different teacher:
Other Teacher: Which level are you teaching?
Other teacher: That’s hard! You need so much patience.
Me: Yeah, that’s true.
Other teacher: I prefer teaching the higher levels because I like having conversations in class. You can’t really do that with beginners.
Me: Um…Well, that part’s not so true.
I love teaching the lower levels! I think it’s a misconception that beginner language learners can’t have good conversations. I mean, obviously, absolute beginners won’t be discussing politics on day one, but after a few weeks, my motivated adult students can say a lot more than, “Hello, my name is…”
I have a Brazilian student, for example, who often talks about violence in his hometown and starts conversations with classmates about safety in their countries. Another student from Japan is fascinated by trash cans in America and loves to talk about littering, recycling, and garbage removal around the world. These aren’t light topics, and of course the students make grammatical mistakes and need assistance with vocabulary, but with lots of body language and giggling, they can usually get their points across. I really think that once they get settled into the class and get comfortable in their environment, beginners like to talk as much as anyone else.
So if you’ve been assigned to teach a beginner class, and you’re feeling kinda jittery: Don’t worry! Your babies will be chatting about all kinds of important things soon. Beginners don’t stay beginners forever, and when they start talking, you can really see the effects of your teaching.
The Little Box of Questions
The little box is my go-to tool for prompting students of all levels to talk. I fill it with assorted questions on a variety of random topics and give students time to chat. You can use it in whole-class activities, or split students into smaller groups and give them time to talk spontaneously in small groups.
How to Use Your Little Box:
You never know when a box full of random questions will come in handy. Here are a few suggestions for how and when to use it:
- Monday morning ice-breaker or Friday afternoon cool-down: Start and end the week with a little chit-chat.
- The “Speak for ____ seconds” strategy (I posted about that here: Prep-Free Speaking Activities)
- Small group fluency practice – Students take turns selecting and either answering or asking questions to their groups. (You might need more than one box to make this work smoothly in larger classes).
- Random class survey – Students choose one question, ask it to as many students in the class as possible, and write down what they learned.
- Random journaling prompt – Students choose a random question and write a journal entry about it.
- Practice for the speaking section of the TOEFL (This one isn’t for your beginners, obviously, but it’s a good adaptation for Intermediate and Advanced students).
- A one-to-one tutoring activity – Try it out when you have an individual student, and you want to step away from the book.
- Allow small groups to use it independently when they finish an assignment early.
Can you think of any other ways to use a box? I’d love to hear ideas from other teachers. Please leave your comments and questions in the box below.
In my next post, I’m going to be sharing my list of beginner-friendly questions to fill your box with, so check back soon!