One of the most important goals for any ESL student is to gain conversational skills. It’s crucial that you give your students plenty of opportunity to converse with each other, but sometimes it can be challenging to think of new topics for your students to practice speaking. Here are six fun speaking topics for your ESL classes.
The great thing about hobbies is that everyone has at least one, so they make for easy and fun conversations for your students. Get your students talking about their interests and hobbies, the things they are passionate about. Have them discuss why they are interested in their hobbies and how they first became involved. You can also ask them about old hobbies they may have had but gave up. Why did they quit and find something new?
Children and adults alike have hobbies, but children may not even know it, so you might want to suggest some age-appropriate hobbies that will help bring out more answers and expand the conversation in that area.
One way to get your whole class engaged and interested quickly is to bring up the subject of first dates. Everybody can relate to the experience of going on a first date, so it’s a great way to get your students talking. Discuss with your class some questions to serve as icebreakers on a first date and have them practice on each other. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? If you could redo one day from your past, which would it be? If you had one million dollars what would you spend it on? These are all fun first date questions that can get your class excited and talking.
Keep in mind that talking about first dates may not always be the best thing. In some cultures it can be considered rude and inappropriate. Be aware of the culture and what each culture might expect and what the rules are. It can also be an age issue, since if you are teaching children or younger teenagers, it might not be the best topic to talk about.
For instance, younger teens or even teens can get uncomfortable if you start talking about first dates and they have never had one. So, keep this area only for certain groups.
Job interview questions are always popular for adults learning English, since everyone has had a job interview or two. You might even have a student with a job interview coming up who will appreciate the extra practice. Have your students pair up and ask each other questions they might face in a job interview. What is one bad habit you’re working on fixing? What three words would your friends use to describe you? If you could instantly become an expert in anything, what would it be? These are all potential interview style questions you can use to get your students talking.
Of course, this may not work with younger students, so you may want to come up with something different. For example, how to make friends in English, mention some popular phrases or things they could say to get to know people. Some other topics that might work well with younger people is movies or TV shows and talking about these subjects, their family or their friends and things like that.
Again, keep in mind that there are limits in each culture as to what is appropriate to ask and what’s not, so you should definitely learn more about that.
Food is one of the most universal topics out there. Who doesn’t enjoy talking about their favourite, or maybe their not-so-favourite, food? Food is also a great topic for beginners because the vocabulary required is generally pretty basic. Of course, it can be adapted for more advanced learners by creating more complex sentences and questions as well. What is your favourite food? What is your least favourite food, and why? What is your favourite place to go for food? These kinds of food-related questions are fun and relatable ways to get your students conversing with each other.
You can ask your younger students – or more advanced students – to describe their favourite meal or their least favourite meal. You can also get the more advanced students to tell you about the recipes they like and they can also tell you about meals they eat related to different holidays they celebrate or traditions they have related to meals and holidays as well.
Ask them about themselves
Everybody loves talking about themselves. Have your students ask one another questions about themselves and their lives. What do they do for work? Do they have a family? Where are they from originally? This is a great option for when you have a new class, or your students just aren’t in an especially talkative mood.
Younger people are especially good in this area and they love talking about themselves and their interests, so this can be a particularly successful idea for your class.
Have your students ask each other networking questions. Questions about careers don’t have to be boring, they can be a fun way to get your class engaged. Practicing these networking questions will also be helpful to your students in the future as they become able to use their English skills to network with new people. What are your current life goals? What is your dream job and why? What do you find the most challenging aspect of your career? These kinds of networking questions are great practice for your students.
It’s important to keep things interesting for your students. Things can get kind of boring if they are always practicing discussing the same few topics. Some of the best topics for practicing are ones that everyone can relate to, such as hobbies, food, interview questions, first dates, and simply having students talk about themselves. Learning to ask and answer questions and have a conversation are important skills to any ESL student. Use these six fun speaking topics to keep your classes feeling fresh and your students interested in learning.
Ellie Coverdale is a tutor and writer at Australian Reviewer services. She loves teaching, reading and getting new professional experience.