Conversation question

From Teflpedia
(Redirected from Discussion question)

A conversation question (/kɒnvəseɪʃən kwesʧən/), also a discussion question (/dɪskʌʃən kwesʧən/) is a question that is used to start a conversation or discussion.

Teflpedia’s own list of conversation questions can be found here and we recommend that you take a look at them. We also welcome your contributions. Likewise, (possibly) depending on the level of the students, you may consider drawing up further questions to existing conversation questions and even creating a whole new conversation questions page as a class activity. Don’t forget that, even though the subject may seem simple, some preparation may be necessary… i.e. some questions may require teacher input, and you should read through all of them yourself before presenting them, or just a selection of them, to the class.

Another thing to bear in mind here, is that the aim is to get 'em talking, not just to answer yes or no to the questions, even when those questions are polar questions, and there won’t be any "right" or "wrong" answers. Although the format may look like a questionnaire, the idea is that the questions are mere prompts/cues for meaningful communication and should not just be "ticked off" in rapid succession.

Searching on the web for "conversation questions" or "conversation for the esl classroom" will give you a number of hits but many of the sites will provide only a limited number of questions. We link below to the main sites on the web which may give you a selection of useful questions to use in the TEFL classroom. Teflpedia’s conversation questions have the advantage of you, as a teacher, being able to add to the existing questions and/or getting your students to do so as a group activity.

Before use[edit | edit source]

Before using conversation questions teachers need to consider the following:

  • Beware of duplications at some sites on the net. You may find many repeated questions perhaps with slightly different wording.
  • Check them for relevance to your students. For example: "What do you think of English teaching in Korea?" will not work in all countries.
  • Reword them to avoid polar questions - those which invite a simple yes/no answer. This is because your students may just reply "yes" or "no" and continue to the next without any real conversation. Try to reformat questions of this type into content questions which need an explanation rather than a simple "yes" or "no". In other words, if the question is, "Do you like ice cream?" reformat it to "What is your opinion of ice cream?" Alternatively, you may wish to use a polar question to introduce the topic and then add follow-up, "Why?" questions asking the student to explain their yes/no answers.
  • Bear in mind that some topics/questions may be taboo in certain countries.

How to use[edit | edit source]

These questions can be used in different ways.

Smaller class:

  • The whole class discusses the questions with the teacher one after another.
  • The student and the teacher discuss them in a one-to-one situation.

Large class:

  • Students discuss them in small groups and report back.
  • Students discuss them in pairs and report back.


  • Students discuss their first question with one partner and for a set time - say five minutes. Each pair starts with a different question. They then change partners and take a different question from another pair to discuss with this new partner. They keep swapping partners and questions until everybody has discussed every question with everybody else. Obviously this leads to some movement around the class - and the system may need to be modified for larger classes. At the end of the period students will have discussed the same question various times and, hopefully, will have something to say to the teacher on the subject in open class. Alternatively, they should be well primed for a homework writing assignment.
  • Another effective activity, especially if the class has access to a computer and internet connection, is to take advantage of this wiki and get the students to come up with new questions of their own - possibly following a voting process to select the best one/s - to add to the section.

Other suggestions can be found at eslpartyland,[1] and at The Internet TESL Journal.[2]

When to use[edit | edit source]

These resources may be used in a number of different ways.

  • If your objective is simply to practice conversation then you could make a complete class from a selection of these questions.
  • If you are creating your own topical class you can use these questions to either begin or end the class.
    • If you use them to begin the class you can (hopefully) generate interest in the topic and activate whatever vocabulary the students already have.
    • If you use them at the end of the class it should be an opportunity for the students to use vocabulary and ideas which may have come up during the class.

Feedback[edit | edit source]

Whatever system is used it is important that the teacher takes notes during the activity and gives feedback directly after the exercise. One effective way is to make notes of errors and subsequently write them on the board and ask the students to correct them.

It is always a good idea to challenge the students to correct the problems before giving your explanation. If they know the answer your explanation will bore your students and you will be wasting time: if they do not know the answer they will be more likely to listen if they have admitted they do not know it.

It may also be encouraging to students to make notes of particularly good use of language as well and also write this up on the board.

Sites with a good selection of questions[edit | edit source]

TeflPedia’s own list[edit | edit source]

First of all check out our own list of English conversation questions and English conversation topics which should give you some advanced conversation ideas. The link will take you to the category page. Please add any good questions that occur to you.

Feel free to copy any page, article or articles but please read about our copyright. If you find the questions, or anything else on the site, useful or interesting, or if you disagree with something, please let us know at the teacher’s room. (Click on "printable version" in the toolbox at bottom left to see a (surprise!) printable version.)

Conversation Questions for the ESL/EFL Classroom[edit | edit source]

This site has many questions by category.[3] Carefully examine the questions before using them to eliminate duplications and irrelevant questions. It is part of a project by The Internet TESL Journal.

English Club[edit | edit source]

A number of original questions with exercises can be found at the "English Club: Talking points Worksheets".[4]

ESL Conversation Questions[edit | edit source]

Another site with questions which can be easily printed up.[5]

ESL[edit | edit source]

This site has many questions by subject.[6] You should also take a look at the "Grammar Discussions" and "Idioms Discussions" at the bottom of the same page. The project is run by Sean Banville and is associated with his Breaking News English site.

ESL partyland’s Conversation questions[edit | edit source]

This site has ESL questions formatted in such a way that they can easily printed up on slips of paper.[7] It is part of Karin M. Cintron’s ESL Partyland site.

ESL Talking Points[edit | edit source]

A growing list of conversation questions on a variety of topics. Many are accompanied with images for further classroom use. All lessons are printable and in PDF format "ESL Talking Point Conversation Questions and Starters".[8]

ESL Vault[edit | edit source]

ESL Vault offers free English teaching resources and has a ton of conversation question worksheets that are downloadable in PDF form[9].

Heads Up English[edit | edit source]

If you sign up for the newsletter at Heads Up English you will be given free access to the conversation resources. These include conversation questions and, more importantly, a large number of imaginative ideas for using them in class.[10]

Tiger tesl[edit | edit source]

Another site with conversation and question resources for you to use [11]

Other resources[edit | edit source]

There are other conversation resources which do not depend on questions. For example, TEFL PITSTOP's "Ten Ideas for Conversation"[12] has some interesting suggestions.

References[edit | edit source]