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 in addition to ourselves which give you a large selection of useful questions to use in the TEFL classroom. Some of them seem to have been generated by users sending them in, and perhaps a little editorial control may have been lacking.
Before using them teachers need to consider the following:
- 1 Before use
- 2 How to use
- 3 When to use
- 4 Feedback
- 5 The following sites have a good selection of questions
- 6 References
- Beware of duplications at some sites on the net. You may find many repeated perhaps with slightly different wording.
- Check them for relevance to your students. For example: "What do you think of English teaching in Korea?" may 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 simply reply "yes" or "no" and continue to the next. Try to reformat questions of this type into a "why" type 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?". A silly example to make the point. Alternatively add a follow-up question asking the student to explain their yes/no answer.
How to use
These questions can be used in different ways. For smaller conversation classes:
- The whole classes discusses the questions one by one.
- The student and the teacher discuss them in a one-to-one situation.
If you have a large ESL conversation class then:
- Students discuss them in small groups and report back.
- Students discuss them in pairs and report back.
A more complex system works like this:
- 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.
When to use
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. However it would be unwise to do so day after day.
- 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.
Whatever system is used it is important that the teacher take notes during the activity and give feedback directly after the exercise. One effective way is to take note of errors and subsequently write them on the board and ask the students to correct them.
It may also be encouraging to students to make notes of particularly good language use as well and also write this up on the board.
The following sites have a good selection of questions
TeflPedia's own list
This site has thousends of questions by listed by category. Each Category has lists of questions designed to spark debate and retain intrest. Excellent for ESL debate clubs and Adult one to one lessons. Tiger Tesl
Conversation Questions for the ESL/EFL Classroom
This site has many questions by subject. 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
ESL Conversation Questions
Another site with questions which can be easily printed up. .
Heads Up English
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.
Other conversation resources
- Teflpedia's list of Conversation questions
- eslpartyland - Using conversation questions in class
- The Internet TESL Journal - Using conversation questions in class
- Teflpedia's list of Conversation questions
- Conversation Questions for the ESL/EFL Classroom
- ESL Discussions.com
- Eslpartyland's Conversation questions
- ESL Junction - Conversation Questions
- Heads Up English homepage
- 10 Ideas for Conversation