Category Archives: *Fun Activities

• Starting and Ending a Conversation (Includes a Group Mixer Activity)

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(This posting includes a POWERPOINT presentation and HANDOUTS which you are welcome to use with your students.)*

“I wish I had more chances to practice my English outside of class.”

“How can I meet some native-English speakers?”

“I went to a party last weekend. There were about 20 people there, but nobody seemed to want to talk to me. I just kind of stood in the corner looking at my cell phone. Why didn’t anyone talk to me?”

“I sat next to someone, and I wanted to talk to him, but I was afraid that I would be bothering him, or he wouldn’t say anything. What do you think?”

I’ve been asked these types of questions frequently by my students.  Naturally, some of them were low-level students with little confidence in their skills, but surprisingly, often more fluent ones also asked me for advice.

For students from some cultures, starting a conversation with someone they don’t know might be a new concept to them. (See Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 2 of 4: Reading aspect) )

Exercises for starting-a-conversation skills Continue reading

 • A More Sophisticated Technique Than Just Saying, “What did you say?” and “I don’t understand.”

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(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Spoiler alert: You will hear quite a bit of laughing when students are doing the activity in pairs. 😁

Here is how I introduce this technique to intermediate-level ESL students:

If I say to you, “My cousin gave me a jigsaw puzzle,” and you say, “Pardon?” I’ll know you didn’t understand. But I won’t know which word you didn’t understand. It will help me if you let me know specifically which word you didn’t understand, so you might ask, “Your cousin gave you a what?” Then I know you didn’t understand “jigsaw puzzle.” Or you might ask, “Who gave you a puzzle?” Then I know you didn’t understand that I had said “my cousin.” This unit will give you practice in asking questions about specific information which you did not understand.

The practice for this technique involves a brief introductory exercise and a 3-step pair work activity.  (You can find the complete set of exercise to download and use with your students in the link below.)

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• Expanding Students’ Conversation Opportunities with Small-Talk Techniques (Includes a Group Mixer Activity)

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*(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Imagine that you are at a party and standing next to either Curt of Mari. You try to start a conversation with him or her:

You:     How was your day?
Curt:    Fine.

You:     How was your day?
Mari:   Fine. I heard a really interesting story at work.

Which one will you be more motivated to continue to talk to: Curt of Mari?

Let’s say you are a student and arrive to your night class about 10 minutes early. You sit next to either Luis or Jay and decide to try to start a conversation.  

You:     How was your day?
Luis:    It was good. But I’m ready to start the weekend. I’ve got some great plans.

You:     How was your day?
Jay:      OK.

Which one seems like they will be more fun to have a conversation with: Luis or Jay?

Finally, imagine that you are sitting on an airplane.

You:                 Where are you flying to today?
Passenger 1:    Home.

You:                 Where are you flying to today?
Passenger 2:    I’m going to Vancouver. How about you?

Which passenger will be more likely to have a conversation with you? Passenger 1 or 2?

I’ve had many students like Curt (“Fine.”), Jay (“OK”) and Passenger 1 (Home) who tell me that they wish they could have more chances to practice their English beyond their ESL lessons.  Opportunities do arise when they are standing in lines, sitting in waiting rooms or at bus stops, in a cafeteria, at a club event or when they are in situations like those above, at a party, early to class, or as a passenger, etc. They just need the conversation technique to take advantage of these occasions. Mari, Luis and Passenger 2 all have it; it’s called using small talk.

A unit on developing small-talk skills (includes downloadable handout)

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• Great Whole-Class Game for ESL Listening Skills

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This game has it all:

  • Motivates listening skills.
  • All students focused.
  • Students are up and out of their seats.
  • Easily customized to the interests and level of a specific class of students.
  • Organized with minimal teacher work.
  • Stimulating with a lot of laughing.

Here is how it works.

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