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ESL Speaking For Adults: Games + Activities

Updated on April 14, 2016
Conversation Starters for ESL Students
Conversation Starters for ESL Students

Conversation Starters

This is a speaking and listening activity that takes about 10 minutes and requires no materials.

Students often have a hard time with starting conversations and this activity can help them practice this really important skill. It's great for beginners but also useful for advanced level students if you use a particular context relevant to them such as “at the watercooler” (business small talk) or “at the drink table” (party small-talk). Of course, with beginning students you'll have to do more simple things like "How was your weekend?," or, "What are you doing after class?"

The way it works is that you write the beginning of a conversation on the PowerPoint or whiteboard. For example,

A: “How was your night?”

B: “It was _____. I _____”


A: “What did you do last this morning?”

B: “I _____.”


A: “Anything interesting going on with you lately?”

B: “Not really, I've just been _____.”

Put the student into pairs and they have to engage in a conversation of about 1-2 minutes, by continuing the conversation using follow-up questions based on what they've heard. If you have adults, you can ring a bell after one minute is up and then they have to quickly find someone else that they haven't talked to yet and start the conversation again. If you have teenagers, it can get a little chaotic to do it that way so I recommend forming 2 opposing lines. One line stays stationary while the other line moves one person down the line for each round.


1. Make a starter. Put it on the PowerPoint or whiteboard.

2. Have students find a partner.

3. Students have a 1-2 conversation.

4. Ring a bell and students have to find a new partner, either by mingling or moving one space down the opposing line.

5. Students have more short conversations

ESL Speaking Activity: Just a Minute

ESL Speaking Bingo
ESL Speaking Bingo

Bingo: ESL Speaking Style

ESL Speaking Bingo practices writing, listening and speaking, is perfect for beginner-intermediate students and takes around 30 minutes. Your students will love this game, guaranteed and it's way more beneficial for them than the way Bingo is traditionally played, with the teacher just calling out words.

Make a list of 30 vocabulary words that you've been studying. Students draw a 5x5 grid and fill in the grid randomly from the list of words on the board or PowerPoint. The first student describes a word, but doesn't actually say it. The next person describes another word and on it goes. It's similar to a regular bingo game, but the students are speaking the whole time. You can do variations, such as “1 line,” “2 lines,” “X-Bingo” and “Blackout.” This activity works well for classes of 10 or less.


1. Students draw a bingo grade on paper.

2. Students fill in the bingo chart with their chosen words.

3. The first student chooses a word and describes it, using hints but doesn't say the word itself. You can choose the order of who describes words any number of ways such as seating arrangement, alphabetical order, etc.

4. All students cross off that word if they have it on their bingo grid. The next student describes a word, etc.

5. The first student to get one line is the winner. The next winner is two lines, then “X,” and then “blackout.”

Role-Plays in ESL Conversation Classes

Draw a Picture, ESL Speaking Style
Draw a Picture, ESL Speaking Style

Draw a Picture

This is a speaking and listening activity that that takes 15 minutes, is useful for beginner-advanced and requires only a blank piece of paper.

This is a fun way to practice things like descriptive words (big, small, long, etc.) or body parts. The teams of 2 sit back to back and one person is the “talker” while the other one is the “drawer.” The person talking describes something that they’re looking at to their partner (monster, face, body, etc.) and the other person draws it. The results are usually very funny.


1. Two students sit back to back but they must be close enough to talk together

2. Show student A a picture of some kind. Put it up on the PowerPoint and have the drawer sit with their back towards the screen.

3. Student A describes the picture to student B who must draw it, without looking at the picture; they are only listening. Student B can ask some questions to student A to clarify if necessary.

4. Compare the original picture with the drawing

5 Successful ESL Speaking Activities

The Expert ESL conversation activity for adults
The Expert ESL conversation activity for adults

The Expert Conversation Activity

This conversation activity for ESL students practices speaking and listening, takes around 20-30 minutes, requires no materials and is useful for beginner to advanced students.

Have your students write down five things that they’re an expert in. After that, they circle the three that they think will be most interesting to the other people in the class. Then, divide students into pairs and give them 5-6 minutes to ask some questions to their partner about things they are experts in. Keep changing partners for as long as you want the activity to last. If possible, try to have students go with a partner that they don't know.


1. Discuss “expert” with your students. Show them your list.

2. Students make their own list.

3. You choose the three things that they think will be most interesting to the others in the class. Students do the same with their own lists.

4. Students find a partner and talk together about the chosen topics. Starting the conversation, turn-taking and changing topics is up to them.

5. Students switch and continue with a new partner

Where do you Teach ESL?

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