If you need some fresh, new ideas for your English conversation class, you’ve come to the right place. I have 14 of my favourite, tried and tested ESL speaking activities to try out today.
Need some ESL Conversation Activities for Adults Awesome in your Life?
I know that my readers are all about the ESL teacher awesome and want to make their classes as interactive, engaging and fun as possible. Who wouldn’t? And I also know that you’re busy doing a ton of stuff and probably don’t have as much time to plan your lessons as you might like.
These best Conversation Games for Adults, all things that I use in my own university classes in South Korea. Most of them can be used for just about any topic, so just adapt and go. Venture outside the world of the textbook, you know? It’s good for your mental health and your students will probably be happier too!
Top 14 ESL Speaking Activities for Adults
Without further ado, here are the best conversation activities and games for adults if you teach English and need a few ideas. They will help you to reduce teacher talking time in your classes and increase the amount of time your students are doing the hard work!
#1: Running Dictation
This is the ultimate speaking game for adults to get some energy flowing into your class. Even the quietest, most low-level classes will enjoy this one and it’ll get them talking. Monday morning blues? Give this a go. Friday afternoon itch? Try it out!
The only pre-requisite for running dictation is that your students are able to read reasonably well. This is definitely the case for all university students in Korea. This one is ideal for monolingual classes because speaking the shared first language doesn’t really give anyone an advantage!
Why I love it so much is that it’s a 4-skills activity and covers a bit of listening, speaking, reading and writing, all in a single activity. You can also customize this activity to almost any level, from high-beginners, to intermediate to advanced. And the challenge is that it requires a huge amount of teamwork to complete the activity.
You can learn more about this classic ESL game here: Running Dictation.
#2: Just a Minute
If you ask your students what they want to improve in your class, they’re often say speaking in English. When you dig a bit deeper, they often mean speaking fluency. That is, being able to talk quickly without a lot pauses. This is one of the best activities to help them do that!
This is a fun speaking game that encourages your students to just “talk” and not worry so much about using perfect grammar. However, it’s not great for really low-level students though. Just a Minute is definitely one of my favourite ESL speaking games for adults!
Quick tip: choose some popular, perhaps somewhat controversial topics to make this activity more interesting.
Find out how to do this English speaking activity in your class: Just a Minute. Or, learn more about this challenging ESL speaking activity here:
#3: Small Talk ESL Game
This is an extremely important, but oft neglected skill in English conversation classes. Practice it in a really fun way with this challenging game. This conversation activity is one of the best ESL conversation activities for adults.
Check out all the details here: Small Talk Speaking Activity ESL.
The key is to tell your students not to worry about mistakes but to focus on speaking fluently.
#4: Role Plays in Conversation Classes for Adults
These are often a staple in ESL or EFL classrooms, especially for beginners and for good reason. They serve as kind of a bridge between learning very basic grammar and vocabulary and then free-talking. Role plays often work best with high-beginner students who are capable of basic conversations, if given a bit of thinking time beforehand.
The way it works is that you give students a beginning of a conversation and then they have to continue it with their own words. Or, you could give them the entire conversation, but leave numerous blanks for them to fill it. Adjectives are what I’ll leave blank most often.
Here is some advice about how to set them up and do them well.
Learn about how I use them in my English classes here: Role-Plays for ESL Students.
#5: Surveys for ESL Students
If I were going to a deserted island with my students and could only bring one ESL activity with me, this would be it. I LOVE surveys and use them all the time in my classes. They are interesting and fun for the students, can be used for almost any topic, grammar point, or vocabulary set and the questions are easy to make in just a few minutes.
But, perhaps the best thing about ESL surveys? They cover a huge range of skills in a single activity: speaking, listening, reading, writing, grammar and vocabulary. And, they also encourage students to ask follow-up questions.
Okay, so there’s another best thing about them. Students have to get up and move around the room. This is the perfect way to energize a sleepy, tired class.
Here are 6 of them for you! If you’re looking for ESL conversation activities for adults, look no further!
Check out some of my surveys here: 6 ESL Surveys to Try out in your Classes
#6: ESL Board Games for Adult Learners (or Kids too!)
Okay, so I kind of lied about the previous thing. I’d likely bring a board game to my deserted island with my students instead of a survey. Ideally, I’d bring both because I use them both all the time.
Board games work especially well as a review activity at the end of a unit of before a test. Or, they lend themselves particularly well to units on problems/advice. The best thing? They work for almost all levels, assuming that the students can read.
Also, if you have a large class, they’re the perfect, student-centred activity. Just put students into groups of 4-5, give them the board and let them play! Teachers should monitor the groups and act as referee in case of disagreement. This is kind of a long activity, so allow at least 15-20 minutes for it in your lesson plan.
Find out more here: Board Games for ESL Students. Sometimes you can find them in the teacher’s resource book that accompanies most textbooks. Or, you can easily write your own in just a few minutes, especially if you have a template to work from. You can also use this with your student during private teaching.
Or, check out this short video for how I like to use board games in my classes. School really can be fun!
#7: Vocabulary Review Game
Learning vocabulary is all the repetition. Seriously. It’s all about the repetition, which is the only way our students will remember new words. Help out your students with this fun review game that helps them come up with new ways of describing certain terms.
Check it out here: English Vocab Review Game.
You can also do a variation of this one with a list of famous people. Students have to describe one of the people, and the listeners have to guess who it is.
#8: Partner Conversation Starters
Students generally like to talk to each other, but it won’t go well unless you give them an interesting topic, or a reason to talk to each other. Some conversation starters are an excellent way to get things rolling with classroom discussion.
Learn more here: Interesting Partner Conversation Starters.
I generally give students the question of the day, and then let them get to it in pairs. At the end of the allotted time, you can elicit some feedback about what was discussed in the groups (or just a few of them for a bigger class).
Do you teach really low-level students? This is a fun speaking game for you. I guarantee that even the lowest of the low level will be able to “get” it. I often use this is a review activity before a test.
Learn more here: A Fun ESOL Speaking Game.
The way it works is that you create sentence matches—question and answer on strips of paper. Then, you cut them out, and give each student 4-5 random papers. They have to mingle with the other students to find their match. It’s simple, but a great way to review grammar and vocabulary.
At the end of the activity, you can explain some of the more difficult answers and it’s an ideal way to remind students of key points before an exam.
#10: 20 Questions for Language Learners
I love it. You love it. We all love it, even English learners. They key is to adapt it a little bit based on the level of the students, and what your goals are.
Try out this engaging ESL activity for adults in your classes today! It’s ideal because it requires no preparation, or materials (paper, pens or books). Keep a few of these in your back pocket for those last minute classes that you get thrown your way.
Try it out today: 20 Questions for ESL Students.
It’s also ideal for a quick warm-up for private teaching, teacher vs student style.
#11: Picture Prompt
Okay, one more! This one is too good to leave out. The way it works is that you have to put up a picture (find free pictures online) on the screen at the front of the classroom. Beginners will have to say a word or two of what they see. Or, higher level students can speak with a partner about what’s happening in the picture.
This activity it much more versatile with intermediate or advanced students. They can make up a story about what’s happening, or what will happen next. Alternatively, it can be used as a writing prompt for a writing class.
You can also try making cards with various pictures and laminating them. Then, each pair or group can get a different one each class, or even choose one that looks most interesting to them.
#12: Job Interview Practice
If you teach university age students, many of them will be practicing English because they want to do well on a job interview. It’s the case in many countries that students have to do this in English and not their native language. Here are a few tips for helping students with this.
Try to discourage memorizing answers word for word and sentence to sentence. It will always be obvious to the interviewer that this is the case and will make them think that the person doesn’t actually speak English that well.
It can be useful to work on a list of something like the, “20 most popular job interview questions.” But, instead encourage students just to make some brief notes of the things they want to cover. For example, point A, B, and C.
Encourage students to have 4-5 stories that show some of their skills on the top of their heads and well rehearsed. Thing that demonstrate teamwork, overcoming an obstacle, leadership ability, etc. Many interviewers will ask these types of questions. Each story can be used for a variety of questions.
Give lots of feedback to students throughout this process. When a job is possibly on the line, don’t be so kind when it comes to things like mispronouncing a word, or an example of terrible grammar. Point them out (kindly!) to the students so that they can improve.
#13: Dictogloss (Retell the Story in your Own Words)
This is another classic speaking activity that you may want to try out in your classes. It’s heavy on the listening, and then students can respond with either speaking or writing.
The way it works is that you find a story in your textbook for example, or you can easily write your own. Read the story at a mostly normal pace, and then students have to work together in a group to recreate it to the best of their ability. They will not be able to do this perfectly, but the key is to get the gist of it, or the main ideas.
Then, read it again and students have another try. Finally, you can hear what some of the groups have created, and then compare your version with theirs.
Find out more here: Dictogloss for TEFL Classes.
#14: What about ESL News Articles?
If you’re teaching conversation classes, you (and your students) may get bored of the same old stuff from the textbook. That’s why it can be really interesting to bring some currents events into the classroom.
The only issue is that it can be a bit difficult to find news articles that are at an appropriate level. However, it’s not impossible. Here are some of my go-to resources: The Best ESL News Article Sites.
What’s the Key to Conversation Classes?
If there’s one tip that I can leave you with, it’s this: you shouldn’t actually be talking that much during these types of classes! Strive to make them student-centred.
For example, if I teach a 2 hour class, I’ll talk for probably less than 10 minutes of it. I’ll do a small icebreaker or warm-up, then give a small vocabulary or grammar lesson that usually lasts around 5 minutes or even less. After that, I get students doing a variety of activities to practice. I will give some feedback throughout, but not for long periods or time. It’s easier on me, and also better for the students!
What does this mean for you? The students should be doing most of the talking, with each unless you have a very small class of only 2-3 students. It’s through practice that people improve their speaking skills in another language, so help your students out by designing your classes well! These activities are a very nice start.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 100 Pages - 05/30/2015 (Publication Date)
How do you Teach Speaking Skills for Beginners? Top 10 Tips
When teaching speaking to beginners, here are some of the thing you should consider:
- Communication first, fluency and correctness comes later
- Explain activities very clearly
- Allow students to choose topics of interest to them
- Lots of pair and group work
- Change partners often
- Teach speaking and communication strategies (hedging, fillers, etc.)
- Teach vocabulary and basic grammar
- Write examples on the board
- Encourage extensive reading
- Encourage speaking outside of your class
Tips for Teaching a Conversation Class for Adults
If you teach in a university in South Korea (or in many other countries around the world), then chances are you’ve taught A LOT of conversation classes. Here are some of my top tips for making speaking and conversation classes for adults as awesome as possible.
#1: Use a Variety of ESL Speaking Activities
The key to a great conversation class for adults is a variety of interesting, engaging activities. Nobody like the same old boring thing every single day, right?
So, mix it up a bit and try out something fresh and new each class. Keep your students on their toes and wondering what you’re going to come up with for them today!
Not sure where to start? This list of ESL speaking activities if a good place to begin. Try out a few of them and your students will probably love them.
#2: Think About Student Talking Time and Design ESL Speaking Activities with this in Mind
Students come to your conversation class because they want to improve their conversation and speaking skills. The best way for them to do this is to practice speaking, a lot.
What does this mean for you as the teacher? Well, you should strive to come up with ESL conversation games and activities that get students talking more, and you talking less!
#3: Break Large Classes up Into Smaller Groups
Think about this: you have 20 students in the class and you go around asking every single person their answer to a certain question. It’ll take up about 10 minutes of class time, depending on the question, yet each student will only speak a couple of sentences.
Or, you could break up students into partners, or groups of 3-4. During this same 10 minute block of time, they’ll speak for at least 2-3 minutes, instead of 20 or 30 seconds. That’s a game-changer!
#4: Ask Students for Feedback
Adults will often have very clear ideas of what sort of conversation activities they want to do. Ask them at the beginning of the course, and also throughout about what they’d like to do! They’ll usually be happy to tell you.
Of course, use your discretion and filter the feedback in order to have the best class as possible. You are the teacher after all, right?
#5: Consider Videos for Homework
If you have to assign homework (like in a university course), or the students want homework, it can be a little bit tricky for a speaking class. After all, do you give them a written assignment?
The better plan is to have students make videos. I’ve done this in a variety of ways, from interviewing someone, to having a conversation with another person in the class, to just answering a question that I’ve given them solo.
How do you Make an English Conversation Class Interesting?
There are a number of things you can do to make your English conversation class more interesting. Here are a few quick tips:
- Get students to change partners frequently
- Choose a variety of topics
- Get student input for what to talk about
- Use current events
- Offer gentle feedback and encouragement
- Bust free from the textbook!
- Use a variety of games and activities
- Use information gap activities
- Try task-based learning
Did you like these ESL Conversation Activities for Adults?
If you liked these fun ESL conversation activities for adults, then you’re going to love this book: 101 ESL Activities for Teenagers and Adults. If you’re looking for interesting, engaging ESL games and activities that are low on the prep and high on the awesome, check out this book on Amazon.
Organized into Sections
The book is well-organized into various section so you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for easily and quickly. Listening activities? Check. Fun speaking game? There are lots of them. Grammar or vocab review. Yes. Warm-up or icebreaker for the first day of class? A ton of them! You’ll be able to make lesson plans in no time.
Available in a Variety of Formats
101 ESL Activities is available in both digital and print formats. Keep a copy on your bookshelf or a quick reference tool. Or, a copy on your phone for lesson planning on the go at your favourite coffee shop.
Easy to Follow Instructions and Activities
The activities are easy to follow and start with a brief overview so you can get the big picture of what it’s all about. Then, you’ll find detailed, step-by-step instructions that show you what to do for preparation before class, what the students are doing class and then some recommendations for follow-up. Finally, don’t forget the teaching tips that will help you to prevent some of the most common things that can go wrong during that particular activity.
Yes, it really is that easy.
Order your Book of ESL Speaking Activities
You can check out the book for yourself over on Amazon, but only if if you want some ESL awesome in your life and don’t forget to share it with a friend:
Have your Say about these ESL Conversation Activities for Adults!
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Last update on 2020-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API