ESL conversation questions to get the discussion flowing

ESL Conversation QuestionsAre you finding these ESL conversation questions useful? Our book 50 Conversation Classes features 50 sets of 10 conversation questions in a handy card-style format ready to be photocopied and cut out. Each set is accompanied by a worksheet which contains a number of vocabulary and idiom activities which can be done prior to the discussions to help prime students for the conversation and suggest some suitable target language. Keep it in your bag and you’ll always have a back-up plan.

discussion questionsAlso available:

  •  the Kindle edition containing all the 500 ESL conversation questions featured in the print version of the book
  • a web and Android app – featuring randomised conversation starters from fifty categories

A great way to get the students talking is to put them in small groups with a pile of these printable conversation questions on the table. Use them as warm up questions at the start of a class or as a fluency activity after presenting and practising some target language. Students take it in turns to turn over a card and read out the discussion questions. When they have exhausted the topic, the next student turns over a card and so on. At the end of this exercise, you can ask students what they have learnt about each other and run through any interesting grammar and vocabulary points that you overheard during the activity.

Printable ESL conversation questions

grammar focused discussion questions
vocabulary themed discussion questions

Tips for using conversation questions

Make sure that each pile of cards is shuffled. It can be distracting when you overhear the neighbouring group discussing the same question which you are trying to form ideas about.

Some groups might have a tendency to speed through the activity, while others explore the activity more fully. You can pace the activity by giving a cue (buzzer, hand clap, etc.) for when the next card should be turned over. Two to three minutes per question should be enough.

Optimum group size is three or four. This size should give everyone a chance to talk and there is more chance of a stimulating conversation being sparked.

Try not to get too involved in the conversations. It’s easy to get caught up in an interesting discussion, but you can easily end up stealing another student’s thunder. Save your observations for a recap activity when the students can report their most interesting findings to the class.

Further activities

Here are some ideas for alternative ways of using these conversation question in your class.

Instead of giving piles of question cards to groups of students, give each student one card and have the students mingle and ask each other their question. At the end, each student can summarise what they found out about their class mates.

After the conversation activity, instead of having students report back to the class divide them into new groups where they can share the results of their previous discussion.


20 Replies to “ESL conversation questions to get the discussion flowing”

  1. Your website is so useful, just what I was looking for. Thanks.

    There is another kind of conversation card called, “Conversation Art Cards.” They can be printed from the website for free or you can order a set of 25 cards.

    Find them at: and click on “Conversation Art Cards.”

  2. I also have found these lessons very useful teaching in China. If you brought out another 50 topics I’d probably buy that too. How about a series based on business English?

      • I bought the 50 conversation classes book.
        Does it come as a series?
        I mean, as a multi leveled set?
        Id love if this book had a 5 level series. My students love the structure and idioms.
        So simple but so effective.

        • Hi John, thanks for the very nice comment. I’ve certainly considered expanding the range of the book, I’m still thinking about how best to go about it (please feel free to send your suggestions)

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