Below you will find hundreds of stimulating ESL conversation questions arranged around more than fifty themes. Questions are formatted as sets of cards for easy group work.
If you find these ESL discussion questions useful, then why not pick up our book 50 Conversation Classes which features 50 topic-based sets of questions and activities. The questions are grouped by theme and are in a handy copy and cut-out format.
Each set of questions is accompanied by a worksheet which presents vocabulary items and related idioms to be worked through before the discussion begins. If you keep it in your bag, you’ll always have a backup plan.
- Buy 50 Conversation Classes paperback
- Buy 50 Conversation Classes – US English version
- Get the PDF eBook (includes British and American English versions)
- Get the Kindle edition containing all 500 ESL conversation questions featured in the print version of the book.
- Download a sample
There is also the Random Question Generator which is very useful as a warm up or filler activity.
Printable ESL conversation questions
Grammar focused discussion questions
- future with ‘will’
- past simple – childhood
- past simple – recent events
- present simple
- present continuous
- present perfect – have you ever?
- present perfect – life history
- second conditional
Vocabulary themed discussion questions
- controversial opinions
- current affairs
- eating out
- the environment
- the future
- getting to know each other
- getting to know each other (teens)
- love and marriage
- towns and cities
- the unexplained
Tips for using ESL conversation questions
Make sure that each pile of cards is shuffled. It can be distracting for learners when they can overhear their neighbouring group discussing the same question which they 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.
I have found that the optimum group size is three or four. In a group this size, everyone should have a chance to give their opinion and there is more chance of a stimulating conversation being sparked.
It’s important not to let yourself get too involved in the ongoing conversations. It’s very easy to get caught up in a stimulating discussion, but you are not there to cast out words of wisdom and it’s quite probable that you are merely stealing another student’s thunder. Save your observations for a recap activity when the students can report their most interesting findings to the class.
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 questions. At the end of the mingling time, each student can summarise what they found out about their classmates.
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.
Here’s what some Amazon reviews say about the book
Absolute gem…a great, straightforward supplementary book divided into simple, time saving sections according to grammar/lexis. Had my students talking from the start. Usually conversation books have the same bland questions. These questions opened both further debate and laughter. Recommended and a great price too.
I love to use this in my classes so much because I always get such a surprise reaction from my students as they relate to the questions on a personal level and bring into the total discussion such rich experiences.
Really lovely and useful resource. thank you.
I am impressed with having the vocabulary lists to help prepare people for meaningful conversations. I will use this in a camp setting and know that the campers will be happy that the conversations can be targeted to them… It is wonderful to have such a targeted resource!
My TEFL students love this book!! I quite often use it with them, to introduce the next part of the lesson. Thumbs up from me!!
Great book. Full of great topics for encouraging & practising speaking English for teacher & ESOL students.. Has been a tremendous help for me as a TESOL teacher. It encourages good conversations! As a teacher I’ve learnt a lot too about my students cultures! Very interesting.
An excellent book to jump in the lesson without any prior preparation!
Been very useful for last minute conversation classes.
I bought this to get ideas during conversation lessons and it’s great for ideas and to help the teacher come up with different questions to keep the lesson interesting … overall I think it’s a great book.
Great range of subjects which can be adapted for conversations at many levels of EFL / ESOL classes. I definitely recommend this book.
A great book to guide conversation classes.