ESL Conversation Starters
Looking for that missing element that will help your ESL conversation classes sparkle, shine and speak English?
Leading an engaging ESL conversation class isn’t something you can just pull off at the drop of a hat. But these tricks can help you go from zero to ESL hero. As a matter of fact, the one big secret is having
Ready? Drumroll please.
101 ESL conversation topics from a hat
101 ESL Conversation Topics From a Hat
How many times have you been in an ESL conversation class and just couldn’t get your students to speak?
In the classroom and in everyday life, we need conversation starters or ice breakers to end the silence. Arguably, there’s nothing stranger than silence in a conversation class!
Here’s how you do it:
Before you start the school year, dedicate some time in preparing a list of free talking topics (see below).
First, print the conversation topics below. Second, cut each topic and put them in a hat. Finally, have them attached at your hip whenever you’re in need.
You can either open the whole classroom for discussion or have them speak in pairs. Furthermore, these ESL conversation topics are great for filling in any extra time at the end of the class or ice breakers at the start of a lesson.
And if you’d like more free ESL activities for your classroom, don’t forget to check out our other lists to engage your students in English. All are free and can be used for any purpose.
- 43 Free ESL Worksheets that Enable English Language Learners
- 13 Free ESL Lesson Plans to Master Your ESL Classes
- 27 Free ESL Games to Teach English Like an All-Star
Either way, the goal is to get them practicing in English.
Culture Differences for Kids
- High schools (Do students wear special school attire like uniforms? Can students drive to their high school? Can students drink water in class?)
- Country work ethic (How long are typical work hours? Do students work after graduating?)
- School clubs (What unique school clubs are there? Which club are you in? Why did you choose that club?)
- Holidays (What is your favorite holiday? What type of food do you eat on specific holidays?)
- Jobs (What jobs exist? Is it easy to get a job after graduation? Is it easy to find a job now?)
- Pop culture (Who are pop culture icons in your home country?)
- Video games (Do you play video games? What types of video games are popular?)
- Parenting and punishment (What kind of punishment have you received at school or home? Do you believe in physical punishment?)
Culture Differences for Adults
- Restaurant tips (Are tips at restaurants common? How much is a reasonable tip?)
- Work dinner parties (Do wives and husbands attend work parties?)
- Gestures (What are some unique gestures (thumbs up, middle finger, etc) in your country?)
- Gift exchange (When you travel, is it common to exchange gifts? How about Christmas or any other holidays?)
- Living with parents (How old do kids live with their parents?)
- Greetings (How do you greet in your country? Do you bow or do handshakes?)
- Safety and crime (Do you think your neighborhood is safe? What kind of crimes happen in your area?)
- Punctuality (How often are friends late? How about buses and trains? Is it rude being late?)
- Food and health (What is a typical meal? How healthy is it? Are gyms becoming more popular?)
- Sports (How do sports players show respect after a game? Are there any unique sports in your country?)
- Multiculturalism (Is your country multicultural? Is multiculturalism a good thing?)
- Gender discrimination (Do women and men make the same amount of money for doing the same job? Is there much gender discrimination in your home country?)
- If you had one wish, what would it be?
- If you were rich, what would you do?
- If you could be a celebrity for a day, which celebrity would you be?
- If you were the principal at school, what would you change?
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
- If you were on a deserted island, what would you bring and why?
- If you could be any animal for a day, what would it be and why?
- If you could have any superpower, what would you pick and why?
- If you could pack only 3 items for your next trip, what would they be?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
- If you could travel to the moon, would you like to go?
- If you win the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
- If you owned an island to yourself, what rules would you implement?
- If they could pick a Halloween costume to dress up as on Halloween, what would it be?
- If you could be born at a different time period, when would it be?
- If you could change the past, would you do it?
- If you could make a movie, which celebrity would you pick as yourself?
- If you found a large amount of money, what would you do?
- If you could change anything about your country, what would you change?
- If you could be born in another country, which one would you pick?
- If you could do your dream job 10 years from now, which job would you choose?
Have you ever…
- Have you ever traveled out of your home country?
- Have you ever cried when watching a movie? If yes, which one?
- Have you ever experienced culture shock?
- Have you ever wanted to get a tattoo or piercing?
- Have you ever laughed so much that it made you cry?
- Have you ever been lost and couldn’t find directions?
- Have you ever fallen in love? If no, do you want to find love?
- Have you ever won a trophy? If yes, which competition did you win?
- Have you ever read a book that changed your life?
- Have you ever been to Disneyland or an amazing theme park?
- Have you ever had a dream that felt like it was real?
- Have you ever seen something supernatural or paranormal?
- Have you ever ridden a horse?
- Have you ever had imaginary friends when you were young?
- Have you ever had to go the hospital?
- Have you ever been outside your home country?
- Have you ever experienced a natural disaster?
- Have you ever owned a pet?
- Have you ever donated anything to the poor?
- Have you ever seen a car accident?
Would you rather..
- Would rather be very intelligent or very good-looking?
- Would you rather have a pet dog or cat?
- Would you rather grow up going to school in your home country or another one?
- Would you rather be a professional athlete or celebrity actor?
- Would you rather live forever or until 100 years old?
- Would you rather live in the mountains or on the beach?
- Would you rather bungee jump or skydive?
- Would you rather be rich or find true love?
- Would you rather walk backwards or talk backwards for the rest of your life?
- Would you rather explore the oceans or outer space?
- Would you rather live in an apartment or a house?
- Would you rather be invisible or super fast?
- Would you rather live in a country that is always cold or hot?
- Would you rather live in the city or a small town?
- Would you rather be a jack-of-all-trades or master one?
- Would you rather ride an elephant or swim with dolphins?
- Would you rather be rich and depressed or broke and happy?
- In the past or future, when would you rather travel to the ?
- Would you rather eat rice or bread with every meal?
- Would you rather use the internet or books as your main source of information?
- How do you deal with stress?
- What is the best advice you have ever received?
- Do you think aliens exist?
- Is climate change real?
- What age is best to start dating?
- What personality traits do you want in your boyfriend or girlfriend?
- Have you ever had a problem with bullying?
- Are girls smarter than boys?
- In the future, how many children do you want to have?
- What makes a good teacher?
- Who was your hero when you were a child?
- What is the worst purchase you have made?
- Would you rather know how you die or when you die?
- What was the best holiday you’ve been on?
- Is there any strange food in your country?
- What are some inventions you hope to see in the future?
- What is the most embarrassing moment of your life?
- Would you ever try online dating?
- What is on your bucket list?
- Do you believe in any religions?
- When was the last time you cried?
With 5 Minutes Left, What Do You Do?
All things considered, 101 ESL conversation topics from a hat is a fantastic end of the class time filler.
When you run out of things to do, pull out the hat and pick a topic. Otherwise, your class would just be sitting there twiddling their thumbs.
Strangely enough, a lot of teachers don’t equip themselves with back-up activities.
Now, you don’t have to sweat it out and watch the clock tick until the bell rings.