Easy ESL Conversation Activities

Here are 5 ESL speaking activities that work really well as warmers or fillers for intermediate+ students. Review vocabulary, teach English, nudge students towards fluency and have a little fun at the same time.

Speed Talking (10-15 minutes)

A great speaking activity that requires almost no prep. Display the activity worksheet on a classroom project. Students work in pairs and say answers that relate to a category. The worksheet asks students to talk for 60 seconds, but I find a 30 second limit keeps the game more lively.

Preposition Maze (5-10 minutes)

This is a two-part activity. Working in pairs, students move through the maze by matching pairs of words to create phrasal verbs. Begin at start and end at end. Scroll down to the second page and students recycle the answers with a fill in the blank exercise.

Opposite Maze (3-5 minutes)

Well suited for intermediate level students, students move through the maze matching adjectives which have opposite meanings

Logic Puzzles (10-15 minutes)

Who doesn’t love a good logic puzzle? My students quite like these brain teasers as a short pair work activity. Key here is to get the answers and also explain them. If you like these puzzles, my ebook The Monster Pack has 160 logic puzzles and word games, plus a whole lot more.

Q&A With Criteria (10-15 minutes)

Here’s a question and answer activity with a twist. Put students in pairs and present them with a list of open ended questions or statements. Before answering, students need to define a criterion that helps them make a reasonable answer. This activity gently pushes students to create a standard for judgments.

Be sure to explain criterion (criteria plural) with an example, like the one below.

Student A

Answer the questions with criteria (or one criterion).

  1. Who is a hero for you?
  2. What is the best Smartphone?
  3. Who is the best actor today or in the past?
  4. What is the best pizza topping?
  5. Does technology make us more alone?
  6. Can money buy happiness?

Student B

Agree or disagree with these statements. No hedging. Don’t forget to state your criterion (or criteria).

  1. Video games are too violent.
  2. We are not free.
  3. The future looks bright.
  4. Killing is moral.
  5. One is better than zero.
  6. Zoos should be banned.


What’s a Criterion?

Criterion: the rule or standard that is used to judge or decide.

For example:

What’s the best midsize car to buy for a young family?

It depends on what is important to you.

Do you care about 1) the amount of space inside the car, 2) safety, 3) purchase price, 4) resale value, 5) warranty, or 5) fuel economy.

These are the criteria that most people think about when buying a new car.

If all of these things are important, the Honda Civic is probably the best choice.



5 thoughts on “Easy ESL Conversation Activities”

  1. Hi, I’m an ESL teacher having brain freeze. I can’t figure out how your mazes work. Can you please publish the solutions? How does the next word relate to the previous word?


  2. Hi Pam,

    Sorry about the maze confusion. Maybe my instructions are not super clear.

    Let’s look at the opposite maze. Students have to find each pair of matching words (in this case two opposites). The tricky part is that the last word of one pair is not the first word of the next pair. Instead, the box which contains the last word of a pair is somehow connected to the box which contains the first word of the next pair. That connection can be sideways, top-bottom or diagonal.

    So in the opposites maze, the first three matching pairs are: dull-interesting, tiny-enormous, awful-wonderful.

    I hope that all makes sense. Hit me with another message if you need more.



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