ESL Teaching Materials: Easy Conversation Activities

ESL Teaching Materials

Here are four ESL conversation activities that help students learn English speaking and listening skills along with vocabulary plus some simple critical thinking practice.

1 Listen to the Clues

This pair work or small group activity is easy to set up. Each partner gets a different vocabulary sheet. One partner reads a group of words. The other partner listens, thinks about how they are connected and then names the group or category.

Suggested answers are provided. However advanced level students might argue for other possible answers.

2 Ask Important Questions

This 20-minute pair work activity requires students to generate thoughtful questions in order to understand the details of a story.

Partner A reads a short story silently. Partner B has to learn the details of the story by asking detailed questions.

The challenging part is this: Partner A answers truthfully, but provides the minimum amount of information. No extra details are provided unless Partner B asks a specific question.

Upon completion, Partner B retells the story based on the information received. The quality of that story will depend on the quality of questions.

3 Learn English Sounds

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Great for a large class or small groups, this activity is a puzzle based on words sounds.

Display the list of words and ask students to divide them into three groups.

The suggested groupings are based on the different pronunciation of the find /ed/ sound when these regular verbs are changed into the past tense.

If the students don’t recognize the pattern right away, provide a series of hints, like:

  • What kind of words are they? (verbs)
  • What kind of verbs are they? (regular verbs)
  • What do all regular verbs have in common? (end in ed)
  • What are the different /ed/ sounds? (i.e. /t/, /id/ and /d/)

Once students understand the pattern, give them 10 minutes to work out the groups by pronouncing all of the verbs in the past tense form.

Review answers on the board.

4 Retell a Video Story

  • Suggested level: high beginner+
  • Requires a computer, internet access and a projector screen.

This pair work activity, based on two short videos, takes about 50 minutes.

Divide class into partners. Each Partner is A or B.

If you have a large class, all Student A’s turn their heads and don’t look at the projector. Listening is not a problem because there is no dialogue in these videos.


  • Show Video 1 on the screen.
  • Student B watches and makes notes about the characters, plot and setting.
  • After the video has finished, Student A turns around.
  • Student B retells the story with as much detail as possible.
  • Student A asks questions to clarify.
  • Watch the video again.
  • Ask Student B if the partner described the story accurately.

Now repeat. Student B students turn their heads.

  • Show Video 2.
  • Student A makes notes.
  • Repeat pair work discussion.
  • Watch the video again and check for comprehension and accuracy

These videos work well in this activity because the content is ‘family friendly’ and they are not too long.


ECIRAVA from Daisuke Kaneko on Vimeo.



a Decade from Treehouse Studio on Vimeo.


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