Ideas of the speaking topics you may use in your ESL lessons

Topics for communication in English with young learners

Topics for communication in English with young learners

27.09.2023

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  • Speaking
  • Teaching qualifications
  • Activities
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Communicating with the younger generation is extremely exciting. 

You can sometimes hear such thoughts that would not occur to even the most creative adult. And it is so amazing to have such an emotional experience!

Communication within the lesson has certain tasks. 

For young learners, the development of speaking skills in a foreign language is as important as for other age groups. 

First of all, teachers have to understand why they teach students to communicate and what is developed this way.

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Let’s discuss the skills!

Speaking skills

Communication forces children to think and speak at the same time.

While speaking and trying to express their points of view, they are developing valuable speaking skills.

Listening skills

During communication, students also learn to listen.

They must understand and accept what the other person is saying, even if their opinion differs.

Critical thinking

Classroom communication helps children learn to think critically.

They learn to understand the reasons for their own feelings. This helps them, for example, explain why they don't like condensed milk, rather than just saying, "I don't know/ I do not like it".

Oratory skills

Through communication, students develop public speaking skills.

They learn to articulate their thoughts when they are with a group of people and maybe under a little pressure. It helps to get out of the comfort zone and do something new.

Tolerance

Already at the first stages of communication, children acquire tolerance for other people and their opinions. 

Communication among peers makes this possible because at an early age children begin to understand that not everyone thinks the same way as they do.

Promote emotional intelliegence in your class!

Topics for communication with young learners

It seems that with each new generation, it is way harder to get children interested. I dare say that English classes are not at the top of their list of best pastimes.

However, you can use the leisure topics of today's children, and you will immediately notice the sparkles in their eyes when they talk about their favorite games, gadgets, clothes, or cartoons. We offer the 10 most relevant topics for discussion with young learners.

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Video games

As more and more people start playing video games it seems that gaming can become a great topic to discuss:

  • Do you like to play videogames? What videogames do you like to play?
  • Do you prefer to play on PC or on a console? Why?
  • Do you play single-player or multiplayer games? Which do you prefer? Why?
  • What is your favorite game of all time? What is it about? Is it hard to play?
  • Some people think videogames are a waste of time. What do you think about that?
  • What do you think video games will be like in the future?
  • Do you think VR (virtual reality) will be more popular in the future? Why?
  • If you could make your own game, what would it be about? How would you play it?
  • Are there any games your friends like but you don’t? Why?
  • What are some popular games recently? Why do you think they are so popular now?

The list definitely goes on and depends solely on your imagination. Here are some more ideas on the possible topics:

  • Do you ever play videogames on your phone? What about your tablet? What games do you play?
  • What are the best phone/tablet games? Why?
  • Can you play multiplayer games on your phone? How?
  • Is it easier to play on a computer, console, or a phone? Why?
  • Would you like to be a videogame designer? Why?
  • Do you think video game designers make a lot of money?
  • Do you like to watch people playing games on the internet? What website do you use to watch them?
  • Have you ever watched a video game tournament? Which game was it?
  • Do you have a favorite video game player? Who is it?
  • Would you like to play videogames on the internet (Let’s play)? Why?

Keep up with the latest ELT trends!

School

Everybody has gone to school at some point, right? It makes the topic of schools relevant for any age, background and level. Here are some ideas on what to discuss:

  • Do you like going to school? Why?
  • Do you prefer classes online or face-to-face?
  • What are some pros and cons of online classes?
  • What about the pros and cons of face-to-face classes?
  • If you were the president, what would you change about schools?
  • What are your classmates like? Are they talkative or quiet?
  • What do you do after school? Do you do any extracurricular activities? Why?
  • How long are your classes? Do you think they should be longer or shorter?
  • What time do you start and finish class? Do you think that is too short or too long? Why?
  • If you could go to school in another country, which country would you go to? Why?
  • Do you think schools should use more technology? Why?
  • Are you allowed to use your phone or computer in school?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using technology at school?
  • Do you think cellphones help or distract you from studying? Why?
  • Do you think there should be a technology class in school? Why?
  • How often do you study? Do you think you should be studying more?
  • Do you always do your homework?
  • Do you think you get too much or too little homework? Why?

Future

It’s hard to find a person who doesn’t like thinking about the future and wondering what awaits ahead. Discussing possible future scenarios always turns out to be very imaginative and fun:

  • Do you want to have the same job as your mom or dad? Why?
  • What do you want to be in the future? Why?
  • Where do you want to live in the future? Why?
  • Do you want to get married one day? Why or why not?
  • What do your friends want to do in the future?
  • What age do you think is the best age to move out of your parent’s house?
  • What age do you think you will be an adult? Why?
  • What do you think the cars of the future will look like? What about phones? And video games?
  • What are you most excited for about the future? Why?
  • Do you think it is important to think about the future or do you think it is better to think about the present? Why?

Teach students to talk about the future correctly!

Aliens

Aliens is another topic that students adore. If you doubt, just try it and you’ll see how lively their discussion may be with the help of these questions:

  • Do you think aliens exist?
  • What would you do if you saw an alien?
  • What do you think aliens would look like? Why?
  • Do you think that aliens would be friendly or aggressive? Why?
  • If an alien asked you to come to space in its spaceship, what would you say? Why?
  • Do you think it’s better to be alone in the universe or for aliens to exist? Why?
  • If aliens could grant wishes, what would you wish for?
  • What kind of technology do you think advanced aliens might have?
  • If you could fly a spaceship, would you? Why?
  • Why do you think no aliens have ever contacted Earth?

Movies

Movies are definitely a beloved way of entertainment. It’s true that students may like different types and genres of movies but it’s always interesting to compare your impressions and tastes to other people’s ideas. Also, it’s a great chance to discuss some extremely popular movies like “Barbie”, for example: 

  • Do you like watching movies?
  • Do you like going to the movie theater or do you prefer to watch movies at home?
  • Do you ever get DVDs, or do you prefer to use streaming services? What streaming services do you use?
  • What’s your favorite movie of all time? What is it about? Who stars in it?
  • What type of movie do you like? (Action, animated, comedy, etc.)
  • Do you have a favorite actor or actress? Who is it and why do you like them?
  • What was the last movie you watched? What did you think about it?
  • Do you like horror movies? Why? What’s the scariest movie you have ever watched?
  • What do you think is usually better, the movie or the book? Why?
  • If you could make a movie, what movie would you make?

5 powerful movies for teachers!

Websites and Apps

During the era of the Internet, anyone can easily build some very interesting dialogues about the most important apps on their smartphones, the most favorite social media websites or the apps they hate, etc.:

  • How much time do you usually spend online per day?
  • How do you usually get online? Phone, tablet, computer, or laptop?
  • What are your favorite websites? What are those websites for?
  • Do you often use the apps on your phone? What apps do you use?
  • What social media apps are popular nowadays? Why do you think they are popular?
  • Would you like to be a web designer or computer programmer? Why?
  • What are some safety rules that you know about using the internet?
  • What age do you think children should get their first cellphone? Why?
  • Are you good at using programs like photoshop and video editing software? 10. How did you learn? What is the best way to learn?
  • Do you think YouTube is a good place to learn something new?
  • If you could make an app, what would it do?
  • If you could make a website, what would it do?
  • If you could make a YouTube channel, what would it be about?

TV Series

Discussing TV series is always fun as now more and more people prefer following long and complex stories rather than watching a single 2-hour narrative. Chances are that your students have been watching the same series, so how about discussing them?

  • Do you like watching TV series?
  • Which cartoons do you like? Why?
  • What TV shows did you like when you were very little? Do you still like them?
  • Do you prefer watching series on your phone, tablet, computer, or TV?
  • What streaming services do you use? Which is your favorite? Why?
  • What series are you watching at the moment? What are they about?
  • Do you like watching anime? What anime do you like to watch?
  • Do you like to watch sports on TV? Why or why not?
  • Do you like to watch the news on TV? Why or why not?
  • Do your parents/grandparents/etc. Have any rules about watching TV? What are they?
  • Do you prefer watching series by yourself or with other people? Why?
  • What is better, TV or YouTube? Why?
  • Who likes TV the most in your family? Why?

How to use authentic materials during your ESL class?

Fashion and Shopping

At first, the topic of fashion and shopping may seem to be not relevant for all the people as in your group you may both have some fashion gurus and students who are absolutely indifferent to any kind of trends. However, everybody buys something from time to time, everybody makes some fashion choices, sooo… Here are some questions on the topic that may be useful: 

  • Is fashion important for you? Why?
  • What’s the coolest look? Skater, surfer, rocker, punk, etc…? What do you think?
  • Who is the most fashionable person you know? Why do you think so?
  • If your friend were asking you for fashion advice so they could look cooler, what would you tell them?
  • What’s your favorite item of clothing you own? Why?
  • Do you like shopping?
  • How often do you go shopping?
  • Who do you go shopping with?
  • What do you think people will be wearing in the future?
  • What do you think about jewelry? Do you like wearing it? Why?
  • What do you think about hats? Do you like wearing hats? Why?

Chores and Responsibilities

It may not be the most beloved topic but it is definitely the one everybody can contribute to. Use the following questions to start the discussion: 

  • Do you have to help your parents around the house? What do you usually help with?
  • How clean is your room? Do your parents make you clean it? Do you have to help your parents cook?
  • Do you know how to cook? What about the dishes, do you have to wash the dishes?
  • Do you have to take care of any pets? If yes, what do you do for your pets?
  • Do you help take care of younger siblings? If yes, how do you help?
  • What’s your least favorite chore? Why?
  • What’s your favorite chore? Why?
  • Who does the most chores in your family? What does that person do?
  • Do you think in the future that we will have robots who do our chores for us? Why or why not?

What about teaching English to adults?

Pets

Finally, it’s hard to find a person who doesn’t feel like talking about cute dogs or cats or doesn’t have one. Therefore, here are some question ideas for you:

  • Do you have any pets? Would you like to have any pets?
  • Do you think pets are hard to take care of? Why?
  • What’s better, cats or dogs?
  • How many pets would you like to have? Why?
  • Do you think having pets is expensive? What do you like to buy for your pets?
  • What do you think about small pets like fish and birds?
  • Have you ever met someone with an “exotic” pet, like a lizard, peacock, or something strange? If yes, what was it? If not, what’s your opinion of strange pets?
  • Do you think people who live in apartments should have pets? Is there enough space for the pets?
  • When your dog goes to the bathroom, what do you do with the poo? Do you pick it up or leave it?
  • What is your favorite dog breed? What about cats, what is your favorite cat breed?

Feel free to choose questions from the list according to the age of your students. Some can be discussed with the youngest, but the more difficult ones are suitable for discussion with teenagers.

What should be kept in mind when practicing communication with young learners?

Making mistakes is OK

  • When teaching children to speak English, it is important to focus on fluency rather than accuracy.
  • The main thing is to understand them.
  • Constantly correcting mistakes will have a negative effect on the motivation of students and will deprive them of the desire to express their own opinions in the future.
  • It is better to provide a DEC for the whole class after speaking practice.

Establish clear communication rules

During the conversation, students should feel comfortable and safe.

So, it is important to establish communication rules. For example, explain that during a conversation, students should listen carefully to their partners and respect their ideas and opinions.

You can introduce some ways in which students can ask additional questions or ask for clarification if they do not understand something. Also, teach students how to politely disagree with their partners.

More on classroom management online

Change of partners

Taking turns speaking English has several advantages. By talking with different classmates, children get to know new ideas and speech styles.

The different levels of knowledge and vocabulary of students will allow them to adjust to the interlocutor and thereby improve each student's speaking skills.

Pre-teach vocabulary

For each topic, students will need some vocabulary. For students to express themselves freely, provide them with a list of words that will be useful during the conversation.

Children may also be embarrassed to ask for help. So encourage them to ask questions and help each other.

In the Grade University library, you will find many useful webinars on the topic of communication with young learners, including  Teaching YL: How to Use Stories in the ClassroomClassroom Activities that Spark Communication, and many more.

Use new techniques during your classes with Young Learners and teach English in a modern way!

There is no need to pre-tech the vocabulary that might be unknown.

Article authors & editors
  • Veronika Syrotkina

    Veronika Syrotkina

    Author

    CELTA certified teacher of General English

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