The Holiday Season: ESL Conversation Questions

Do your students celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year? You can use these conversation questions as a simple way to get your students talking about their own holiday traditions and share a bit about the holiday season culture in America.

Conversation Questions: The Holiday Season

  1. What’s your favorite holiday song?
  2. What’s your favorite holiday movie?
  3. Do you celebrate holidays in November, December or January? Which ones
  4. Do you decorate your house for the holidays? What decorations do you have
  5. How do people in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving? Did you ever celebrate it
  6. What do you know about Black Friday? Does Black Friday exist in your country? Do you like to go shopping then?
  7. Do you have a Christmas tree? What does your tree look like?
  8. Do people in your neighborhood have elaborate holiday decorations on their houses?
  9. Do people in your country spend a lot of money on Christmas presents?
  10. Do children in your country believe in Santa Claus? When you were a child, did you believe in Santa Claus?
  11. What are some symbols of Christmas?
  12. Do you like shopping during the holiday season? Why or why not?
  13. What types of food do you usually eat on Christmas?
  14. What types of food do you usually eat on New Year?
  15. What smells remind you of Christmas?
  16. What do people in your hometown usually do at midnight on New Year’s Eve
  17. What other New Year traditions exist in your country? (Do you wear a certain type of clothing, eat a certain food, clean your house, give gifts, etc.?)
  18. Would you rather celebrate New Year in a public space, a big party, or a small gathering with friends and family?
  19. Why do a lot of people feel stressed around the holidays?

Printable Worksheet:

The Holiday Season: Conversation Questions: Click here to print out the questions above in an easy-to-use worksheet format.

Looking for more beginner-friendly questions on a variety of different topics? You can find all of my Conversation Question posts right here: Speaking Questions

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Conversation Questions About Weather

Where I live, people are always making small talk about the weather because it’s pretty unpredictable, and it’s always changing!

I just kind of assumed it was like that everywhere, until a student from Colombia pointed out that one major  difference between this city and her hometown is that nobody back home ever speaks about the weather. She said that the weather there is always sunny, and pretty much the same all year round, so nobody really thinks to mention it. I thought that was pretty interesting because here it’s common to open your door in the morning and say, “It looks like a really nice day!” And then two hours later, you find yourself turning to a stranger in the elevator and saying, “Ugh, I think it’s gonna rain.”

Anyway, here’s a list of weather-related questions for your students to answer. These should work well if your students come from countries with different climates, or if you live in a city with unpredictable weather, like mine. As always, you’ll find a link to a printable handout at the bottom of the page. Let me know how they work out, in the comment section!

Conversation Questions About Weather:

  1. Describe the weather today.
  2. What’s your favorite type of weather?
  3. What type of weather do you dislike?
  4. How many seasons are there in your hometown? How many seasons are there in the place where you live now?
  5. What do you like to do on rainy days?
  6. What do you like to do when it is very hot outside?
  7. Does it ever snow in your country?
  8. Do you remember the first time you saw snow?
  9. What usually happens when it snows in your country? (Do schools close? Do people go to work? etc.)
  10. Is weather a common conversation topic in your hometown? How about in the city where you are now?
  11. Do you usually use an umbrella in the rain? How about in the sun?
  12. Are rain boots fashionable where you live? What else do people wear in the rain?
  13. What do you wear when it is very cold?
  14. How often do you wear sunscreen? Do you usually get sunburns or suntans
  15. What are the three worst things about the summer?
  16. What are the three worst things about the winter?
  17. Did you ever travel somewhere extremely hot or extremely cold? Where?
  18. Do you think that the season of your birthday affects your personality?
  19. Do you like air conditioning? Why or why not?
  20.  Is the weather in your country different now from when you were a child?

Printable Handout

You can print these questions out in a convenient handout format right here: Conversation Questions About Weather

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The Best Pet – Would you rather have a fluffy cow or a plant with eyes?: Picture Prompt #2

The world is full of big, important issues that your students could be debating, but I don’t have an example of one for you today. Instead, I have this picture prompt:

Which is the best pet? A horse, a fluffy cow, a bear or a plant with eyes? List 10 reasons why.

 

This is a prompt for those days when your class just needs a silly, lighthearted debate. It’s a good way to help nervous language learners stop taking themselves so seriously and start brainstorming.

Here’s a little handful of ideas on using this picture prompt:

  • Divide your class into four groups, and assign each group to a different one of the pets. (I would recommend assigning the pets randomly. It’s more fun and more challenging when students have to defend an idea that they don’t actually believe.) Encourage them to (a) compare their pet to the other pets, and (b) Think of specific examples of activities that they could do with their pet.
  • After your students are finished writing down their ideas, it’s time to debate! My debates are usually somewhat informal. I give each group the chance to state one of their ideas at a time, and then I allow the other groups to argue against it. (If anyone has any ideas for a better organized debate, though, I’d love to hear them.)
  • This prompt works well after teaching comparative and superlative adjectives. (A bear is stronger than a horse, but a plant with eyes is cuter and less dangerous than a bear.)
  • Here is a simple, printable organizer that I created to help your students outline their ideas: The Best Pet: Graphic Organizer

Thoughts and Ideas:

How else could you use this prompt in your classes? Please share your ideas in the comment box!

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The Last Argument: A Quirky ESL News Story

a short, quirky news story for beginner ESL classes

Today I have a true ESL news story about a man who came up with a very… uh… creative way to get out of a bad relationship. Below, I’ve included a printable handout, as well as tips on how to use the story with your classes.


The Last Argument

Lawrence had a problem. He and his wife had different opinions about everything. They argued every day. One day, he got very, very angry.
“You are driving me crazy!” he shouted. “This will be our last argument.”

Lawrence left his house and drove to the bank. He went to the bank teller and pulled out a gun. He said, “Look! I have a gun. Give me all of your money.” The bank teller gave him $2,924. Then she called the police.

Lawrence walked outside of the bank and waited. When the police arrived, he walked over to them. He said, “Excuse me officers. I’m the man you are looking for. Please arrest me.”

Why did Lawrence want to go to jail? He told the judge that he wanted a vacation from his wife. The judge sentenced him to six months of house arrest. He has to stay in his house for six months. He can’t go to the supermarket. He can’t go to the park. He can’t go to work. He can’t go anywhere! Lawrence wanted to escape his wife, but now he is going to see his wife every day for the next 6 months.

Suggested Vocabulary:

  • opinion
  • argue / argument
  • angry
  • You’re driving me crazy!
  • bank teller
  • gun
  • arrest
  • jail
  • house arrest
  • escape

Tips:

  • I would recommend reading this story aloud to your students until after the third paragraph, or possible after the first sentence in the last paragraph. Before reading the ending, pause and ask your students what they think the man’s punishment should be.
  • Role play idea: Put students into pairs. Tell your class to imagine that Lawrence has just come home from court after receiving his sentence. In their pairs, students should write and then perform a conversation (or argument) between the two of them.
  • Take a look at this page for more ideas on how to use my quirky news stories with your classes: Quirky News Stories

Yay! Handouts!

Click here to download a PDF printable handout of the story that you can share with your students: The Last Argument

This ESL news story was based on a true story. You can read the actual story here, and share it with your more advanced classes: Husband Robbed Bank to Escape Wife

 

 

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Questions About: Animals

  1. Do you like animals? Why or why not?
  2. What’s your favorite animal?
  3. What animals live in your hometown?
  4. What animals did you see in your current city?
  5. What animals are your afraid of?
  6. Which animals are the cutest? Which animals are the ugliest?
  7. Do you prefer big dogs or small dogs? Why?
  8. Did you ever ride a horse? How about a camel or an elephant? Where?
  9. Do you know any animals who are famous on the internet? Can you give an example?
  10. Did you ever see a bear, alligator or snake in nature? How did you feel?
  11. Do you like the zoo? Why or why not?
  12. Which animals are the most intelligent? Which animals are the least intelligent?
  13. Do you think animals can understand people? Why or why not?
  14. How do animals communicate with each other?
  15. How are animals different from people?
  16. Which country do you think has the most beautiful animals?
  17. Would you like to have a lion or tiger as a pet? Why or why not?
  18. Did you ever see a shark, dolphin or whale? Where were you? How did you feel?
  19. What are some movies about animals? Do you usually like movies about animals?
  20. Did you ever see a skunk? What happened?
  21. Did a wild animal ever come into your house? What happened?
  22. Did you hear any news stories about animals recently? What was the story about?

Free Printable Handout!

Want to print out this lesson so that you can carry it around with you forever? Click here: Questions about animals 

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Questions About: Food

English conversation questions about food for ESL classes
  1. What are some foods that you like to eat? What are some foods that you don’t like? Are you a picky eater?
  2. What are you favorite fruits? What are your favorite vegetables?
  3. Are there any foods from your hometown that you can’t find in this city?
  4. What do you like to eat or drink in the spring and summer?
  5. What do you like to eat or drink in the fall and winter?
  6. Do you eat salad? What do you usually put in your salad? Do you like salad dressing?
  7. What foods and drinks are popular in your country?
  8. What are some typical American foods?
  9. Describe the perfect sandwich.
  10. How do you make pasta? Give step-by-step instructions.
  11. How do you make a salad? Give step-by-step instructions
  12. What do you usually eat for breakfast? Is that a typical breakfast in your country?
  13. How often do you sit down for a meal with your family? Do you enjoy eating with family? Why or why not?
  14. Do you like cooking? Why or why not?
  15. What did you have for dinner last night?
  16. Do you like vegetarian food? How about vegan food? Is it easy or difficult to be a vegetarian in your country?
  17. Do you drink coffee, tea, hot chocolate? Do you make smoothies or other drinks?
  18. Do you use a microwave? Why or why not?
  19. Do you like sweets? What are your favorite snacks and desserts?
  20. Do you eat at fast food restaurants? Why or why not?

Click here for a printable version of these questions that you can print out and carry around in your folder of favorite teaching things: Questions about food

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Welcome Aboard!

Hi strangers! I’m getting ready to launch ESL Airplane, a site devoted to providing teachers with creative classroom resources for English Language Learners. I just wanted to say hi and let you know a little about what to expect.

One of my main goals for this site is to share some good beginner-friendly resources that can be adapted for use with other levels. I love teaching lower-level English classes (B1 and below). I have a hard time finding good materials for them, though, so I often make my own. I’m hoping to put together a collection of the types of materials that I’m always looking for along with tips on how you can adapt them for your classes. You’ll soon see a mix of conversation questions, weird news stories, picture prompts, creative news stories, and more. 

My teaching materials tend to be silly and kinda whimsical. I like my classes to be fun and lighthearted even though I’m serious about teaching. If that sounds like the kind of classroom you’re going for, please come back in a few days! I’m still working on setting up, trying to organize a million ideas into neat little categories, but I’ll have a bunch of new stuff here for you soon!

In the meantime, please take a moment to say hello and introduce yourself in the comment box. Where are you from? Who do you teach? What types of ESL materials do you wish you could find?

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