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
What’s your favorite holiday song?
What’s your favorite holiday movie?
Do you celebrate holidays in November, December or January? Which ones
Do you decorate your house for the holidays? What decorations do you have
How do people in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving? Did you ever celebrate it
What do you know about Black Friday? Does Black Friday exist in your country? Do you like to go shopping then?
Do you have a Christmas tree? What does your tree look like?
Do people in your neighborhood have elaborate holiday decorations on their houses?
Do people in your country spend a lot of money on Christmas presents?
Do children in your country believe in Santa Claus? When you were a child, did you believe in Santa Claus?
What are some symbols of Christmas?
Do you like shopping during the holiday season? Why or why not?
What types of food do you usually eat on Christmas?
What types of food do you usually eat on New Year?
What smells remind you of Christmas?
What do people in your hometown usually do at midnight on New Year’s Eve
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.?)
Would you rather celebrate New Year in a public space, a big party, or a small gathering with friends and family?
Why do a lot of people feel stressed around the holidays?
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:
Describe the weather today.
What’s your favorite type of weather?
What type of weather do you dislike?
How many seasons are there in your hometown? How many seasons are there in the place where you live now?
What do you like to do on rainy days?
What do you like to do when it is very hot outside?
Does it ever snow in your country?
Do you remember the first time you saw snow?
What usually happens when it snows in your country? (Do schools close? Do people go to work? etc.)
Is weather a common conversation topic in your hometown? How about in the city where you are now?
Do you usually use an umbrella in the rain? How about in the sun?
Are rain boots fashionable where you live? What else do people wear in the rain?
What do you wear when it is very cold?
How often do you wear sunscreen? Do you usually get sunburns or suntans
What are the three worst things about the summer?
What are the three worst things about the winter?
Did you ever travel somewhere extremely hot or extremely cold? Where?
Do you think that the season of your birthday affects your personality?
Do you like air conditioning? Why or why not?
Is the weather in your country different now from when you were a child?
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:
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.)
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.
argue / argument
You’re driving me crazy!
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
Click here to download a PDF printable handout of the story that you can share with your students: The Last Argument
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?