July 21, 2010

Great resource from another library....

I found a somewhat older resource that outlines exactly what you need to get an ESL Conversation Club going. I think the budget's very generous - you can definitely start one with less! Download the Word document...

June 21, 2010

Short game to get students to organize themselves.

In this short game, students get into lines based on certain criteria. For example:
  • number of US states visited
  • age
  • month of birth
  • number of siblings
  • alphabetical order by name or last name

June 1, 2010


Here are a few of my favorite ice breakers. I think it's important to rotate through icebreakers so the group doesn't get bored... Participants first say their name, of course.
  • What are you wearing today?
  • How did you get to the library today?
  • What movie have you seen recently?
  • What book have you read recently?
  • What did you eat for breakfast? What will you eat for dinner tonight?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?
  • Where in the world would you like to visit?
  • What confuses you about English?
  • Did you encounter any confusing words or phrases in English this week?
  • What was the most fun show you saw on TV this week?
  • Tell us about your favorite TV show.

The Health Remedies game.

This is similar to the advice game, but for health problems. You can print out images of health problems, or describe specific health problems on index cards, and have everyone provide remedies. Finding out home remedies from other cultures is always fascinating. Examples you can use: headache, ear ache, fever, bug bites, stomach ache, rash.

Play Hangman with idioms.

Here's another game that was a hit - hangman, but using idioms. Be sure to create a list of the idioms you'll use to hand out later; otherwise students will be preoccupied writing them down. I found the idioms online here; this list includes definitions also: http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/

May 10, 2010

A fun conversation-stimulating game: Odd One Out

From Boggle's World ESL resources, "Odd One out" is an excellent game for mixed level groups. Students had a hard time with some of the groupings, but had enthusiastic conversations. Here is the link to the worksheet: http://bogglesworldesl.com/files/TheOddOneOutGame.doc

We played the game a little differently - each group taking turns for each grouping, and discussing the reasons as we went along.

April 15, 2010

Play charades!

We played charades the other day, using simple phrases and terms. Each student had to act out one of the phrases written on a card, and the rest of the group had to guess the action. Be sure to keep the actions simple! You can try things like: swimming, reading, driving, cooking on a stove, etc.

April 13, 2010

Great tips...

I'm reading through "Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics" by Eric H. Roth and Toni W. Aberson (ISBN 414965828X). It includes excellent conversation starters on a variety of topics, and general tips to keep conversations flowing; a recommended resource for any Conversation Club facilitator.

A few general tips from the book:
  • Be encouraging, be kind, be open, be supportive
  • Be yourself, skip awkward questions, add natural questions
  • Be curious, be open, be tolerant, be sympathetic, be honest
  • Have fun, explore, take risks

February 12, 2010


If you'd like to play a fun game where each student spells out words, try Bananagrams. It's a lot like Scrabble, but with very few rules, and a lot more flexibility. You don't have to track points, just the person who won each round. It's a lot of fun, and a learning opportunity.

December 15, 2009

Holiday party!

We had a holiday party for the Club this past week. We studied chit chat / small talk the week prior, so students were ready to party on! I felt that having the extra structure of the small talk lesson helps keep the party in focus - it's not just about having fun, although that's important too. I based my lesson these resources: http://esl.about.com/od/conversationlessonplans/a/lesson_smtalk.htm

October 30, 2009

Drawing game – this builds narrative skills.

To prepare, clip out images from magazines. Photos of people doing activities are great; I use outdoor and sports magazines often. Here's how it works:
  1. Ask for a volunteer to draw the image.
  2. The rest of the group describes the image to the artist.
  3. Keep the group talking until the image resembles the original image.
  4. Change artists per image, and keep talking!

October 19, 2009

Easy game idea using wordless books.

This is a great game when you don't have much time to prepare a longer activity, and builds narrative skills and improves vocabulary.

  1. Grab a few wordless picture books and assign one to each student.
  2. Spend a few minutes quietly looking through the book.
  3. Have each student present the book, telling the story.
Be careful to choose books with somewhat adult graphics - avoid anything that's too simple and cute-sy. Anything by Mistumasa Anno will work well.

To find them in your library catalog, do a subject search for "stories without words".

Other good titles:

Rainstorm by Lehman: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/70831107
Wilson's Magpie Magic: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/37518963
Wiesner's Flotsam: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/71000114

September 13, 2009

Potential problems and solutions...

Problem: One person talks too much.
Solution: Use a timing device and get other students to help 'police' the garrulous one.

Problem: Different langauge levels.
Solution: Group work! Split up those advanced speakers amongst different teams.

Problem: Everyone speaks Spanish so they just chat in Spanish to each other.
Solution: Make a rule that you have to use English only, even if it's difficult.

Problem: Parents come, accompanied by loud children.
Solution: Have some coloring sheets or quiet toys ready, or set them up on a computer and have them play educational games.

August 24, 2009

ESL Bingo - the bingo grid.

Here's a link to the bingo grid I use for ESL Bingo: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dct34n59_28dt7j48dw

Great icebreaker - the M&M game.

This is a fast and fun ice-breaker that may already be familiar to you.

Have a bowl of M&M chocolates and invite students to pick their favorites. Based on the color, students should say the following tidbits about themselves:

RED - Where are you from?

BLUE - What do you like to do for fun?

YELLOW - Tell us about your family.

BROWN - What is your favorite food?

ORANGE - How did you get here today?

GREEN - What color is your car? House?

Study the various parts of a computer with your ESL students.

This was a great activity - we filled out the worksheet together, while talking about each component. Here's the handout: http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B1NkZlvm2QTSOTI4MzU5NzgtMTFlNy00Y2VjLTgyMWQtMzA2MzUyOTkwZjgx&hl=en

July 21, 2009

July 18, 2009

ESL Book Club book choices update

These are a few of the most well-received titles that we have done in ESL Book Club recently. All of these spurred on great discussions, and were universally agreed upon to be page-turners. Fannie Flagg's book was the most popular.
A Redbird Christmas--Fannie Flagg
Hush--Jacqueline Woodson
Tuesdays with Morrie--Mitch Albom

If you think you would like to test out some of your conversation club participants to see if they might enjoy reading for pleasure in English, here is a very short ghost story by Jean Rhys called I Used to Live Here Once http://personal.bgsu.edu/~rshultz/Rhys.htm. The writing is very rich, and the meaning quite subtle, so explanation by the club facilitator will likely be required. Let them read it through once, go over vocabulary with them (there is a lot in this story), and then read it for them with feeling. Afterwards, let them try it again, and have fun getting everyone to guess at the meaning. This was very successful discussion, and the whole thing didn't take more than 20 minutes at the most.

June 30, 2009

Apples to Apples

If you have a relatively advanced group, Apples to Apples is a good game to play. The basic idea is that you have an adjective, and all players have nouns. You try to match up the "best" noun to the adjective, which of course, comes with a lot of humor and liberal licensing of choices. The dealer (who rotates) gets to vote on the best answer. This is only recommended for more advanced ESL learners, and to make sure that the competition doesn't get too fierce, and move the purpose from Conversation Club, you should make each person offer their choice up in a sentence.

June 12, 2009

Fun new states/capitals game.

This game was a hit with students this past week. You'll need a set of "Rand McNally Schoolhouse U.S. States & Capitals Flashcards And Games (Cards)", easily found at most educational resources shops, or on Amazon. Students had to choose a region and collect state cards for that region. You can also ask about each state, and learn capitals and nicknames as you go along. Or, you can have each student introduce a state. Fun!

May 11, 2009

Document links fixed!

Sorry about the lack of access for the various documents I've been posting. Everything should be working now but please let me know if there are still broken links by emailing me at eslconversationclubs@gmail.com.