You need to focus on topics that beginner ESL students will use in everyday situations. Learning English is a daunting journey and getting your students off to a great start is essential or you’ll lose them forever.
Read more: Speaking topics for beginners
Teaching them the English they need to survive and thrive is key to building their confidence. We’ve created a list of the most common topics for beginner ESL students.
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This seems like a no-brainer, however it’s often over-looked and it shouldn’t be. Introductions are essential for making positive first impressions.
It’s nice to meet you – It’s a pleasure to meet you.
Handshake vs. bow
You need to teach and practice how to shake hands properly.
Where are you from?
Where do you live?
What brings you here?
Body language. It plays such an important part in forming our opinions of people. They can come come off as rude, arrogant, snobbish, disinterested… just by the way that they’re standing.
Don’t forget to teach inappropriate questions.
How old are you?
Are you married?
How much money do you make?
*Stay away from politics, religion and personal questions
2. Talking about Interests
What are your hobbies? (This one make me crazy!)
As a native speaker, I cannot remember ever asking this question to ANYONE!
So, what are you into?
How do spend your weekends?
What do you usually get up to on the weekends?
Encouraging your students to fill the silence with questions or expressions that aren’t really used naturally will not help them in any way. If they use unnatural questions or expressions, tell them.
3. Making Plans/Scheduling
There are other topics which could be argued to be more important. However, the vocabulary, expressions and skills within this topic are what makes it so important.
Days of the week
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Prepositions of place (in front of, behind, next to, etc.)
And for stronger students, overcoming basic complications is an important and fun skill to implement.
i.e. I’m sorry, I’m busy at (6:00). How about 6:30?
Talking about the weather might actually be the most common small talk topic. Though a lot of the small talk expressions or idioms are higher level, they need to start with the basics.
Beautiful day, isn’t it?
What a gorgeous day?Terrible weather, isn’t it?
How about this weather?
What a terrible day to be stuck inside.
5. Pets, Animals, and Nature
Of course not everyone has a pet, but we are surrounded by pets, animals and nature. They also lend themselves well to adjectives (think … short, cute, small, big…)
Do you have a pet?
What does it look like?
What kind of animals do you like?Do you live in the country or city?
6. Daily Routines
Every day is in some way a routine. We wake up, we get up, we brush our teeth, take a shower, drink coffee… you get the point.
What’s your daily routine?Do you drive to work every day?
What time do you usually wake up?
What do you usually eat for breakfast?
What time do you go to bed?
7. School and Work
Talking about school and work is really an extension of our daily routines. They are part of most people’s everyday lives.
What do you do?
What do you like about your job?
What do you do every day at work/school?
Do you like your co-workers?
What is your favorite subject/thing to learn about?
8. Movies and Television
Most people watch some television. The news, favorite TV show, Netflix, Amazon… the list goes on. No matter which country your students are from, there’s a high probability that they’re watching at least some television and an occasional movie.
What’s your all-time favorite movie?
How often do you go to the movies?Who is your favorite actor or actress?
What kind of movies do you like?
When was the last time you went to movie?
One thing that every country in the world has in common is seasons. Not every country has terrible rainfall or snow, but every country experiences variations of the four seasons.
What’s your favorite season?
What are popular things to do in summer, fall, winter, spring?
What’s the weather like in each of the seasons?
What type of weather do you like most?
What kinds of food are popular in each of the seasons?
10 Talking about Food
A great topic that is part of our everyday lives. Food is also a topic that can be expanded to many other topics. Countries, nationalities, names and basic and beginner sentence structures.
What’s your favorite dish?
Do you like to cook?
Are you a healthy eater?
Do you like sweets?
How often do you eat out?
11. Friends and Family
Another topic that is a great way to practice adjectives, and describe basic appearance.
Who is your best friend?What do you like to do with your friends?
Where do you like to hang out with your friends?Do you have any brothers or sisters?Who are you most similar to in your family?
12. Sports and Activities
A kind of extension of interests, but a great topic to use adjectives, adverbs of manner, adverbs of frequency, likes and dislikes…
Do you like (football/American football)?
What sports do you like to watch?
What sports do you like to play?
How often do you play (soccer/football)?
How long have you played piano for?
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