8 Essential Speaking Activities for ESL Classes

Speaking activities are essential for English language speaking classes (obviously!). However, designing  the right speaking activity for a topic is not always an easy task. Teachers need to be aware of the students’ abilities and   personalities as well as the language and grammar they will be presenting. It’s good to be able to run through or think through a list of teaching possibilities before preparing a class. Below I offer some essential speaking activities that have helped make seemingly difficult teaching  challenges a lot of fun.

1 Questionnaires: talking about shopping example

This is an elementary ESL speaking activity for practicing language useful for talking about shopping. Shopping is a great topic for English language students  as it is universally accessible. Using pictures with the questions gives context. The vocabulary at the bottom of the page can be matched to the pictures as an icebreaker. Students can discuss and answer the questions in groups or in pairs.

Talking about shopping (PDF)

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2 Role plays : celebrity interview role play example

Role plays can be really good speaking activities. However, students really need to be able to identify with and be interested in the characters they are playing. The easiest and most successful  role play I have encountered is the celebrity role play. It is also the most  popular role play idea on my website by miles. This is a fun communicative exercise that allows students to to be creative and to improvise.

Celebrity interview role play and speaking activity worksheet

Celebrity role play (PDF)

Celebrity interview role play

3 Dialogues : food conversation example

Dialogues are a great way to get students talking. Students just need to be presented with an easy example or model that they can practice Once they have mastered the model they can alter it with their own ideas.

Food conversation (PDF)

Food conversation



4 Surveys: fashion choices survey example

This is an ESL  speaking and writing lesson  for talking about clothes, accessories and fashion choices. Fashion is a great classroom topic as it easily engages students. In this exercise, students have to write their own questions, survey their classmates and write a short report about their findings. This is a fun communicative exercise that allows students to mix freely.


Fashion survey and speaking activity lesson

Fashion choices survey (PDF)



5 Expressing opinions

This is an ESL or English language  exercise for  practicing conversational English.  Brainstorm collocations for the verbs and then create short conversations using the model on the hand out as an example.

Circle of determiners elementary speaking activity for ESL students.

Circle of determiners (PDF)



6 Socializing speaking activities : eternal mingle example

In socializing activities, students write one of more questions on a piece of paper and then walk around the classroom speaking to as many people as possible. This is an excellent all-purpose communicative activity for big ESL classes. It’s effective because it just about ensures a high level of student participation. It also lowers inhibition levels, encourages student centered correction and frees the teacher to observe and field questions from students. The possible variations are endless. It can be used as an icebreaker, for drills, or as an initiator of free conversation.


Sample English language speaking activity questions

Eternal Mingle (PDF)



7 Interviews: personality interview example

One-on-one interviews also work well in ESL classes. Several good options are the job interview, the personality interview and the “getting to know you” interview.


Personality interview speaking activity example for English language students

Personality interview (PDF)



8 Discussions: cities-good or bad example

Discussion activities on topics which students encounter in their everyday lives are also generally successful. Getting students to provide both sides of an argument  helps them to  develop their critical thinking and speaking skills. Discussion topics like this example can be done in pairs, groups or as a class.


Cities: good or bad discussion speaking activity

Cities- good or bad?  (PDF)

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