ESL Teachers want to get their students into discussion to gain fluency and practise speaking English in class, but it can be very tricky.  Sometimes no one joins in, sometimes the discussion just peters out, sometimes two people start having a passionate argument and get angry.

One of my book owners emailed me today saying she is teaching refugees and that many of them are reluctant to participate so here’s what I suggested:

Be v. careful about discussions with refugees since they are fraught with emotions.

There are ways to practise speaking such as in the Persuasion game, or in role-plays and fake debates where people have to defend a point of view drawn out of a hat, and it’s clearly known that nothing is personal.

Silly debates: You can have 2 minute sparring matches on topics like why:
1. you should always wear socks with sandals
2. you should never wear socks with sandals

Then the class vote and for voting they have to put their hands UP to say “No” or “Abstain” – and you count “Yes” for all people with no hands up.  That way the apathetic ones who don’t want to join in are gently included.  They can abstain if they think the topic is stupid, but they have to put their hand up, so that makes them move, makes them listen, includes them.

People find that the games draw students in, even the shy ones.  That’s a fact! And here is my great book of games and activities to help you be successful with your ESL discussions (and teaching ESL in general):

PDF version: on Teaching English Games

Paperback: on Amazon under “Shelley Ann Vernon” (In foreign books on non-English Amazon sites)

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