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Fun with Photography

This is another one-hour conversation activity. For an introduction to the series, click here. Enjoy.

Name: Fun with Photography

Prep Time: None

Materials: None for you, but at least one in every three students should have a cell phone with a camera

Primary Objective: Discuss technology

Other Benefits: This a nice lesson for practicing giving details on a given theme


Pre-Speaking (20 minutes)

Write the word “Technology” on the board. Ask the class to give you some examples of different technologies. Write a few on the board.

Now, have the students each make a list of ten different technologies.

Next, have them share their lists with the students around them. Ask some of the quieter and lower level students to share some of the things on their lists. Write those things on the board too.

Now, ask the students to raise their hand if they have a camera on their cell phone. If everyone has a camera, then there is no need to create groups. However, if someone doesn’t have a camera, they’ll need to get into a group with someone who does. Create as many groups as are necessary (but no more).

Finally, explain to the students that they should leave the classroom and take pictures of five different technologies with their cameras. Tell them they have ten minutes to return to the classroom.

Speaking (30 minutes)

While the students are gone, write the following questions (and sample answers) on the board:

Is your technology big or small? It is big. / It is small. It is medium-sized.

Is your technology old or new? It’s new. It’s old.

When was your technology invented? It was invented about XX years ago.

Do most people use your technology? Yes, most people use this. / No, most people don’t use it.

When the students return, put them in pairs (or pair up the groups). Without showing the pictures, they should ask each other questions that will help them guess what the technology is. (Like twenty questions.) After the item is guessed, they should show their partner/other group the picture and do the next item.

(Before they start, model the activity with a couple students.)

For example…

A: Is your technology big or small?

B: It is small.

A: Is your technology old or new?

B: It is pretty new.

A: When was your technology invented?

B: It was invented about 30 years ago.

A: Is it a computer mouse?

B: Yes! Here, look at the picture.

After the students finish, have them switch to a new person/pair and repeat the process.

While the students work on this, write the following on the board:

Look at your pictures. With a partner discuss these questions:

Which technology is your favorite? Why?

Which technology is the most important? Why?

How often do you use each technology?

Some technologies, like typewriters, aren’t used very much anymore. Which of these technologies is the most likely to disappear in the future?

Who uses these technologies more: younger or older people?

After the students finish, have them switch to a new person/pair and discuss the questions again.

Post-Speaking (10 minutes)

Now, ask the questions above to a few students and ask them follow-up questions as well. The rest of the class should listen.

Finally, go around the class and ask each student to say one thing that they learned during this activity. It can be anything, but everyone should say something.


Have the students draw a pictures of a future technologies. Then, they should get in groups and ask each other the first set of questions above before showing their pictures to each other. For time, have them draw several pictures.


Ideas for Homework/Another Extension: Have the students take more pictures of technology, but make it a scavenger hunt. For instance, tell them they have to take pictures of at least one technology that is: older than 100 years, less than 10 years old, bigger than a house, smaller than a cell phone, colored blue, etc.

Modification for Lower Levels: You’ll have to adjust the questions so that your students can handle them and probably do a lot more modeling than is suggested above, but the basics should be OK.

Modification for Higher Levels: Add discussion questions that force a bit more complex thought/complex grammar/complex vocab (e.g. How did people get by without this technology? How could this technology be improved? etc.) And/or have the students write some more technology discussion questions of their own.

Modification for Small Groups: For small groups, you can still do everything, but everyone will need a camera. Also, you should probably just discuss everything as a class. Finally, you’ll likely need to do the extension activity.

Modification for Private Lesson: It might be awkward to send a lone student out of the room, but you could take a walk with the student. Take the pictures together and discuss them on the way. You might also go straight to the homework idea above.

Modification for Different Themes: Instead of having the students take pictures of different technologies, have them take pictures on your theme. Amongst many others, food, transportation, and clothing would all work. You’ll have to adjust the questions for your theme.

Talk Time (Nature)

Talk Time (Nature)

This is another one-hour conversation activity. For an introduction to the series, click here. Enjoy.

Name: Talk Time (Nature)

Prep Time: None

Materials: None

Primary Objective: Build fluency on a given topic

Other Benefits: This is a good review activity or a good activity to do after you’ve worked on a theme for a little while.


Pre-Speaking (20 minutes)

Begin by writing “Nature” on the top of the board. (The theme can be anything, but for this lesson, let’s say it’s nature.)

Now, write “tree, walk, and green” on the board. Explain that they are examples of a noun, verb, and adjective related to nature. Then ask the class for another noun, verb, and adjective related to nature. Write them on the board as well.

(Note: These words don’t have to be related to nature in a direct or even obvious way. The point is that the students are prepping themselves to use some words in the discussion they’ll have a little later. If “nature” makes them think of “hospital” because the last time they went for a hike, they had to go to the hospital, that’s fine.)

Next, the students should take out a piece of paper and write a noun, verb, and adjective of their own. Then, they should pass the paper to their left. That student should read what the last student wrote and add another noun, verb, and adjective. Then, they should pass it again. Repeat until each student has written on each sheet.

Finally, students should write three sentences using the nouns, verbs, and adjectives of whatever paper they end up with. Model it on the board. For example, if your paper looked like this:

Nouns Verbs Adjectives

Tree   Walk    Green

Bird    Swim   Beautiful

Rock   Sleep   Boring

You might write: I slept under the beautiful tree. OR: The green bird couldn’t swim. OR: I think rocks are boring, but sometimes I walk near them.

(Note: Again, the sentences don’t need to be great. They’re just meant to get the students using the vocabulary in a creative, if structured, way.)

Have the students share their sentences with a partner.

Pre-Speaking #2 (5 minutes)

Ask the students to suggest sample discussion questions about nature. Write a couple examples of good discussion questions on the board:

Do you often visit a forest?

Do you like nature?

What is you favorite animal?

When students suggest good questions, write them on the board. If a student suggests a bad discussion question (e.g. Did you ever see a tiger?), change it to something better (e.g. What are some animals you have seen? OR Do you like tigers? Why/Why not?). You just want to avoid questions that students won’t be able to answer or will obviously answer quickly.

Speaking (20 minutes)

Now, tell the students to discuss the questions on the board for 20 minutes. Write the time that they need to talk (e.g. 10:20-10:40) on the board. Tell them that they must speak only English for 20 minutes. If they finish discussing the questions on the board before 20 minutes have passed, that’s OK. They can talk about whatever they want, but it should be in English.

While they speak, walk around the class and talk with different groups about the questions. Demonstrate how to ask follow-up questions and encourage them to do the same.

Post-Speaking (15 minutes)

Now, discuss the questions as a class. Ask each question to one or two students and ask follow-up questions as appropriate.


Ask the students to think of topics related to nature. For instance, they might suggest: Camping, Animals, Sports, etc.

Assign one of these topics to each student (several students can have the same topic, but not if they’re sitting next to each other). The students should write five discussion questions on their topic and ask their partner the questions.


Ideas for Homework: Find and email the teacher ten websites that have something to do with nature. (You can collect them all and send out a comprehensive list to the class.)

Modification for Lower Levels: If the level is so low that they’ll have trouble thinking of enough nouns, verbs, and adjectives related to the them; instead write down several yourself and play a game of hangman with them.

Then, have them just write down twenty nouns, verbs, and adjectives. In groups, they should circle the words that are related to nature and add to the lists if possible.

When you write the questions on the board, make sure to write sample answers next to them.

Only write five sample questions and five sample answers at a time. Instead of having them talk for 20 minutes, have them talk for five minutes. Review the questions as a class. Then write another five questions and another five sample answers on the board. Repeat for time.

Modification for Higher Levels: This should work fine for higher levels as is. Just make sure they’re using appropriately difficult vocabulary and grammar. If they’re not, cross the words out/don’t accept the question. Tell them they can do better.

Modification for Small Groups: It should be OK, but students will need to write on the same sheet of paper several times.

Modification for Private Lesson: It should be OK, but the student will have to write many vocab words and questions alone and you’ll have to keep the conversation going with good follow-up questions. Also, you’ll probably have to do the extension for time.

Modification for Different Themes: Change your example vocabulary and discussion questions to match your theme.

Deck of Cards

Deck of Cards

This is another one-hour conversation activity. For an introduction to the series, click here. Enjoy.

Name: Deck of Cards

Prep Time: None

Materials: A deck of cards

Primary Objective: Review previous themes

Other Benefits: This is a nice combination kinesthetic/visual activity.



Pre-Speaking #1 (10 minutes)

On the board, write four themes that you’ve already discussed in class (For example: Getting to Know You, Travel, The Home, and Clothing).

Write a sample discussion question next to each theme (For example: What’s your favorite subject? Do you like to travel? Do you have a messy room, and Do you have a favorite shirt? Why do you like it?)

Go around the class and ask each question to a couple of students.

Now ask the students to suggest another discussion question for each topic. Write them on the board and ask each question to a couple students.

In the end, your board should look something like this:

Theme 1: Question 1 (from teacher), Question 2 (from student)

Theme 2: Question 1 (from teacher), Question 2 (from student)

Theme 3: Question 1 (from teacher), Question 2 (from student)

Theme 4: Question 1 (from teacher), Question 2 (from student)

Pre-Speaking #2 (10 minutes)

Next, write a suit next to each theme (e.g. a Heart next to Getting to Know You, a Diamond next to Travel, a Club next to The Home, and a Spade next to Clothing)

Now give each student two cards. They should write a discussion questions that match their suits. (e.g. if they have a Diamond and a Club, they’d write questions about Travel and The Home)

For students that finish quickly, give them more cards. Keep passing out extra cards until everyone has written at least two questions and time has passed.

Speaking (30 minutes)

Collect all of the cards from the students.

Have the students stand up and ask their questions to another student.

After they’ve asked and answered most of their questions, yell “find another partner!” They should find a new person and ask that person their questions.

Post-Speaking (10 minutes)

Ask the class for questions from each suit. Then ask random students the questions again as a review.


Give the students two cards again. They should now find someone else with a question on that suit’s theme and write it down. Basically, they’re just copying questions from other students, but in a complicated way.

Repeat the Speaking portion, but with their new questions.

Extension #2

Have a “follow-up” questions contest.

Bring two students to the front of the class. One student should ask one of their questions. The other student should answer.

Now, the first student should ask as many follow-up questions as possible. When they run out of follow-up questions, note how many they asked and have them sit down. Bring another two students to the front and repeat the process. See which student in the class can ask the most follow-up questions.


Ideas for Homework: Have the students write 13 discussion questions on each topic. They should label the questions with suits and numbers. Their best question should be their “ace” question. A “two” question can be silly or stupid.

Modification for Lower Levels: It should be OK, but you may need to put the structure for discussion questions on the board in a more specific manner. So, instead of just putting examples on the board, you could also put up something like “Do you like _____?” “Yes, I like _______.” or “No, I don’t like _________.”

Modification for Higher Levels: None needed. Just make sure they’re asking appropriately open-ended questions as they write them.

Modification for Small Groups: Pass out five or six cards at the beginning. During the Speaking portion, call out a suit and discuss all of that suit’s questions as a group. Then do the next suit. You can still ask the questions again at the end. It’s good repetition.

Modification for Private Lesson: Alternate pulling cards from the deck and asking your student and having them ask you questions. If you pull a face card, you also have to ask three follow-up questions.

Modification for Different Themes: Assign different themes to the different suits.

Origami Fortune Tellers

This is another one-hour conversation activity. For an introduction to the series, click here.

Name: Origami Fortune Tellers

Prep Time: 5 minutes (or however long it takes you to learn how to make origami fortune tellers. You can learn how from this link.)

Materials: White Paper

Primary Objective: Discuss countries around the world

Other Benefits: Great for kinesthetic learners


Pre-Speaking (20 minutes)

Have the students gather around and watch you create a fortune teller.

They should then return to their seats. Pass out white computer paper and have the students rip it so that they have squares instead of rectangles.

Now they should follow along as you create another in front of the class.

On the eight triangles inside the fortune teller, the students should write the names of eight countries that they want to visit.

Now, put the Fortune Tellers aside for a few minutes.

On the board, write the following questions:

What would you do in __________?

How would you travel to _________?

What do you think people are like in __________?

Could you live in _________? Why/why not?

Then write sample answers next to each question

Now, the students should write the questions underneath the triangles (with the country names) in their fortune tellers.

Finally, write the following steps on the board and model them with a couple of the students.

  • A: Say a number between 1 and 10
  • B: Open and close your fortune teller that many times. Say the four countries.
  • A: Choose a country
  • B: Open the paper and read the question (use the country your partner chose).

Speaking (15 minutes)

Have the students ask and answer questions. Have them change partners for time.

Pre-Speaking #2 (10 minutes)

Tell the students that they should now make a second fortune teller. On the eight inside triangles, they should now write eight cities from around the world. Beneath the flaps, they should write four of their own questions.

Speaking #2 (10 minutes)

Again, they should ask and answer questions. Have them change partners for time.

Post-Speaking (5 minutes)

Take a fortune teller from a student. Do the activity with the class acting as “A” and you acting as “B”


Have the class exchange fortune tellers with a partner and ask new questions. You could also have them decorate their fortune tellers with pictures that represent each country/city.


Ideas for Homework: Have the students should find another origami creation on YouTube and make it for homework.

Modification for Lower Levels: Adapt the questions to make them easier and make sure to put sample answers on the board. For example:

  • Do you want to go to ______? (Yes, I do/No, I don’t want to go to _____.)
  • Where is ______? (It’s in Asia, Europe, etc.)
  • Is it hot or cold in ________? (It’s hot/cold in _______.)
  • What language do people speak in _______? (They speak ____ in ___.)

Modification for Higher Levels: From the start, have the students write questions instead of countries. Underneath, they should write follow-up questions.

Modification for Small Groups: Have each student create two from the start. And have them create them by continent. Then, make the discussion for the whole group rather than in pairs.

Modification for Private Lesson: Bring two created fortune tellers to class. Start by doing the activity with your fortune tellers. Then, have the student create their own fortune tellers.

Modification for Different Themes: This is pretty easily adapted. Choose the things you want the students to talk about (e.g. modes of transportation, sports, clothing, etc.) and then create discussion questions about those things instead of the countries.

Get to know you and you and you…

This is the first one-hour conversation activity. For an introduction to the series, click here. Enjoy.

Name: Get to Know You and You and You and You and You and You too!

Prep Time: None.

Materials: None.

Primary Objective: After the lesson, students will be comfortable answering and asking common questions used when meeting a new person.

Other Benefits: This is an excellent lesson for a teacher with a new group of students as it lets you listen to your students talk for a while. You can get a real sense of the level of your class on the first day. For the students, they really do get to know many of their classmates without much effort.


Pre-Speaking (15 minutes)

On the board, write “Get To Know You Questions”. Ask the students: “Can anyone tell me what a “Get To Know You Question” is?

If someone can, great. If not, that’s OK too. Either way, explain it to them. Write two example questions on the left hand side of the board (e.g. What’s your name? Where do you live?)

Say the questions out loud and have the students repeat them back.

Now ask the students for possible answers to the questions. Write them next to the questions. (e.g. My name is Paul. I live in Paris.)

Ask some students the questions and have them answer back to you.

Now, have the students suggest some more questions. Write a total of 5-7 questions on the board. If you can’t get the students to suggest any, you can write: What do you do in your free time? Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Do you like sports? What is your favorite color?. After each new question, have the students repeat it back as a class.

Now, write possible answers next to all the questions. Leave blank the information that the students should provide. (Or, you could write an answer in, but put it in a different color or underline it.) Again, have the students provide them if possible.

In the end, your board should look something like this:

Get To Know You Questions Answers

What’s your name?                                  My name is ________.

Where do you live?                                  I live in _________.

How old are you?                                    I am ____ years old.

What do you do in your free time?             I like to _____ in my free time.

etc.                                                       etc.

Speaking (35 minutes)

Have the students stand in two parallel lines so that each student is facing another student. If you have an odd number of students put one student at the end staring down the middle of the lines.

(Sometimes this is hard to explain, so just say “Stand up!” and start moving them with your hands until they’re in lines.)

Explain to the students that they should ask the person across from them the questions on the board. Their partner should answer.

If there are an odd number of students, there will be one group of three. It’s OK. Don’t join the lines. Use the time to help struggling students and to observe their levels.

Let them speak for about 3 minutes.

Now, yell “Switch!” Half the students should stay where they are. The other half should move down one spot (like speed dating).

The students should ask the questions again.

Repeat until there are 10 minutes left in the hour.

Don’t stop it if it becomes easy for the students. That’s when it’s really sinking in.

If it’s too easy from the start, then you can add more questions/more complicated questions to the board (e.g. Where would you like to go on vacation? Why? What’s your favorite month? Why? Can you tell me about your parents? What are they like? Are you similar to them?)

Post-Speaking (10 minutes)

Go around the class and ask “Who is this?” What can you tell me about him/her?


If you finish early, tell the class that they should ask you some of the questions on the board. Talk about yourself for as long as necessary.

Notes: If you have less than ten students, you’ll have to set it up so that each student ends up talking to everyone else. You can do this by saying “Find someone new!” instead of “Switch!”

Ideas for Homework: (1) Have students write dialogues between people who’ve just met. (2) Listen to “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice” by The Lovin’ Spoonful. (3) Find five other students and ask them these questions in English. Report back to the class next time.

Modification for Lower Levels: For lower levels, you may need to provide questions and answers, but they can still do it. Go more slowly. Have the students repeat back each question and answer five times. Finally, make sure they can read the board while they’re in the lines.

Modification for Higher Levels: As noted above, you’ll need to make the questions harder from the start. Try to think of the most realistic questions you can. You already have two columns on the board for “Questions” and “Answers”. Add a third column for “Follow-up Questions” and a fourth for “Follow-up Answers”

Modification for Small Groups: This lesson needs at least five people. You can still use the beginning and end bits, but the middle will just have to be everyone talking to each other. Ask lots of follow-up questions yourself. Try to get the students talking as much as possible, but you’d better have something in reserve.

Modification for Private Lesson: Again, you can use the beginning and end bits, but that’s about it.

Modification for Different Themes: At the beginning, instead of asking students for Get To Know You questions, ask them for questions (or give them questions) on your chosen theme.

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