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ESL Conversation Questions About Family

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

As an ESL instructor, you know that conversation is an important part of every daily routine. This lesson will focus on conversations centered on the theme of family. Read on, for ideas and questions that will get your ESL students engaged and eager to take part in classroom conversations.

Conversations with ESL Students

Conversations with your English as Second Language (ESL) students can sometimes feel like pulling teeth. You ask a question, hope for a great discussion, and then you get nothing but dead air in return. There are a number of reasons this happens, but it usually stems from students feeling intimidated, being unfamiliar with the topic, or not feeling any sense of relevance to the topic. There are a few things you can do to remedy this problem, and that is what we will go over here.

For this lesson, we will be focusing on conversation questions about family, but will also include ideas for integrating these questions into the classroom. Sometimes the way questions are introduced can be just as important as the questions themselves. Let's get started.

Get Your Students Talking

When introducing conversation topics to your ESL students, you should always make sure you go over new or tricky vocabulary words to help assist in student comprehension. Students cannot talk about a topic, if they do not understand it. An overview of new concepts and vocabulary will make participation in conversation feel less intimidating. You should:

  • Keep vocabulary words visible/on display for easy viewing.
  • Integrate words into daily conversation to help with student acquisition.
  • Be sure everyone is comfortable with the topic before moving into discussions

Next, ESL students can feel intimidated when it comes to speaking in front of his or her classmates; therefore, it is important that you create an environment where students not only feel engaged, but also comfortable and supported. There are a few ways you can go about doing this.

  • Establish conversation guidelines with students, so everyone feels supported.
  • Include personal relevance into conversation topics, so everyone feels included.
  • Encourage discussions between partners or small groups, so students establish a sense of familiarity and comfort among peers.

Themed Questions

A great way to organize discussion groups, or conversation lessons, is to arrange questions by theme. Within your main topic, create sub-topics so you can go into a little more detail with your students to further comprehension. For the topic of family, you can create sub-topics to help get a better understanding of students' perceptions, experience, cultural traditions, or ideas relating to the family unit.

You could have students fill out questionnaires individually, ask questions with partners, or discuss with small groups. Once the discussions are completed, have everyone come back as a whole group to voluntarily discuss the various answers and perspectives. Keep in mind, it is a good idea to create a set of discussion guidelines to help keep students respectful and on track.

Family Origin

  • How many people are in your family?
  • Do you still live at home, or do you live on your own?
  • If you no longer live at home, when did you leave home? Was it hard to leave your family?
  • In general, would you rather have siblings, or would you rather be an only child? Why?
  • What do you like most and dislike most about your family?

Extended Family

  • Do you have a large extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins)?
  • In your culture, are extended families traditionally large or small?
  • How often do you see your extended family? Why?
  • Would you prefer to see them more or less? Why?
  • Are there members of your extended family you have never met? Who are they?

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