Small Talk ESL Activities, Games, Role-Plays and Worksheets

What do we have in common?

ESL Small Talk Activity - Writing, Listening and Speaking - Elementary (A1-A2) - 25 minutes

In this rewarding small talk activity, students make small talk and try to find things they have in common with their classmates. This activity can also be used as an icebreaker to help students become better acquainted with one another. Give each student a copy of the worksheet. Students complete the worksheet with information about themselves by writing one answer in each box. Next, students go through the 'Wh' questions they need to ask to find out if they have something in common with a classmate. Students then walk around the class speaking to one another about the various topics on the worksheet and asking the related 'Wh' questions. When two students find something that they have in common with each other, they write one another's name down in the space provided. The students then move on to speak to someone else. When everyone has finished, students share what they have in common with one another.
 

Both of us

ESL Small Talk Activity - Writing, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 30 minutes

In this fun small talk activity, students find out what they have in common with their classmates. Give each student a copy of the worksheet. Students write down the names of all the students in the class on the worksheet. The students then use small talk to find out one thing they have in common with each student in the class. Students walk around the class speaking to one another about various small talk topics, such as hobbies, food, sports, etc. When two students discover something that they have in common, they write it down on the line next to their partner's name. The students then move on to speak to someone else. Students must try to find a different thing they have in common with each classmate. When everyone has finished, students share what they have in common with one another.
 

Never can say goodbye!

ESL Ending a Conversation and Saying Goodbye Activity - Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 20 minutes

In this engaging small talk activity, students practice phrases for ending a conversation and saying goodbye by putting sentences from three conversations in the correct order. Divide the students into pairs (A and B) and give each student a corresponding worksheet. Each student has half of three conversations, but the sentences are in the wrong order. The students' task is to put the conversations in the correct order by reading the sentences to their partner and numbering them from 1 to 8. Student A starts each conversation by looking at their sentences and reading the most suitable one for the ending of the conversation. The student then puts number 1 next to the sentence. Student B listens and looks for a suitable reply and then reads that reply to Student A, putting number 2 next to the sentence. This process continues until the conversation has been put in order from 1 to 8. When the students have finished, they move on to the second conversation. This continues until all three conversations have been completed. Afterwards, each pair reads the three conversations to you. If the students have made any mistakes, they repeat the activity until all three conversations are ordered correctly. Afterwards, review the conversations and language for ending a conversation and saying goodbye with the class.
 

Small Talk Questions

ESL Small Talk Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 35 minutes

In this small talk questions activity, students learn and practice how to keep a small talk conversation going by asking questions. Give each student a copy of the worksheet. Students begin by reading through information on small talk and looking at example small talk topics and questions. Students then write questions of their own for six small talk topics. After the questions have been reviewed, divide the students into pairs. Give each pair a set of small talk topic cards, which they shuffle and place face down in a pile on the desk. The students then practice making small talk using the topics on the cards and the questions from the worksheet. Students take it in turns to pick up a card and start talking about the small talk topic on the card. Their partner responds with a question and the two students try to keep the conversation going for two minutes. After two minutes, the other student picks up a card and the students create small talk on the next topic and so on. This continues until all the cards have been used. Afterwards, there is a class feedback session to find out which small talk topics were the easiest and hardest to talk about. Students also share anything interesting they found out about their partner.
 

Small Talk Techniques

ESL Small Talk Lesson - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 60 minutes

In this free small talk lesson, students learn techniques for keeping a conversation going and making small talk. Students begin by learning how to use echo questions and echo words to show interest, encourage someone to speak and direct a conversation. Students then move on to learn words and phrases for showing attention and agreement. After that, students practice asking 'Wh' follow-up questions to help keep a conversation going. After completing exercises covering each method, students read dialogues in pairs and identify examples of each technique. Students then practice the small talk techniques they have learnt in the lesson by taking it in turns to start a conversation with a partner. Students keep each conversation going for at least two minutes by asking five 'Wh' follow-up questions and using the other small talk techniques from the lesson.
 

That's Fantastic!

ESL Small Talk Game - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 40 minutes

In this fun small talk game, students learn and practice common responses that convey feelings. Give each pair of students a set of expression cards. Write some example sentences on the board, e.g. 'My dog ran away'. The students look at their expression cards and provide possible responses, e.g. 'Oh no!' 'Oh dear!', etc. In their pairs, the students then create a dialogue that includes at least ten of the expressions from the cards. When the students have finished writing their dialogues, they practice reading them aloud several times until they can remember them. Pairs then perform their dialogues in front of the class. Afterwards, pairs join together to make groups of four. The students shuffle a set of expression cards and place them face down in a pile on the desk. Students then take it in turns to pick up a card and make a statement that will elicit the response on the card. The first student to reply using the correct expression wins and keeps the card. The student with the most cards at the end of the game wins.
 

Common Responses

ESL Small Talk Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Low intermediate (B1) - 20 minutes

In this free small talk game, students reply to everyday statements and questions with commonly used responses. The aim of the game is to reply with the exact response shown on the card. Give each group of four a set of cards, which they shuffle and place face down in a pile on the desk. Students take it in turns to pick up a card and read out the statement or question in bold to the group. The first student in the group to respond with the exact words on the card wins and keeps the card. The student with the most cards at the end of the game is the winner.
 

Conversation Starters

ESL Conversation Starters Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Intermediate (B1) - 45 minutes

In this useful small talk activity, students complete questions and statements that can be used to start a conversation. The students then use the conversation starters to practice making small talk. Give each student a copy of the worksheet. Students begin by completing statements and questions for each small talk topic on the worksheet by writing words in the gaps. The students then stand up, find a partner and use the conversation starters to practice making small talk. The students make small talk with their partner for two minutes using the three questions and statements from the first topic on their worksheet. After two minutes, the students find a new partner and make small talk again using the questions and statements from the second topic and so on. This process is repeated until all the small talk topics have been discussed. Afterwards, the students discuss the topics and share any interesting information they discovered about their classmates.
 

Small Talk Role-play

ESL Small Talk Role-Play - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Intermediate (B1) - 45 minutes

In this small talk role-play, students take on the role of people attending a school reunion and practice interacting with one another. Divide the students into groups of eight and give each student a role card. The students prepare a character for the role-play by completing personal information on the card. When the students have finished, give each student a corresponding small talk card. The small talk card contains a secret topic they want to talk about and reason for talking about it. The card also contains a question they must answer. Students then take on the role of the person on their two cards and go around talking to the other people in their group. Students introduce themselves to each person and make small talk for a few minutes before moving on to speak to someone else. As they talk to each person, students introduce the small talk topic on their card. When the students have spoken to everyone in their group, there is a class feedback session. Students guess what small talk topic each person wanted to talk about and what their reason was for doing so. Students then reveal the truth and give feedback about the questions on their small talk cards.
 

Small Talk Worksheet

ESL Small Talk Worksheet - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Intermediate (B1) - 40 minutes

This small talk worksheet helps students develop an understanding of small talk, identify suitable small talk topics, learn about conversation starters, and practice keeping a conversation going. Give each student a copy of the two-page worksheet. Students start by reading an introductory text about small talk and completing sentences using words and phrases from the text. Next, students choose which topics they think are suitable for small talk and then compare their choices with a partner. In pairs, the students then choose two topics for small talk with strangers, acquaintances, and colleagues. Working alone, students then match sentence halves together to make small talk conversation starters. After that, students choose a suitable response to each conversation starter. Students then write what they would say in reply to each response to keep the conversation going. In the last exercise, students work with a partner. The two students decide whether they are strangers, acquaintances, or colleagues. The students then practice making small talk. After a few minutes, they change partner and start a new small talk conversation.
 

Social English

ESL Small Talk Role-Play - Reading, Listening and Speaking Activity - Intermediate (B1) - 25 minutes

In this small talk role-play, students use conversation starters to make small talk in two authentic role-play situations. Divide the students into pairs (A and B). Give each student a corresponding role card and a worksheet containing conversation starters on several small talk topics. Students then role-play the situation on their cards using the conversation starters and topics. In the first role-play, Student A has to use the conversation starters to find a small talk topic Student B is interested in talking about. When the students have finished the role-play, Student As give feedback on the topic they thought Student B wanted to talk about. Students then move on to the second role-play. In the second role-play, Student B has to steer the conversation away from a certain small talk topic. Afterwards, the students tell the class if they were successful in doing that.
 
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