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

Both of Us

ESL Small Talk Activity - Speaking: Asking and Answering Questions, Communicative Practice - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 30 minutes

In this fun small talk activity, students find out what they have in common with their classmates. To begin, students write down the names of all the students in the class on the worksheet. Students then use small talk questions to find out one thing they have in common with each student in the class. Students go 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 next to their partner's name. Students must try to find a different thing they have in common with each classmate. Afterwards, students share what they have in common with each other.
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Never can say goodbye!

ESL Ending a Conversation and Saying Goodbye Activity - Speaking: Ordering Dialogues, Identifying, Controlled Practice - Pair Work - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 20 minutes

In this engaging saying goodbye activity, students practice phrases for ending a conversation and saying goodbye by putting sentences from three conversations in the correct order. 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 their partner, putting number 2 next to the sentence and so on. 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. Finally, students go through the conversations and underline the language for ending a conversation and saying goodbye.
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Small Talk Questions

ESL Small Talk Questions Activity - Speaking: Writing Questions from Prompts, Asking and Answering Questions from Prompts, Communicative Practice - Pair Work - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 25 minutes

In this small talk questions activity, students learn and practice how to keep a small talk conversation going by asking questions. Students begin by reading through information on small talk and looking at examples of small talk topics and questions. Students then write questions of their own for six small talk topics. In pairs, 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 shown. Their partner responds with a question and the two students try to keep the conversation going for one minute. After one minute, the other student picks up a card and the students create small talk on the next topic and so on. Afterwards, there is a class feedback session to find out which small talk topics were the easiest and hardest to talk about.
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What do we have in common?

ESL Small Talk Activity - Speaking: Asking and Answering Questions from Prompts, Communicative Practice - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 25 minutes

In this communicative 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. First, students complete the worksheet with information about themselves by writing one answer in each box. Students then walk around the class speaking to one another about the various topics on the worksheet and asking the related 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. Finally, students share what they have in common with one another.
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Common Responses

ESL Everyday Responses Game - Speaking: Forming Responses from Prompts, Communicative Practice - Group Work - Intermediate (B1) - 20 minutes

In this free small talk game, students reply to everyday statements and questions with commonly used responses. In groups, students take it in turns to pick up a card and read out the statement or question 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.
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Conversation Starters

ESL Conversation Starters Activity - Speaking: Gap-fill, Asking and Responding to Questions and Statements, Communicative Practice - Pair Work - Intermediate (B1) - 45 minutes

In this useful small talk activity, students complete questions and statements that can be used to start a conversation and then use the conversation starters to practice making small talk. Students start by completing statements and questions for each small talk topic on the worksheet by writing words in gaps. Students then find a partner and use the conversation starters to practice making small talk. 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, students find a new partner and make small talk again using the questions and statements from the second topic and so on. Afterwards, students discuss the topics and share any interesting information they discovered about their classmates.
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Shared Interests

ESL Small Talk Board Game - Speaking: Asking and Answering Questions from Prompts, Forming Sentences, Freer Practice - Pair and Group Work - Intermediate (B1) - 25 minutes

In this small talk board game, students practice asking small talk questions and making true statements with both of us or neither of us about things they have in common with a partner. Students take it in turns to pick up a card and read the task on the card to the whole group, e.g. 'Find a food that neither you nor your partner like eating'. The students in both teams then talk with their partner and race to find a shared opinion, habit, dislike, etc, according to the task on the card. Students do this by asking small talk questions, e.g. 'What food do you dislike eating?' The first team to create a grammatically correct and believable true sentence with both of us or neither of us, rolls the dice and moves their counter along the board accordingly, e.g. 'Neither of us like eating shellfish'. If a team makes a grammar mistake or creates a sentence that appears untrue, the other team can steal the win by creating a correct sentence of their own. The first team to reach the finish wins the game.
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Small Talk Role-Play

ESL Small Talk Role-Play - Speaking Activity: Communicative Practice - Group Work - 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. First, students prepare a character for the role-play by completing personal information on a card. Each student is also given a small talk card that contains a secret topic they want to talk about and the 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. Afterwards, 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.
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Small Talk Techniques

ESL Small Talk Lesson - Vocabulary Exercises: Writing Replies, Providing Vocabulary, Writing Questions, Identifying - Speaking Activity: Role-Play, Communicative Practice - Pair Work - Intermediate (B1) - 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 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 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 follow-up questions and using the other small talk techniques from the lesson.
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That's Fantastic!

ESL Small Talk Role-Play and Game - Speaking Activities: Creating and Performing a Dialogue, Forming Sentences from Prompts, Guessing, Communicative Practice - Pair and Group Work - Intermediate (B1) - 40 minutes

In this fun small talk role-play and game, students practice common responses that convey interest in a conversation. First, in pairs, students create a small talk dialogue that includes at least ten of the showing interest expressions from the cards. When the pairs have finished, they practice reading their dialogues and then role-play them in front of the class. Afterwards, pairs join together to make groups of four. Students then take it in turns to pick up a card and make a statement that will elicit the expression 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.
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How to Make Small Talk

ESL Small Talk Worksheet - Vocabulary Exercises: Gap-fill, Indicating, Matching, Writing Responses - Speaking Activities: Guided Discussion, Role-Play, Freer Practice - Pair Work - Upper-intermediate (B2) - 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. 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, 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. Lastly, in pairs, students practice making small talk using the conversation starters.
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Social English

ESL Small Talk Role-Plays - Speaking Activity: Communicative Practice - Pair Work - Upper-intermediate (B2) - 25 minutes

In these small talk role-plays, students use conversation starters to make small talk in two authentic role-play situations. In the first role-play, one student has to use the conversation starters to find a small talk topic their partner is interested in talking about. When the role-play has been completed, students give feedback on the topic they thought their partner wanted to talk about. Pairs then move on to the second role-play. In the second role-play, one student has to steer the conversation away from a certain small talk topic. Afterwards, students tell the class if they were successful in doing that.
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