If you’ve ever done an activity in which students had to discuss something, you’ve probably come across an issue or two. Maybe they didn’t want to talk, maybe one person was dominating the discussion while the other three were very quiet, maybe they didn’t show any interest. In this post we have eight rules for a good discussion activity. Read on to find out how to run a speaking activity which is a success.
#1 The topic
Make sure the topic resonates with the students. If you’re not sure what they like, let them tell you. Have the students write down 10 topics they would be interested in talking about. Choose the ones that are shared by a few students and make it a discussion topic.
#2 Ask good questions
Especially at higher levels, avoid asking cliche questions that your students have heard many times before.
How to generate interesting questions?
Write down anything that comes to your mind on the topic you are covering. Give yourself a good few minutes to do it. Write down single words and phrases, not full questions at this stage. Now look at the list you made and pick out the more interesting items and turn them into questions.
#3 Involve the students
Get your students to come up with discussion questions. At the beginning of the lesson, give them all a few minutes to come up with a few discussion questions on the topic you’re covering. During the discussion stage, they simply use their own questions.
Additionally, you can ask them to select another student to answer.
#4 Good prompt
A discussion doesn’t always have to be initiated by you asking the question. Use prompts.
What else can you use to initiate a good discussion?
- an interesting photo
- a controversial statement
- a problem to solve
#5 Their opinions
Some students don’t like sharing their opinions in the classroom. So if you have students or groups like that it’s best to avoid questions which require them to voice their opinion.
#6 Good numbers
The ideal number for group discussion is usually three. That way each student gets the chance to speak and there are still enough people in a group to have an interesting discussion.
#7 Time to think
Give your students time to think about the question, don’t jump straight in with additional questions. They’re going to need time to form an opinion and then think about how to say it in English. It’s especially the case with students at lower levels or students who are not very talkative.
In a discussion activity it’s best not to correct any errors while the students are talking. It might cause some of the students to lose their confidence to speak. It’s better if you monitor the discussion and make any notes on the errors that come up and discuss them when the activity has finished.
That’s all from us! Hope all your speaking activities are going to be a success now 🙂
Check out our series of discussion questions for different levels and group types.