Published 10th November 2015
Speaking and communicating are the foundations of any TEFL classroom. The majority of students love speaking, and producing language is a way to consolidate, practise and internalise new language. Discussions are an obvious way to bring production into the classroom and they can be used at any time during the lesson, though they are most useful at the beginning or the end.
At the beginning of a lesson, using discussion questions can help the students warm up, as well as introduce them to the topic. This can be a time for you to establish how familiar the students are with the topic and to what extent they are able to discuss it, or whether they need more help with vocabulary or language structures to handle it better.
At the end of the lesson, having a discussion will allow the students to produce the language and vocabulary learnt in the lesson. It will give them a chance to express their ideas and opinions while at the same time being better able to express these, because the class would’ve given them both ideas and the language needed to communicate.
Of course, considerations of using discussion questions – how, when and for how long – depends on your class and the students. Many students like discussions and enjoy the opportunity to speak freely, but some may be a bit more shy and not as keen. If this is the case, it may be necessary to prepare the students more for the discussion or guide them more in their answers. In these instances it may be better to save the discussion for later in the lesson so the students have more ammunition in the form of vocabulary, language structures and concrete ideas.
Finding discussion questions is as easy as thinking of a few off the top of your head before class, picking random colleague’s brains in the staffroom over coffee or finding them online. There are a number of websites dedicated to discussion questions on all topics. Or, you could get the students to come up with questions on their own. A way to add in another step is to board some questions with the words jumbled and the students need to unjumble them to figure out what the sentences are, or the questions can be put on cut up pieces of paper and re-constructed before they are discussed.
However they are used, discussion questions are a great way to help your students produce language and, if done correctly, can be a valuable part of any lesson.