Intermediate students always want to improve their speaking. And they need to!

Many English teachers have classes with intermediate students to develop their fluency, but I feel that many conversation topics and activities are just not interesting enough, and don’t develop the right skills.

Intermediate is all about going from a solid foundation of making simple sentences to being able to fully express opinions and ideas.

So instead of printing off endless lists of tedious conversation questions you found online, try some of these prompts and ideas to really get students gaining confidence and fluency!

  1. Would You Rather
  2. Controversial Statements
  3. What Three Things
  4. Role Play
  5. Tell Me About A Time When
  6. Describe Your Ideal

1. Would You Rather

Would You Rather is a fantastic activity for expressing preference. In fact, you may have already played it with friends or family.

The classic examples is “would you rather fight a horse-sized duck, or ten duck-sized horses?”

Silly, yes, but with the right students, that question can provoke some intense discussion.

There are two things that make this activity excellent:

  1. The grammatical use of “I’d rather” and other similar phrases which are extremely common and useful.
  2. A built-in requirement for explanation. Choosing one option over the other requires justification and, if the prompt is good, there will be plenty of debate about which is best.

A question like “Would you rather have breakfast for dinner, or dinner for breakfast” would involve talking about when those meals are, cultural differences and food preferences. Plus, it’s unusual enough that students will be intrigued.

Taking it a little more seriously, you could ask, “would you rather have a job that allows you to work from home all the time, or one that allows you to travel all over the world?”

People will all have their own opinions and perspectives on these things. Perfect ground for discussion.

TIP: Know your students. When teaching an individual, if you know which option they’ll choose, don’t ask that question. With a group, if you’re pretty sure they’d all answer the same, avoid it.

Another bonus of this activity is you can get students to come up with their own Would You Rather questions! This is, of course, more of a challenge, but it can be great fun!

The trick is to come up with questions that offer two options of similar merit – two great things, or two awful things! Don’t make the mistake that Adam did in this video! (warning: discussion of violence)

2. Controversial Statements

A great way of getting students expressing their opinions is to give them something to rant about. Controversial statements do just that.

Essentially, you say something that many people might disagree with and ask your students to say whether they agree or disagree.

For example, “Pineapple on pizza is totally fine.”

For whatever reason, this really gets people going and whether you’re teaching an individual or a group, there are sure to be opinions flying back and forth.

I love this example because it’s harmless. The danger of saying controversial statements is that you can veer into topics that might cause upset or genuine tension. Politics, religion, social rights… I would avoid these completely unless you’re confident your students can handle it.

Another one I like to use is “Harry Potter movies are better than the books.” Most people would strongly disagree with this.

And you don’t have to agree with the statement. At some point, share your opinion if it helps the conversation move forward. But if you sense an overwhelming majority (or are teaching an individual), play devil’s advocate. This will really get them to justify their opinions in contrast to what you say.

I find a lot of conversations with controversial statements start off with strong opinions, then move toward an understanding of other points of view. This exploration of ideas and seeing other perspectives is a great English skill as well as personal growth.

Be careful not to veer too far into tastes, though. Pineapple pizza carries with it more than just taste preferences, but cultural associations about mixing flavours and “what’s right”.

Saying “tomatoes are disgusting” won’t provoke nearly as much conversation because you either like tomatoes or you don’t. Not much conversation to be had there.

“Tomatoes are not fruits,” though, would be much more provocative?

Click here to buy 480 ESL Conversation Prompts and never run out of engaging topics!

3. What Three Things

This activity involves thinking of how things are used and how important they’d be in a given situation.

The structure is “What three things would you take to [insert interesting location]?”

The moon, a meeting with a successful businesswoman, a maximum-security prison…

When introducing the concept, make it clear that all the normal things you’d expect to have would be there. If you’re going to the moon, you’d already have a rocket.

The discussion should be about what extra things you’d take to make your life easier, to gain some kind of reputation, or just for personal reasons.

For example, going to the moon, you could take some extra high-calorie rations, just in case you ran out of food, a container for storing moondust, and the flag of your local region.

When you’re doing this with an individual, get them to think of all their ideas and elaborate on them as they emerge.

But with a group, you may want to approach it differently. Get them to think of three ideas individually (or if you have a large class, in pairs or threes) then share all their ideas with the rest of the students.

It becomes like a series of informal proposals for each item, needing some good justification.

At the end, you could get the whole class to negotiate towards the three best options. This could become like a full-on debate if you want it to.

Alternatively, get each student (this works with an individual, too) to decide on just ONE of those items they think is most important.

As a bonus, this activity is likely to elicit plenty of vocabulary as students think of a range of possible items. The vocabulary is valuable because it’s immediately relevant and required by the situation.

To learn more about the importance of valuable vocabulary, check out my big guide to teaching vocabulary, or watch the video below.

4. Role Play

I will never stop saying that teachers need to use more role play in their English classes. It’s amazing. And with intermediate students looking to improve fluency and confidence, it is probably the number one activity you can do.

What is it? The spontaneous, improvised enactment of an imaginary scenario. Every gets a role and pretends they’re that person (acting and silly voices are not required), usually to resolve a conflict or fix a problem.

You can apply it to any situation or topic. Job interviews? Check. Ordering food at a restaurant? Check. Going on an adventure to slay a dragon? Absolutely, check!

There are no materials required, no expensive equipment. Hardly any preparation, either. Just finding a good scenario with clearly defined roles.

The problem is, most role-play scenarios on the internet are really boring! They’re overly structured and force students to parrot awkward lines like they’re in a terrible school play. This is probably the reason many English teachers avoid the whole activity.

But if you do it right, you can transform the confidence and fluency of your students in no time.

Needless to say, I have a whole load of guidance and resources on how to do role play properly, both on this website and on my YouTube channel.

To get you started, check out this article on why all teachers should use role play, or the video below:

And if you’re convinced, you can get a bunch of free role-play scenarios by signing up to the Enchanted ESL newsletter. Immediately, you’ll get 15 in a free eBook, and every month I’ll send you more related to a particular topic.

5. Tell Me About A Time When

This is a super-simple prompt that gets students describing a past event in detail.

As you’d expect, this is a fantastic way of practicing speaking in the past tense, something that students need to do all the time in real life.

And it’s fun to share anecdotes. Some great examples of this prompt in action include:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to go to the hospital.
  • Tell me about a time when you lost something important.
  • Tell me about a time when you laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe.

Click here to buy 480 ESL Conversation Prompts and never run out of engaging topics!

People love telling stories about what has happened to them. Some students will go into great detail, often in long, rambling stories. These are great. As long as they don’t veer too far off the path, just let them go.

Others are more reluctant. They need some gentle prodding to elaborate on more details. That should be with some carefully placed questions, like “tell me more about the angry nurse”.

Of course, there’s always the possibility of pushing too hard. If students seem very reluctant to open up, there might be a reason behind that. If you sense them getting upset about a personal matter, move on to something else.

While the stories might not always be particularly interesting, pay great attention and make students feel like you care. Chances are, you’ll hear a lot of fascinating, baffling and hilarious things!

An exciting twist on this activity is to get students to tell a story that might be true, or might be completely made up. Once they’ve told it, you and any other students have to decide whether it’s true or false. You can add a round of questions, too.

This will only work with some students, as it’s quite hard to keep a straight face, let alone invent a story in another language! But if students are up for it, you can have a great time. Here’s some inspiration from the TV show Would I Lie to You (in your classes, have fewer questions and more description).

6. Describe Your Ideal

This is a nice activity to get students talking about something positive. You can make it an individual effort, where students compare opinions, or turn it into a collaborative exercise in which everyone contributes.

Pick something like “a holiday”. The prompt is “Describe your ideal holiday”.


Really, that’s it. Of course, this is an easy example, but there are plenty more options, like days out with the family, or your ideal home.

As with all conversation activities, some students don’t need much support – they’ll cover all sorts of details. But with less confident students, encourage them to provide more information with occasional questions.

Don’t ask them specific closed questions like. “Would you stay in a big hotel?” because they can just answer “yes” to that. It’ll end up turning into an interrogation. Instead, ask “tell me all about the hotel you’d stay in”.

If they’re still reluctant, get them to tell you five details about a particular aspect. “Tell me five things about the hotel you’d stay in.”

And of course, when appropriate (and not too often), get them to explain WHY those things are ideal.

When doing it as a collaborative activity, get students to suggest ideas, then have everyone discuss them. There’ll be an element of negotiation and compromise – very useful language skills to develop.


The ideal conversation activity at the intermediate level is one you can briefly set up, then let students run wild. The whole point is to get them speaking as much as possible, developing fluency and confidence.

It’s easy to accidentally mess this up, though. Firstly, making topics boring or irrelevant. If your student doesn’t care, or doesn’t know about a topic, they’ll struggle to talk about it.

And secondly, beware of over-correcting. You may think you’re helping students by fixing all their mistakes, but often you’re doing so much damage to their confidence that it’s not worth it.

Really, you provide the prompt, and they do all the talking!

Click here to buy 480 ESL Conversation Prompts and never run out of engaging topics!

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