Our world is constantly changing and with that comes lots of new and old countries each with their own language, people and customs. Exploring these in your ESL class can lead to some interesting and in depth conversation.
Here are 10 activities designed to get the conversation started!
Try These Top 10 Conversation Ideas To Talk About Countries Of The World
Warm up Games
- Write down as many countries as you can in one or two minutes. Whoever writes the most wins. Compare lists and combine them to come up with one class list.
- Using the list of countries you created in the activity above, ask students to list one thing they know about each of these countries, perhaps something that it’s famous for, such as film stars, music groups or its cuisine. Make it a race- first one to get 10, 20 or 30.
- Name a country to match each letter of the alphabet A to Z – ask each student as you go around the room. If a student can’t name a country they drop out of the game. The last person left in the game wins. You could include cities too.
- Name the country. Give out sticky notes or small sheets of paper. Ask students to list things that are particular to a certain country - one on each sheet of paper. For example, gum trees, maple leaf, tulips, chocolate, wine. Collect all the cards. Mix them up and divide between your students. Working in pairs, students hold up a card and ask their partner to name the country that the characteristic belongs to. They can talk about this country. What else do they know about it? Have they been there? Does this characteristic only exist in this country or do other countries have this too or something similar? For example; Koalas can only be found in Australia. Australia is famous for its surf but so is Indonesia.
Ask each student to write up a presentation about their own country or any country that interests them. Suggest they use power point if they have a computer or they could make their own paper version of a power point presentation if they don’t. Work with your students to develop a list of topics that they could include in their presentation; cuisine, weather, population, animals, famous people.
Give your students a week or so to research and develop their presentation. You could also allow some time for them to work in class, however, it is a good homework exercise.
Suggest that they keep it short. No more than 5 minutes. Then over a number of sessions each student presents their country to the class. Encourage questions at the end of each presentation and of course a round of applause!
- Have no more than three students present in one class as it’s hard to listen for too long and the other students can become restless. If you do spread them out over a few sessions, students are interested and really look forward to their colleagues’ presentation. They also become very supportive of their colleagues because they know it’s not that easy to do.
- Try to limit the number of corrections you make during your students’ presentation. Just be mindful that this can disrupt their concentration and make them even more nervous. Just let the presentation flow but do note the errors and follow up with individuals later. Students do like the one on one time with you and they value your feedback. Also see our article on non-verbal error correction here: ‘5 Non-Verbal Ways to Do Error Correction’.
Talk about the countries that have traditional dress such as the kilt in Scotland. Talk about the countries that have different standards of dress. What do people wear in different countries? How does the climate dictate what people wear? What other things influence what people wear in different countries?
Plan a Trip Around the World
Students can work in pairs to plan a trip around the world. Where would they like to go? Why? What would they most like to see in each country? Collect some travel brochures or just print off some maps of the world to prompt discussion. Or why not ask students to visit their nearest travel agent to get some brochures of the countries they would like to visit. The experience of asking for brochures would be great practice for them. Talk about the countries they have already been to. Which have they enjoyed the most and why?
Food from Different Countries
Talk about different cuisines, the way people eat, meal times, and cooking methods. How do these things similar or different from country to country? Go out to a restaurant together – perhaps a cuisine that they have not tried.
Around the World in 80 Seconds
What is happening in other countries right now? Ask one student to name a country and then choose a student to talk about that country in 80 seconds. Ask another student to play timekeeper. Feel free to adjust the time that students speak depending on their skill levels. This works well as a whole class activity. It can be quite fun and challenging as students try to keep to the timeframe.
Hand out coloured pencils and ask students to work in pairs to draw all the different flags that they know. Talk about which flag belongs to which country in pairs or small groups. How are the flags different? How are they similar? What colours are they? Describe them to each other.
Where will the Olympics be held in 2012? Where have they been held before and when? Which countries are known for being good at which sports? Which sports do you follow? Is your country particularly good in any sport? Will athletes from your country be attending the Olympics? Have you ever been to the Olympics? Do you watch the Olympics on TV? Name some famous Olympic athletes? What are they famous for? Which country do they come from?
Have a discussion about English speaking countries. How are they different from other countries and from each other? Name some famous people from these countries. Discuss the different meanings of some words and pronunciation. Come up with a list of as many as you can. For example; in parts of Australia flip flops are called thongs and trousers are called pants. Where as in England the words pants and thongs refer to underwear.
A discussion about souvenirs can be a funny one! What are souvenirs all about? Why do people buy them? Do they really represent the country where you buy them or are souvenirs the same in every country just with a different name stuck on? What sorts of things do you buy when you visit other countries?
Watch out for pronunciation and grammar when having conversation classes about countries of the world.
Write the common mistakes up on the board or on large sheets of paper so that students can refer to them. And have fun!