Two Minute Discussion Topics

When I used these, I cut them up and gave all topics (under headings) to students who were already in groups and let students choose topics at random.  These students were adult ESL advanced level.  

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What would you do if someone accused you of a crime you didn’t commit?

What would you do if you got lost in an unfamiliar city?

If you could change one major historical event, what would it be?


You broke your friend’s car. What do you say?

You forgot your best friend’s birthday. What do you say when you see him/her?

You unknowingly insult a friend’s cooking. What do you say when they overhear you?


Describe an interesting neighbour you have had.

Describe something you could never give away.

Describe a place you will never forget.

Describe someone you respect deeply.

Describe the nightlife in a city you are familiar with.


Tell about one of your fondest childhood memories.

Tell about a time when you lied to your parents, boss, or teacher.

Briefly tell about a movie you saw recently.


Tell how to feed family members who drop by unexpectedly.

Tell how to dump a boyfriend/girlfriend because the other person ran over their pet cat.

Tell what to do in an earthquake.

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Academic Essay Writing

The following is the outline of a lesson plan for essay writing which I used with an advanced group of ESL students.  It could be adapted for any level.


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What justifies good writing style in a second language?

  • Correct spelling
  • Transitions between paragraphs-link
  • Correct vocabulary and context
  • Plan writing which provides direction for the reader
  • Clear sentences helps structure
  • Precision of vocabulary which expresses main ideas
  • Examples to explain and justify argument
  • Include goals in your plan


An essay must have a purpose, be coherent, clear and easy to read.

Essay titles:

  1. Being a student is a lot more difficult than it seems.
  2. France is the friendliest country.
  3. Challenges and obstacles force us to refocus our goals.                                                          i) Come up with a single sentence for each which encapsulates your essay.



Introductions should be clear and precise. They should indicate what the essay is about. They should answer the question. At times it may be appropriate to analyse certain words in the question and reformulate accordingly.

An introduction should make it clear to the reader what to expect. It should be brief, saying only what is necessary and no more.

Essay title:

Can we really learn from the past?

  • Write the introduction
  • Once you have written the introduction, rewrite it using fewer words (20 less) but with the same meaning.



Conclusions should summarize what has gone before. They should never contain new material. That is, anything which has not been dealt with in the preceding text.

A good conclusion draws together the writer’s ideas to form a coherent paragraph.

An average essay can be raised by a strong conclusion; a good essay can be destroyed by a bad one.

Essay title:

Real music no longer exists.

  • Write two conclusions.
  • Compare and contrast with neighbour.
  • Choose your best Why did you choose it?

**It is important to consider redrafting and re-reading your work.


Essay 300 words

  1. Being a student is a lot more difficult than it seems.
  2. France is the friendliest country.
  3. Challenges and obstacles force us to refocus our goals.
  4. Can we really learn from the past?
  5. Real music no longer exists.

Choose one essay. Write:

  • The introduction and conclusion
  • Three opening sentences to link with three main paragraphs.
  • Pay attention to purpose, clarity and coherence.
  • Pay attention to all grammar aspects, tense, vocabulary, word choice and everything discussed in class today!



  • Keep writing style and tone formal.
  • Keep grammar and vocabulary formal; do not use slang, do not, could not.
  • Think of sentence structure and syntax.
  • Have your ideas and arguments clearly organized before writing. Rough plan!
  • Be conscious of your sentence length and structure.
  • Introduction (P1)Arguments (P 2, 3, 4, 5,)Conclusion (P 6)
  • Choose whether to agreeor disagreeoragree and disagree.



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Review of Writing: Questions to Consider


  • Does the writer explain their argument clearly?
  • Was there anything that was confusing? If so, what was it?
  • What details does the writer include?
  • What is good about the writing? Why is it good? Are there any errors that need to be corrected?
  • What specific suggestions for improvement can you make? What advice could you give? What worked for you in the past ?
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Dealing with Complaints Vocabulary

Complaint Scenarios

shipment never came

got the wrong order

goods were broken

expensive delivery charges

bad customer service

not the same as in the ad

no instruction manual 


Key Vocabulary

customer service representatives (reps)
gather information
resolve the problem
deal with complaints
not our policy

Key Phrases

What seems to be the problem?
What happened exactly ?
I’m afraid it’s not our policy to …
I promise you I’ll/I will …
Did you read the instructions that came with the …?
How were you using the …?
I understand you’re upset.
I’m just trying to understand the problem.
We’re sorry that you’ve had a problem with this product.

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Essay Writing for Exams and Preparation


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During an exam, it is important to remember:

1) Essay structure




 2) P. Q. E: Point Quote Explain

Point per paragraph

3) Read the question carefully.

Answer the question and refer to the question.  Look at it while answering your essay.

4) Write a plan and check point per paragraph: main arguments and ideas

5) Time management: know how much time you will spend on each question.  Check marks for each answer.



 1) Know the general story and characters of the text.  Revise this with the help of youtube, sparknotes.

2) Go over lecture notes, notes from tutors or previous essays.  There may be certain theme, arguments and ideas discussed.

3) Think about/prepare a response dealing with the main themes and analysis of the texts discussed.  The question will want you to interact in some way with the text and respond.  It won’t be a simple summary of the story.

4) Learn simple, short and flexible quotes that you can change to answer the question. This also applies to a description, an image.  You can also paraphrase but make sure to mention the author.

5) If citing secondary sources, cite the author and the title.  Same as point four, learn simple and short sources or the argument of the secondary source.

6) Consider a plan/write out a plan/mindmap/brain storm with flexible, key points per paragraphs, quotes and arguments.  Know this for the exam.

7) Remember the standard expected is different to an essay as part of an assessment.  For exams (a short space of time), they want to check that you have

-a certain understanding and analysis of the texts covered,

-you understand what has been discussed in lectures,

-you can interact with the text,

-clearly conveyed your ideas and points-good writing style.

8) Practise writing.  Write a short paragraph using quotes and ideas as practice.


Essay Plan

P.Q.E : point quote explain

Example plan

Discuss the role of the female characters in Beowulf.

Introduction (short)

1) Main point/ argument/ idea

Quote 1

Quote 2

Quote 3

2) Main point/ argument/ idea

Quote 1

Quote 2

Quote 3

3) Main point/ argument/ idea

Quote 1

Quote 2

Quote 3

4) Main point/ argument/ idea  ?

Quote 1

Quote 2

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Quote 3



 Ways to revise essay writing before your exam:

  1. Coloured cards
  2. Record yourself
  3. Practice Questions
  4. Use Colours / Images / Rhymes for key words and concepts
  5.  Don’t forget the marking criteria! If you have access to  marking criteria or previous marking criteria to verify what is expected of you.



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Short Speaking Topics

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I’ve used the following topics with students as a warm-up or to break a lesson.  Let students choose at random and speak about a few topics for a few minutes (one-to-one or groups).

Students could practice these topics themselves as well.

Recommend a good movie Speak about favourite past-time
Describe the city you live in Talk about a favourite subject
Explain how to make a certain dish Speak about plans for holidays
Describe favourite band Discuss why you chose your current job
Describe your favourite food/drink Do you follow a sports team?
What would you do if you won the lotto? What surprised you about Ireland? (or current country living in)
Recommend a city to visit Give 10 facts about your country
Talk about a favourite place Describe what you did for the weekend
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Agree vs. Disagree

Suggested levels: beginner(A2), intermediate, advanced.


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Personal Point of View

  • As far as I’m concerned…
  • In my opinion…
  • I think that…
  • I’d say that / I would say that…
  • I’d suggest that / I would say that…
  • I believe that…
  • It seems to me that…
  • From my point of view…


Agreeing with an opinion

We use these words and phrases to agree with someone else’s point of view:

  • Of course.
  • You’re absolutely right.
  • Yes, I agree.
  • I think so too.
  • That’s a good point.
  • Exactly.
  • I don’t think so either.
  • So do I.
  • I’d go along with that.
  • That’s true.
  • Neither do I.
  • I agree with you entirely.
  • That’s just what I was thinking.
  • I couldn’t agree more.


Disagreeing with an opinion

We use these words and phrases to disagree with someone else’s point of view:

  • I don’t agree with you.
  • However…
  • That’s not entirely true.
  • On the contrary…
  • I’m sorry to disagree with you, but…
  • I’m afraid I have to disagree.
  • I’m not so sure about that.
  • I must take issue with you on that.


Partial agreement

To only half agree with someone:

  • I agree with this point of view, but…
  • This idea is right, but…
  • I agree with you, but…



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