Helping Learners Understand Spoken English

Discussion Questions

Discussion questions that put the focus on a concept rather than people’s personal experiences are a great way to get people talking and sharing ideas. Creating questions that probe ideas and concepts stimulates people’s curiosity. Curiosity creates an environment that engages people in meaningful discussions.

I have experimented with these questions and found that students are much more eager to talk when the questions remove the word you.

Too many questions in language learning ask about the personal experiences (What did you do during summer vacation?) or facts of students’ lives (What do you do in your free time?). This can be boring and repetitive at best and uncomfortable and invasive at worst.

Even at a beginner level, students have thoughts and ideas to share when asked the right kinds of questions. Let’s look at some examples of engaging discussion questions.

3 Types of Engaging Discussion Questions

  1. Yes/No
  2. Contrasting
  3. Relationship

Yes/No Discussion Questions

While many yes/no questions do not lead to an interesting discussion (Do you like dogs?), asking the right type of yes/no question can lead to very interesting discussions.

Below are some yes/no questions that have worked well with my students.

  1. Can a dog be a teacher?
  2. Can a stranger be a friend?
  3. Can people change?
  4. Are we in control of our abilities?
  5. Is competition necessary?

Contrasting Questions

Contrasting discussion questions compare and contrast two things.

  1. What is the difference between work and play?
  2. What is the difference between laziness and relaxation?
  3. What is the difference between an acquaintance and a friend?
  4. What is the difference between learning and studying?
  5. What is the difference between introversion and extroversion?

Relationship Questions

Relationship discussion questions explore the relationships between things.

  1. What is the relationship between food and friendship?
  2. What is the relationship between appearance and success?
  3. What is the relationship between language and culture?
  4. What is the relationship between money and happiness?
  5. What is the relationship between habits and progress?

Now that you know these 3 types of discussion questions, you can create your own by using different topics and concepts.

Related posts

How to Create Interesting Questions

How to Ask Better Follow-up Questions

This post was inspired by a member of a workshop I attended a few years ago. This style of asking questions and the question “Can a dog be a teacher?” are credited to him. If you know who he is, let me know so that I may properly credit him.