Free EFL Conversation Class: Getting Students Talking with an Oprah-Style Talk Show


Getting most EFL students to say more than a couple of words in class can be a challenge. In Thailand, EFL students are often shy, so getting them to speakĀ  is often nigh on impossible. That’s why I designed an Oprah-style in-class talk show to help with conversation. Most EFL students have seen Oprah or a similar talk show in their own country, so setting up an Oprah-style talk show is easy and students love it. Surprisingly they speak too.

Expected Learning Outcome – Students will be able to not only think of questions to ask a talk show ‘guest’ but will also be able to answer the questions effectively if chosen to be a guest.

Materials and Resources – Whiteboard markers, whiteboard, microphone, video camera (if you want to record the ‘talk show’)

Teaching Procedures:

1. Ask your students if they’ve seen Oprah or any other similar talk show. Have a short discussion about talk shows, what they like, what they don’t like, who their favorite talk show host is, what subjects they like to hear guests discuss etc. and, during the discussion, write any vocabulary they’re not familiar with on the board.

2. Explain to the class they are going to have their own Oprah-style talk show. I also explain to my classes, their talk show will be video taped, like a real TV show, so we can watch it later (and use the video to make corrections on grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation etc). Tell them there will be two guests and a host. One of the guests will be a western guest and one will be a guest from the country you’re teaching in.

3. Split your students into two groups. Give them 15 minutes to come up with at least 10 questions in English to ask one of the guests. One group asks their questions to the western guest as part of the ‘audience’, and the other group to the guest from their country. At this time though, don’t let them know which two students will be the guests and which the host as, if you do, those three will sit back with a panicked look on their faces and not participate in the group discussion about suitable questions.

4. At the end of 15 minutes, stop the groups (even if they haven’t managed to come up with 10 questions yet) and choose which students will be the two guests and the host. I always choose the guests and host by random drawing.

5. Seat the guests in chairs at the front of the class and the host next to them with a microphone. I always allow the host to choose the name of the show, so sometimes we’ll be doing an ‘Oprah’ show and other times the student will want to be a local Thai host.

6. Explain to the host that he/she must open the show with a short introduction, introduce the guests and also choose ‘audience members’ to ask questions. He/she must also thank the guests at the end and do a wrap up of the show (at this point, your student will be looking completely freaked out – don’t worry, they get into the fun of things quickly).

7. Call “Action” to get the talk show started and start the video camera rolling. Once the host has done their introduction, they must begin to choose students from both groups to ask questions of the guests. Questions will be from a westerner versus foreigner perspective, so one student must pretend to be a westerner and answer as a westerner would.

In one of my classes, the subject of the talk show was “Dating” and the student who was the westerner was hilarious as she tried to answer with what she thought were western-style dating answers compared to the more conservative Thai-style answers.

8. Allow the talk show to continue until either all the questions have been asked or 15 minutes have passed. Give your host a signal to begin the wrap up and stop the camera once she has finished. The whole talk show should take between 15-20 minutes maximum.

9. Congratulate your students (they will have had a lot of fun and will be quite pleased with themselves, so make sure you say how well they’ve done).

10. If you have only an hour’s class, leave the video for another day. If your class is a two hour class, like mine are, you can run the talk show 15 minutes into the second hour, then play the video of the show, stopping it to point out what students did well, what they could improve upon and correct some of their incorrect grammar and vocabulary.

11. At the end of class, I spend 10 minutes going over the talk show vocabulary again, as well as some of the grammar problems they had, then make sure to mention they should memorize it as it will be on a future test.

Evaluation/Assessment: 1. participation as either guest or host, or as audience member asking questions, 2. students’ understanding of vocabulary and material in class, 3. behavior and attention in class, 4. if they were willing and able to have fun with the project and pretend to be a talk show participant.

The best things about this free EFL speaking lesson plan are it’s easy to prepare as most preparation is done in class, it’s an effective way to get students to speak English, and students love it. You can use it to discuss any subject you’ve been talking about in class, or any subject you want to teach new vocabulary for.

I’ve done Dating, Movies, Music, had students pretend to be famous Thai actors and famous American actors, politics – any number of subjects my students are interested in and every class has been a lot of fun, both for me and them.