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ESL Book Review: Discussion Starters – A Great Way to Engage Your Class!

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I wanted to use this moment to introduce a book that I have used again and again in class. In fact, some lessons I have shared on this site have been inspired by the activities I have found in this book.

Discussion Starters by Keith S. Folse: Pros

The best thing about this book is that it covers a wide variety of topics. It has many types of activities that as I say have inspired me to create my own classes. One of my favorite activities, that was one of the first posts on this site came from this book.

This book uses real court cases and situations to spur on conversation. The activity section introduces the subject and then asks students to be the judge in the case. (If there is a court case) They discuss and then come to their own conclusions in the case.

The back of the book contains the real outcome of the case. Note: Some results are not that satisfying because it only says that the case is still ongoing. I found for some of them I had to do some Googling to find out what happened in the end.

  • Overall Rank: 4 out of 5 Apples
  • Product Description: ESL Discussion Book
  • Best Price: Amazon
  • Product Specifications: Packed with ESL Activities and Discussions

 

The book also contains various exercises that are very different and just fun to have students do. I think one of their favorite activities was when I read aloud the situation that there was a passenger on a train and when the train came into the station the police and emergency personnel were there to meet the train at the station.

What happened? Well, that’s the whole point of the situation. You take three students out of the class and they are the judges. Only they know what really happened. The other students have to ask questions or make statements and are only given “you’re getting colder” or “you’re getting hotter” as a response.

The students love it and it usually lasts a full 50-minute class. I just loved this book. Probably one of the best investments I made.

Cons

I’ve read up on the other comments about this book and I must admit that there are a few topics that might be outdated. The way you have to find the information for some exercises is also a little confusing and you might have to do some searching for the answers to some court cases on your own.

There are some chapters I never ever touched but I think that is offset by the many times I was able to reuse and adapt the other exercises. The fact that many of the events and court cases in the book took place a while ago doesn’t mean that they aren’t still relevant today. Luckily, history repeats itself.

Lots of Subjects

You will find a variety of subjects to discuss in this book. From how old is too old to have a child to hot button topics like gun control. Other topics include recycling and climate change, whether women should be forced to serve in the military, and the use of drugs.

The chapter on whether women should serve in the military is really introduced in a creative and discussion spurring way. There are also chapters on smoking and smoker’s rights and who should have more rights, humans or animals. It introduces a case of a farmer who went to jail for killing a rat that was eating his grain. Little did he know it was an endangered species! I cannot do this book justice. For me, it was the perfect supplement to my intermediate to advanced discussion classes.

If You Are Overseas, Have a Friend or Family Member Mail It to You

I had this happen a couple of times with some of my favorite books and games. I left one in my classroom for summer break and when I came back it was gone! I was heartbroken. I couldn’t get Amazon in Korea, so I had to order it and have it sent to my folk’s house. They mailed it out as soon as it came in.

Conclusion: Get This ESL Discussion Book Today!

I will review a variety of books and games in the coming months but for my first book, I had to go with one that was invaluable to me in creating exciting and intriguing ESL discussion activities. If you have enjoyed any of the activities on this site, then you should love the book Discussion Starters.

I hope that this book helps you with your class as much as it did with mine.

Jim

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6 thoughts on “ESL Book Review: Discussion Starters – A Great Way to Engage Your Class!

  1. It’s interesting that I never thought of there being material that would be used for discussion starters during a language class. It actually would’ve been very helpful in my Spanish course as it would’ve calmed down my fears of speaking another language. I was always good with translating but always got nervous during the oral sessions. I think it’s great that a product like this exists. Great post!

    1. Thanks,  Nightwulf! I love that name. Now that I think of it we never really had any discussions in my Spanish class when I was in school. I am always on the look out for something that will make them want to talk. The greatest feeling a teacher can have is when the students leave and are still discussing the topic from class. 

      All the best – Jim

  2. This book review really accomplished its objective. After reading the article, I have decided to order the book. It not just because it covers a wide range of topics but also because of the diverse types of inspirational issues that it throws up. 

    I need to confess that I am particularly interested in court cases and I am always glued to the tv once there is a court case drama being aired. 

    I have always believed that I learn quite a lot about human behavior and I do get wiser by reading real life court cases. 
    Thanks for excellent book review.

    1. Thanks, Chris. That was the thing that really hooked students. When they realized that the situation really happened, I could see the spark light in their eyes. It was nice to see. Best of all, no sleeping! Only active excited conversation. If you are teaching ESL, this is a great book to have in your English as a Second Language arsenal.

  3. Thank you. This sounds like an interesting book. So, it sounds like you do these discussions in English with people who are trying to learn English? That way they get to use the language in different ways? That is pretty cool. That way they can really apply the language in an actual situation. 

    We did the same thing when I was learning a foreign language in high school. We would play a sort of simulation games where you would have to use the foreign language in order to communicate what you wanted to communicate.

    Great idea and I will make sure that all the teachers I know are aware of this. Thanks! It was a well-written article and the page looks very nice.

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comment, C. If you know any teachers of English as a Second Language, then tell them to come on by. I’m posting my 20-year-plus worth of class material at least a couple of times a week. As time goes by I’m sure I’ll get more great resources to add on this site. As well as create new material to keep it fresh.

      Have a great day and stop by again for new posts and fresh ESL classes. – Jim

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