Discussion Questions #4 CARS

Keywords / Subtopics: shopping for and choosing a car, getting insurance, learning to drive, the driving test, getting and renewing a license, types of rules, the rules of the road, going on a road trip, car safety, accidents, parts of the car, traffic jams, traffic rules, highways, directions, types of vehicles, vehicle features

  1. Do you have a car? What year is it? What’s the make and model?
  2. Do you have PL and PD or comprehensive insurance?
  3. How does your vehicle rate for safety?  For gas mileage?  For road handling?
  4. Does your car have any special features? (sunroof, heated seats, a rear-view camera, TV screens for the kids, ABS, tinted windows, bluetooth)
  5. What are some of the costs associated with buying and maintaining a vehicle?
  6. Have you ever been on a road trip?  What music or radio station did you listen to?
  7. Have you ever rear-ended someone?
  8. Have you ever been rear-ended by someone?
  9. Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?  Parking ticket? 
  10. Have you ever been pulled over?
  11. Can you back into a parking spot?  Are you good at parallel parking?
  12. When did you get your driver’s license? How old were you when you got your driver’s license?
  13. Tell me about your driving test. Did you take a driver education course?  Did you get a discount on insurance because you passed a driver’s ed. course?
  14. What’s the busiest road near your house?  Do you live near a major intersection?  Are there pedestrian walkways in your neighbourhood?
  15. Tell me how to get from your house to the nearest supermarket.
  16. What’s the speed limit on the roads in your neighbourhood?  What is the speed limit on major arterial roads in your city?
  17. Are there toll highways in your city?
  18. Do you follow all ‘the rules of the road’?
  19. What rule do a lot of drivers in your city not follow?
  20. What types of vehicles have you had?  What would you like to drive in the future?
  21. Can you do any vehicle maintenance stuff yourself?  (change the oil, rotate the tires, change a flat tire, change the air filter)
  22. Who is the worst backseat driver you’ve ever travelled with?
  23. Do you commute to work?  What are the busiest commuter routes in your city?  How long is your commute?  Do you change your route based on the weather or if you’re in a hurry or not?
  24. Do you pull over when you pass a police car or emergency vehicle on the side of the road?

Read how to use these realistic, vocabulary-rich, topic-specific discussion questions to improve your IELTS speaking and writing results.


Keywords / Subtopics: self-directed learning, arts & crafts, leisure time, free time, developing new skills, staying physically fit, cultural pursuits, going to tournaments and competitions, music, sports, languages, handicrafts

  1. As far as you know, what’s the main difference between an interest, a project and a hobby?
  2. How long have you been doing your hobbies?  How long have you been interested in the projects (that) you’re working on now?
  3. Do you dedicate a lot of time to them?
  4. Did you take any courses connected to this?
  5. Is it expensive?  What kind of supplies do you need to buy or to have? Do you need equipment?
  6. Are you doing it more now, or did you used to spend more time on it in the past?
  7. Who else does this kind of thing?
  8. How did you get into this?  What got you into this?
  9. Are there any competitions or clubs connected to this in [the area where you’re living now]?
  10. How good are you at this?

A hobby is like some skill you’re developing.  You spend time on, there is equipment or tools or supplies that you need to have.  You might be producing something.

Knitting, crocheting, playing a musical instrument, making and editing videos, repairing and renovating old furniture, pottery, amateur wine-making, fishing, making quilts, working out, fixing up old cars – these are all hobbies.

A project is some short-term thing you’re working on.  It’s taking up a lot of yuur time at the moment but it’s not really a hobby. 

  1. I’m taking care of my granddaughter because my son and his wife work a lot.
  2. We are renovating the kitchen.
  3. I am working on my resume because I want to change my job.
  4. I’m shopping around for a new laptop.
  5. I am taking out the garden and putting in a lawn.
  6. I’ve been helping my sister with her new house.
  7. These things take up time but they aren’t really ‘hobbies’ per se, right?

An interest is something you’re curious about.  It’s something you spend time reading or learning about and it’s something you enjoy speaking about.

  1. I’m interested in how to start a small business.
  2. I’m interested in local environmental issues, especially anything about clean water and healthy rivers and lakes.
  3. I’m really into Formula 1 car racing. I’ve been into this ever since I was in grade school.
  4. I’ve been getting more and more interested in everything about Japanese culture.
  5. I like food – especially vegetarian cooking and how to make healthy meals.
  6. I read a lot about famous leaders — Presidents, CEOs, Founders.
  7. I like watching documentaries about history and ancient cultures.
  8. I like listening to podcasts by well-known experts in the IT field.

Read how to use these realistic, vocabulary-rich, topic-specific discussion questions to improve your IELTS speaking and writing results.

Discussion Questions #2 YOUR HOME OR APARTMENT

Keywords / Subtopics: rooms, furniture, decorating, small spaces, storage, appliances and electronics, having guests, extra features of a home, heating and cooling, types of buildings

  1. What is the best room in your house?
  2. What room is the most spacious?
  3. What makes a room comfortable?
  4. Where do people eat?
  5. Tell me about the entranceway and the front door; wherever people usually come in?
  6. Do you have enough storage space?
  7. How do you heat your home?  How is your home / your building heated?
  8. Where do you entertain guests? Do you have people over a lot?
  9. Where do you park?  Where do you keep your bicycle?
  10. What floor are you on?
  11. Do you have a lot of home electronics?
  12. Do you have a lot of small appliances in your kitchen?  Do you have a lot of clutter in your drawers and cupboards?
  13. What is the best house-warming gift?
  14. How many rooms are off your living room?
  15. What do you have on your walls?  Mirrors?  Calendars?  Pictures?  Drawings?  Family photos? 
  16. What are your signature colours?  If I asked your friends what your personal style is, what would they say?
  17. Do you have a doorbell or do people just knock?
  18. Do people have to buzz you when they arrive at your apartment building?  Do you have a secure entrance?  Do you have your home hooked up to a security system?
  19. What’s in the lobby of your apartment building?
  20. Do you have just one elevator?
  21. Can you hear your neighbours? Do you usually hear your neighbours?
  22. Do you have a backyard? A basement? A balcony? A front porch?  An attic? A swimming pool in the basement of your apartment building?  Is there a jungle gym for kids near your building?
  23. Where do you store your tools?  Do you put winter clothes away for the winter? How organized are your storage areas? Where do you keep your computer stuff? 
  24. How do you keep track of paper (bills, receipts, invoices, warranties, brochures, agreements, notices)
  25. Are you windows covered?  Do you have Venetian blinds or curtains? Which window in your home has the best view?  Does your living room window overlook a park, a main road?
  26. If you could change something about your home, what would it be?
  27. Has your basement ever flooded?  Do raccoons or bats live in your attic?  Have you had mice in the kitchen or wasp nests under the eaves?

Read how to use these realistic, vocabulary-rich, topic-specific discussion questions to improve your IELTS speaking and writing results.

Discussion Questions #1 MEETING NEW PEOPLE

Keywords / Subtopics: talking about work, education, qualifications, home and neighbourhood, family, social life and hobbies, your nationality and your town, how you spend your spare time, making small talk, greeting, leave-taking, colleagues, friends and acquaintances

  1. Can I ask what you do? / Can I ask where you work?
  2. How long have you been there? / Have you been there for a long time?
  3. Are you the manager? / Are you full-time?
  4. Do you like it?  / What do you like about this job?
  5. Do you get on well with [everyone you work with] / [your colleagues]?
  6. What does your company do? / Who are your customers?
  7. Are you married?  Are you living ‘common law’?  Any children?  Do you have a partner?
  8. How old are your kids? / Are your kids in elementary school / high school / university?
  9. Where did you go to school / to university? What university did you go to?
  10. What was your major? / What did you study?
  11. Are you working now in the field that you trained in?
  12. Are you from Toronto?  Which province is your hometown in? Can I ask your nationality?
  13. What’s your hometown?  How old were you when you left?
  14. Do you go back to your hometown much / often?  Are you in touch with your childhood friends?
  15. How long have you been living in [the city where you live now]?
  16. What do you do outside work? / What do you on / at the weekend?
  17. Do you play sports?  Are you on any teams?
  18. Are you musical? Can you sing well or play an instrument? Have you ever been in a choir or a band? Can you read music? Have you ever wanted to learn?
  19. Where would I find on a typical Friday evening?  Sunday afternoon?
  20. Are you a morning person or night person? Are Circadian rhythms something (that) you pay attention to?
  21. How you meet new people? Do you enjoy getting to know new people?
  22. Do you use the Facebook or Meetup or Clubhouse to meet like-minded people? Have you had mostly positive or negative experiences on social media?

Read how to use these realistic, vocabulary-rich, topic-specific discussion questions to improve your IELTS speaking and writing results.

A Google doc template keeps every session organized

This is my template Google doc file. Every student gets a new doc for every session, to keep things organized. Here is what each section typically entails.

The warm up chat is five to ten minutes to give the learner time to settle in to English. We sometimes speak informally for a longer time but the structure of the document helps us see our goals, and prods us to get to work.

The status update is where the student tells me how much of their homework they were able to do, and what problems occurred. This might last for five minutes. They might share what worked well, or not. This reflection on the usefulness and amount of homework benefits both the learner, and me. We formulate an agenda for the session based on how much homework and preparation the student was able to do. If work was busy, and they had no time or energy for homework, then I can adapt accordingly. Students have said that being asked for this update at the beginning of the lesson is a useful accountability measure. Sometimes students log in early and have typed a status update for me to read when I arrive.

The table called Today’s Stuff is self-explanatory; it is where we put the work from that session.

Throughout the session, I collect errors in the students’ speech during the session, and keep them in the table called Corrections / Feedback on Spoken Error. I categorize them according to the IELTS Speaking Assessment Rubric as being grammatical or lexical or phonological in nature. I make principled choices about which speaking errors to pick up on; depending on the learner’s level, goals (e.g. to correct mispronunciations) or to correct a certain systemic grammar error (e.g. omission of the be verb in present simple sentences by Russian speakers, or syntax errors in affirmative statements within questions)

You can see some examples of Corrections / Feedback on Spoken Error here.

The follow up materials / files to be sent is where I keep track of things that I mention during the session that I need to email to the student, or add to our notes once the session is over.

Reflections / recommendations / wrap up is an important close to the session. This is where students will tell me what they liked, what they want more of, what was challenging, what was useful.

The last phase of a session, which is 55 minutes or 85 minutes, is discuss Homework or what should be next. As always, we make decisions together. This section serves as a place for the student to come back to days later to know what he or she agreed to do. I use this section to prepare for the next lesson, too.

Using folders to organize session documents

Here is how the lessons are organized and stored. I want to share my system for other teachers or self-directed learners. It has worked well for over eight years, for hundreds of learners. Thank you, Google!

In the image below, you can see all the Googledocs for one learner go into a folder, by year.

And actually, within each year, it saves times to divide the year into two sub-categories: 2020 July to Dec and 2020 Jan to July. The student can keep things organized in the same way on their end. Helping people be organized from the beginning is a valued service.

Each session has its own Googledoc, and I put memorable keywords into the title to help remember the conversations from that session. I also track the package number (package #6 in this case) and the lesson number within the package (this student gets packages of 10 sessions at one time).

The session template GoogleDoc that I use for every session is here.