No-Prep ESL Picture Description Speaking Activity

No-Prep ESL Picture Description: A Quick Tip

I often use various picture prompts for discussions, simple photo descriptions, storytelling, short warm-ups, fillers.

I used these two quite recently when discussing fashion. You can either have the students compare the photos or to create a short story for each of them.

esl speaking activity fashion


ESL Conversation Lesson: Game Of Thrones And Traveling

How Can We Volunteer While On Holiday. ESL Group Work: Volunteer Holidays.

ESL Speaking Activity: Conversation Cards

ESL Picture Storytelling Activity

ESL Communication Activity: Science Role Plays


TED Talk ESL Video Lesson Plan: How To Grow New Brain Cells.

This TedTalk ESL video lesson is based on a  talk by Sandrine Thuret. In her talk she is asking two questions:

  1. How can we help our healthy brains create new nerve cells throughout our lives, through diet and behavior changes?
  2. How can we study the effects of diseases such as depression and Alzheimer’s on our brains’ ability to grow?

Level: Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate

Time: 45min.(video 11min.)

Skills: speaking, listening, reading

Topic: science, the human body

Ted Talk Lesson Brain Cells SW Ted Talk Lesson Brain Cells TN

Ted Talk Lesson Brain Cells SW




  1. What part of your body would you like to improve?

  2. If it was possible, would you rather enhance your body or mind?

  3. How can we improve our mental and physical abilities?


Read the sentences and try to work out the meaning of the underlined words/phrases.

  1. And this is especially new and true for spatial recognition –so like, how you navigate your way in the city.

  2. And they will have been helpful to add time to our memory and they will help differentiate very similar memories.

  3. But moreover, if you just block neurogenesis, then you block the efficacy of the antidepressant.

  4. “Sandrine, this is puzzling. Some of my patients that have been told they are cured of their cancer still develop symptoms of depression.”

  5. ………………..too much sex leading to sleep deprivation.

  6. Intermittent fasting — spacing the time between your meals –will increase neurogenesis.

  7. So Japanese groups are fascinated with food textures, and they have shown that actually, soft diet impairs neurogenesis, as opposed to food that requires mastication.

  8. Calorie restriction will improve memory capacity, whereas a high-fat diet will exacerbate symptoms of depression –as opposed to omega-3 fatty acids, which increase neurogenesis, and also help to decrease the symptoms of depression.

Match the words/phrases (1-8) to their explanations.

  1. spatial recognition

  2. differentiate

  3. efficacy

  4. puzzling

  5. deprivation

  6. intermittent fasting

  7. mastication

  8. exacerbate

  1. difficult to explain or understand

  2. chewing

  3. period of eating and not eating over a defined period

  4. to show or find the difference between things that are compared

  5. the lack or denial of something considered to be a necessity

  6. make something that is bad even worse

  7. understanding where things are in relation to other things

  8. the ability to produce the desired result


Watch the video and answer the questions.

  1. How do we call the phenomenon when adults grow new nerve cells?

  2. How many neurons does an average person produce per day?

  3. Why did patients who were cured of their cancer still develop symptoms of depression?

  4. Does learning increase or decrease the growth of new neurons?

  5. What type of food and drinks should we consume if we want to increase the growth of our neurons?

Click on the picture below to buy our communicative activities.

Conversation Questions Conditionals: ESL Speaking Activity

Conversation Questions Conditionals: First, Second, Third Conditional

First Conditional

  1. If you don’t go to work tomorrow, what will happen?
  2. What will you do if it rains tomorrow?
  3. What will you do if you learn perfect English?
  4. What will you do if a colleague is rude to you?
  5. What will you do when you retire?
  6. What will happen when we continue polluting the Earth?
  7. What will happen if stop using plastic bags?
  8. What will happen if______________________?
  9. What will you do if______________________?
Looking for more activities? Try 120 Conversation Starters and One-Minute Talk activity.

Second Conditional

  1. What would you do if an alien from outer space landed their spaceship in your
  2. garden?
  3. If there suddenly was no internet, how would the world change?
  4. How would you spend $100 000 in 12 hours?
  5. What would you do if you could fly?
  6. If could go on holiday anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  7. If somebody hit you in the face, what would you do?
  8. If you survived a plane crash in the jungle, how long would you survive?
  9. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would that be?
  10. If it was possible, would you like to have your own clone?
  11. What would you do if_____________________________?
  12. What would happen if_____________________________?

Third Conditional

  1. If you had been born in a different country, what would have been different in your life?
  2. What would you have done if you had found out you were a lost child of a European monarch and a successor to the throne?
  3. How would your life have been different if you had been growing up with 9 siblings?
  4. If you could have studied something else, what would that have been?
  5. How would your life have changed if you had done something different that one time?
  6. What would have happened last weekend if you had partied all night long?
  7. If you had been born as a child of a Hollywood celebrity, how would your childhood have been different?
  8. If you had been born Quasimodo, how would your life have changed?
  9. If you had been born with 6 fingers on each hand, how would that have changed your life?
  10. What would have happened if_____________________________________?
  11. What would you have done if______________________________________?

Download here>>>>>Conditionals Speaking Activity

Other speaking activities:

ESL Speaking Activity: Business English Role Plays

No-prep Speaking Activity: Warmer And Filler For ESL Classes

32 Inspirational And Creative Job Interview Questions For ESL/Business English Students

ESL/EFL Speaking Activity: Role Play Debate

Will Your Students Steal A Car?: ESL/EFL Simulation Activity

This ESL simulation activity is for a group of four students, B1-B2 level, 15+ age.  

I find it’s best to use this activity after teaching crime vocabulary, and after teaching some basic concepts of peer pressure, argumentation, and manipulation. What I like about this activity is that the character cards don’t tell the students what decisions they should make, it’s purely their choice.

Picture Based Speaking Activity For ESL/EFL Classes

I got the idea for this ESL picture speaking activity after we came across a well-known photograph in our textbook, and I was surprised how many students didn’t know it. Sure, young people are overwhelmed with photos all day long. Take Instagram for example, but it is usually photos of celebrities, fashion, food, Starbuck cups, you get the idea.

Another thing is that they often have no clue about history although they have to study it at school. What they are more interested in is the future; final tests, university, jobs, family.

I wanted to teach them something about the past, show them real, raw photos that deal with many issues that still resonate today. I chose 10 iconic photos, but you can add more that are more local or more significant for your country. This activity is a great starter for discussion about human rights, democracy, and equality, which are things that our modern society still struggles with.

I recommend you use this activity with students 16+ as the photos may be disturbing for younger students.

Teacher’s Sheet


1. Use this material after a lesson on photography, global issues,
human rights, etc.

2. Hand out the Student’s Sheets and explain the Ss that they will see 10
iconic photographs. They will finds vocabulary in the handout that can be
associated with the pictures. This serves as a warm up, and help in case they
don’t know anything about the pictures. Pull up the pictures on the
interactive whiteboard, or any equipment that you use. Show them each
picture for approx. 30 seconds. In this phase do not let the Ss to talk or share
any knowledge they might have.

3. After they finish, show them the pictures again, this time a bit longer. Tell
them to write anything they know, or can guess about the pictures.

4. Discuss.


Answer Key

  1. The 1968 Olympics Human Rights Salute was a political demonstration conducted by African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony on October 16, 1968 at the 1968 Summer Olympics in the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City. During the ceremony they turned on the podium to face their flags, and to hear the American national anthem. Each athlete raised a black-gloved fist, and kept them raised until the anthem had finished. In addition, Smith, Carlos, and Australian silver medalist Peter Norman all wore human rights badges on their jackets.
  2. Young Charlie Chaplin
  3. Famine in India under British rule 1870s
  4. The Hindenburg disaster occurred on May 6, 1937, as the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at Naval Air Station in New Jersey, US. Of the 97 people on board (36 passengers and 61 crewmen), there were 35 fatalities (13 passengers and 22 crewmen).
  5. Beatles, The Beatles’ album, Abbey Road, features the Beatles walking across the northwestern zebra crossing on the intersection of Abbey Road and Grove End Road
  6. Florence Owens Thompson was the subject of Dorothea Lange’s famous photo Migrant Mother(1936), an iconic image of theGreat Depression
  7. Young Joseph Stalin
  8. Phan Thị Kim Phúc is the nine-year-old child depicted in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken at Trảng Bàngduring the Vietnam War on June 8, 1972. The well-known photo, by AP photographer Nick Ut, shows her at nine years of age running naked on a road after being severely burned on her back by a South Vietnamese napalm attack.
  9. Thích Quảng Đức was aVietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to death at a busy Saigonroad intersection on 11 June 1963. Quang Duc was protesting the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. Malcolm Browne won a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph of the monk’s death.
  10. Muhamad Ali

Students’s Sheet

You will see 10 pictures. Write number of the picture next to the word which you associate with the picture.









Pulitzer Prize



Human rights


New York

Do you know anything about the pictures? Write what you know next to the number of the picture.











Download the photos in PDF format>>>>>>Iconic Pictures

Teacher’s Sheet>>>>> Iconic Pictures Teacher’s Sheet

Student’s Sheet>>>>> Iconic Pictures Student’s Sheet

Other speaking activities you might want to try:

Speaking Resource for ESL/EFL Teachers: Creative Storytelling

Speaking Resources for ESL/EFL Teachers: Picture Prompts

28 ESL/EFL Conversation Starters to Spark Conversation

Group Activity For ESL/EFL Classes: Famous Stories With A Twist!


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