1001 Discussion Questions You can use with your EFL/ESL Students
by James Taylor
A couple of months ago, in August 2018, I self-published my first book, How Was Your Weekend? 1001 Discussion Questions You Can Use With Your EFL/ESL Students and in this article I’d like to explain why I decided to write the book, the thinking behind it, and some reflections on the whole self-publishing experience.
The idea behind the book first occured to me about a year beforehand.
I was teaching a number of groups and found myself constantly repeating the question “How was your weekend?” to the point where I found myself thinking that there had to be a more interesting way of opening a lesson. I had received a pack of conversation starter cards which I liked to use sometimes but I thought it would be much easier to have this kind of resource available electronically. And thus the initial idea for the ebook was born.
I worked on it, on and off, for the next year, normally when sitting down in front of the TV, chipping away at the questions bit by bit.
I chose 1001 because it sounds right for this kind of book, and I wanted teachers to have a huge amount to choose from, but let me tell you, that’s a pretty daunting number when you get into it!
The biggest challenge was, perhaps not surprisingly, coming up with the questions without repeating myself, something I‘m sure I have successfully avoided but only after numerous revisions and proofreading.
I got my ideas from numerous sources, but I always had to adapt the questions for EFL students.
One of the biggest inspirations was the comedian Richard Herring and his Emergency Questions books, but I think approximately 95% of his questions would be inappropriate in an ELT setting! But sometimes I would take a look at his book and one of the questions would send me off down an interesting path and provide me with the idea for a series of related but different questions.
Once the book was finished, I started working on creating the actual ebook. This was as new an experience for me as the writing was in the first place and, to cut a long story short, it’s a much more involved process than you might think.
Amazon have created an app which is very helpful in creating the finished Kindle ebook, but even then it’s only when you see the finished product on your own phone or tablet that you have an idea of how it really came out. And if you want to publish on another platform outside of Kindle, you have to go through the process again but with less support. Numerous versions and resubmissions were necessary before I was happy with how it looked.
But eventually I got there, published the book and unleashed it upon the world. I have to say, I was really pleasantly surprised at the reaction. Somehow, and not by design, I think I have tapped into a common feeling that many teachers share.
Many people reacted by saying that this was a book they had been waiting for and that they couldn’t wait to use it in their lessons. Some started immediately using it as a warmer and reported that it was going down very well.
As you can imagine, that was very gratifying. On a personal level, I had decided to write the book because I thought it was a good idea and because I wanted to gain experience of self-publishing. Ultimately, what I had hoped for, was to create a book that was genuinely useful for teachers on a day-by-day basis but I had zero sales expectations, and I still do.
If it sells thousands of copies, I won’t complain obviously but I have already got great satisfaction from publishing it and the reaction it has received.
And who knows how it will sell in the future, and if it will take on other forms, such as a paperback version or an app?
Whatever happens, it has been hugely rewarding and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has an idea of their own waiting to be made real.
For further information, please go to my website