Ten simple and effective themes for international cafés

Ten simple and effective themes for international cafés

by | Nov 26, 2021 | Blog

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Do you struggle to find good themes for international cafés?

Following on from our creating an international café checklist, here are ten great ideas to help you find conversation themes for international cafés. Designed to engage, inform and encourage communication in English, they are also easy to set up.  With this list you have the basis for potentially hundreds of different lessons!



1. Thematic short presentations

This might mean you or another volunteer presenting up front your own experience in short, simple language to set the theme. Then, provide some open questions to pairs/groups around the theme so they can continue. Here are some great examples:

  • Journeys: adventures you have taken, or simply getting around the UK or town.
  • Food: favourite, celebratory food, English food perception
  • Customs: what happens when you meet new people, queue, eat together or host a meal?
  • Ceremonies: marriage or new family additions!

2. Quizzes and games

Pictionary, Scattegories, miming games for jobs, and team games are all great options.
Get your students speaking together to arrange themselves in lines alphabetically by surnames, first names, or nationalities, for example. The fastest team wins. For lower levels, why not try simple board games, like snakes and ladders? These can be popular when English levels are low or conversations difficult for any reason. Get alongside your students and help them learn the basics of numbers etc.

3. Food tasting

Cheese or cake? Students taste various ones and rank in order of taste and share their results in groups or pairs. Which is the most popular? It’s great fun and provides some excellent language for comparisons. Expect to hear an incredulous “The mince pie from Aldi was the best!?”

4. Pair work puzzle solving

Spot the difference, picture dictations, Where’s Wally? puzzles etc. are all great fun, which will provide quiet ‘heads-down’ time for your learners.

5. Wellbeing

How about a session based on the NHS five steps to mental health wellbeing? There’s more info on this here if you think it might be a helpful session.

6. Ask a …

Policeman / doctor / nurse / teacher / (vicar?!) anything.

Ask someone a profession to talk about what they do. It could lead on to signposting to essential services or helpful guidance. Invite questions from your students before and during the session.

7. English sayings

We love this one. Students match English idioms/proverbs to their definitions and try and translate some of their own into English. Why not include tongue twisters as a fun addition?

8. Surveys

Students mingle to ‘Find someone who…’ or  ask: ‘Have you ever…’ Some great ideas for a ‘Have you ever…” survey here >>

9. Songs

Students love songs! Listen and fill in the gaps. Discuss meaning. Sing along at the end! One of our partner churches explains how they ended their lesson with an Abba song gap fill recently… Also, this site is great for traditional and contemporary songs that you can sing along to with your students. Includes activities and word explanations, and it’s graded for different levels as well, so there’s something for nearly everyone.

10. Life in the UK

Wonderful (and extremely challenging, as we recently found out!) quizzes, based on life in the UK. Discover more here >>



We hope that these themes for international cafés bring you inspiration as you look to plan for 2022 and beyond.

These are tried and tested and with adaptations, they can work with a variety of levels. So bookmarks this page, or share it with your friends. Our thanks to the team at the Exeter branch of Friends International for their input.

TEFL training can really help with structuring international café conversation, and it gives your volunteers more confidence to lead internationals in meaningful English conversations.
Find out more about our accredited 70-hour Introduction to ESOL course, designed for English teaching and outreach.

Want materials for your ESOL classes instead? Check out our twenty beginner English lesson worksheets here >> 



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