Icebreaker activities


This time I want to gather a set of presentation activities; icebreaker activities. Those activities that languages teachers do when we meet our group for the very first time and we want them to get to  know each other too.

Our performance during this lesson, the first one, is one of our most important opportunities to gain the attention of our students. With these activities we have a great chance to make them feel comfortable and to involve and entertain them, which helps to ensure their persistence and dedication towards learning a second language.

Although choosing a good activity is fairly valuable – icebreaker activities will allow teachers to detect the level of their pupils – I should point out this alone is not enough for achieving success. There are other things which teachers must be aware of. For instance, the classroom management, group dynamics, time management and our body language. However, I won’t talk about this now. Let’s focus today on a variety of activities which help us  (students and teachers) to enjoy the lesson.

The proposed activities that I bring to this post are the different approaches that I have been using throughout my career or whilst studying.

Of course, there will be always the possibility of doing it in the usual way for those who are more conservative “Hello, my name is Ainoa. I’m from Murcia, Spain, and I’m you Spanish teacher”. But for those teachers who enjoy trying new things to make their classes more entertaining, here are my suggestions.

Activity 1: The ball of wool You, the teacher, start by saying your name and something that you like. Then you throw the wool to one of your students. This student has to do the same and throw it again to an another classmate. At the end, we get something similar to a spider web. This shows the future attachment of the group and the links that they will be created.

Activity 2: The clover The teacher introduces theirself showing a paper clover leaf where they have previously written several things about themself, one thing on each petal. For example, name, place of birth, nationality, favorite food.

The choice of topics will depend on the level of your students or what you as the teacher want to review. When everyone has written down their information, they should put them them in plant pot.

Once all the clovers are in, the teacher will take one of them and introduce that person (using third person singular). This person should stand up, greet everyone and pick another clover. This process will be repeated until everyone is introduced.

Activity 3: Who I am? The teacher presents a text, you can project it or photocopy one for each student. Throughout the text you present several sentences but giving several choices. For example, “My name is (1.María, 2.Elena, 3.Marta, 4.Lucía). One of the students has to start reading the first sentence and try to guess the correct option. If the student guesses it, continue reading. However, when the pupil is wrong, the turn will be for another student who should start reading from the very beginning. Therefore, all the students must be concentrating because they need to remember the correct option that has been chosen previously.

Actividad 4: Paper ball The teacher introduces themself, telling the students information about themself. At the same time, the teacher is writing down the sentences in a piece of paper. She asks the student to do the same, to write down a specific number of sentences about their lives. Once they have finished, they have to make a ball from the paper and put in a bag.

At this point the introductions are exactly the same as the second paragraph of the activity number 2.

Activity 5: My life in pictures. For this activity we must to prepare material. The idea is to present 6 images (submitted one by one) on which is shown something important to us that we are working on at that point, such as an important name, a place, a profession, a meal, etc. Our students should guess what is the picture about. For example,  on one of the pictures there are several firefighters (“Are you a firefighters?”, “is you husband a firefighter?”, etc) this picture will help us to introduce professions or a picture of our city to introduce nationalities and countries.

Once they have guessed the information that we were looking for, we will turn the images over to see the topic on the other side (“family members”, etc) and the question that we want to work on (“do you have siblings?”). It can be a good idea to stick the six pictures on the wall. Then we will ask the student to work with their partner, they have to ask the six questions.

Once they have done this, they have to introduce their partner to the classroom.

Activity 6: The start. We present to the students a 5 peaks start. In each peak we write down an idea about us, something that we want to remember or introduce later. Then, we ask them to ask us, to try to guess what those ideas are about, emphasizing that they can try as much as they want, there is no penalization for incorrect guessing.

For instance, at one of the peaks there is written “Juan”. Students should ask the teacher trying to guess what is this about (“¿Is this the name of your husband?”, “¿Is your son´s name?”) or “Cuba” (“are you from Cuba?”, “Would you like to go to Cuba?”)

After the teacher presentation, students will draw their own start with their own ideas. We’ll repeat the process.

In case there are too many students (the activity can take forever) we’ll ask them to introduce in small groups.

Activity 7: My hand. Every single students has to draw their hand on a piece of paper and write down on each finger one thing about them, about their life. They will stand up, one by one, and introduced themselves using their hand drawing as a support.

The teacher can ask the students the 5 specific topic which they have to speak about or give them a choice of talking about five different things.

Activity 8: Alphabet soup. This is about presenting a simple alphabet soup where the teacher has typed their information. Students will be provided with a list of sentences as a clue. For example, find the place where i was born.

Actividad 9: Let’s dance. The students need to stand up and dance with rhythm to a song, a funny one. They should move around the room meanwhile the music is playing. However, they must stop when the music is paused and ask the nearest person a question to get information about his/her life.

At the end, students will recall the information they have learned about their classmates.

Activity 10: My collage. For this activity students will be offered a big variety of pictures (newspaper, magazines, print, leaflet,etc).

In the first round, students will select those images which they identify with. Once they have chosen, they should show those pictures to their classmate and explain why they feel they identify with those images. In the case where some students don’t connect with any of the pictures offered, we’ll give them sheets and color to allow them to create that what they identified.

Activity 11: Unfinished sentencesIt is also important to use initial activities to meet the individual expectations of our students about our lessons. Not all learn the same, nor do we like to study in the same way. There are students who want to focus on grammar and others prefer to talk most of the time, regardless of the mistakes they may make. In order to discover this expectation we can throw in a number of phrases such as:

  • By the end of this week / quarter / year I want to …
  • the best way I learn is with …
  • I do not like it when the teacher …
  • Using a textbook is …
  • When we are working in a group …
  • When I do homework …
  • I do understand…
  • I do not understand…
  • I hope that…
  • I do not want class …
  • The sense of coming to class is …
  • I would like … ever.

Activity 12: Incomplete information. Consists in finding out information about the teacher (name, nationality, family, hobbies, pets, etc) giving them an incomplete and different table. In each table there will be just one of the answers, so they must speak with everyone if they want to complete it.

Ainoa Cano