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My Favorite Icebreaker Activity

September 6, 2012

Breaking the Ice

Help your students get to know each other and feel more comfortable right from the start!

First days are stressful for students and teachers alike. Naturally, it’s a little difficult to feel at home in a classroom when there is a sea of new faces around you.

Students usually worry about their English level and that they won’t be able to express themselves properly when they’re called on. Introductions are an essential first step to putting everyone at ease, but sometimes, talking about yourself while everyone is staring at you is the most anxiety-producing part of the first day!

As teachers, using an icebreaker activity that varies from the traditional self-introduction can help students feel a lot more comfortable in your classroom.

Interview a Classmate

This is one of my favorite icebreaker activities because it gives students a chance to talk to just one person for a while before getting to know everyone else. I find my students are far more comfortable with a pair activity rather than with a group activity on the first day, and often they form instant friendships with the person they are paired up with.

Beg – Low-Int

1. Give students a list of questions, either on a handout or on the board.

  • Suggestions: What’s your name? Where are you from? Do you have any brothers or sisters? Do you have any pets? What do you like to do in your free time? What do you do/what would you like to do in the future (job)? Do you prefer summer or winter? What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite movie? What kind of music do you like? Etc.

2. Put students into pairs.

3. Have them ask each other all the questions. Assign a time limit, such as 10–15 minutes.

4. If some students are finished quickly, encourage them to think of other questions to ask each other.

5. When everyone is finished, have each student introduce their partner to the rest of the class. You can allow them to give as much information as they want, but if you have a big class, you may want to limit their talking time by saying something like, “Tell us three interesting things that you learned about your partner.”

High-Int – Adv

1. Put students into pairs.

2. Tell them they should get to know each other by asking any questions they’d like. Assign a time limit, such as 15–20 minutes.

3. If some students are finished more quickly than others, encourage them to continue their conversation by asking their partner to elaborate on something that they found interesting during the interview.

4. When everyone is finished, have each student introduce their partner to the rest of the class. You can allow them to give as much information as they want, but if you have a big class, you may want to limit their talking time by saying something like, “Tell us three interesting things that you learned about your partner.”

By using this method, I hope you and your students will feel relaxed and comfortable!

—Tanya

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Comments (11)

Jane W.(Teacher)

I really want to try this tip on the first day of my ESL class next week. I tried to print it but I was not successful. The 2nd page has printing on top of other printing and it is unreadable.

Reply to Comment

Jane W.(Teacher)

The 2nd page does not print correctly.

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

Thanks, Jane. We will look into it right away and try to resolve the printing problem. It may have something to do with the formatting. For now, could you try copying and pasting the text into a Word Document or Google Doc? Then print it out. Hopefully that will be a temporary fix. Best of luck with your new group of students. Let us know if you have any special requests! ~Cheers, Tara

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Hi Jane,

I'm so glad you want to give this icebreaker a try. I hope it works well for you! Thanks for letting us know about the printing issue, and I know the staff at ESL-Library will get it sorted out for you as soon as possible. :)

Reply to Comment

Craig Howling(Guest)

Some great ideas there Thanks!

Reply to Comment

lee (Guest)

Good method! I will also try it! Actually, I'm quite interested in the lesson plans listed in this websites! However, I have no money to buy it, what a pity!

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks Craig and Lee! Lee, it's definitely worth every penny! :)

Reply to Comment

Inessa (Guest)

I always use this method and not only at the first lesson

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Hi Inessa,

I agree, it's a fun activity at any point. I used to use it for more than the first lesson, too!

peoplescience (Guest)

Thanks for sharing such a nice guidance about ice breakers . Resources , key question and detailed ice breakers activities are such a nice activities to know.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

You're welcome! It's nice when teachers can share resources. It can be time-consuming to come up with a lot of icebreakers on your own.

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