A real icebreaker is a special ship with lots of power and a strong hull shaped to plow through pack ice or a frozen waterway, but in education and sociably, an icebreaker is a fun activity, game or event to help students and the teacher to get to know each other, or to warm up the conversation and atmosphere among people attending a meeting or an event.
Technically, an icebreaker is just used where and when people or students meet for the first time in a classroom or event setting. “You don’t need icebreakers when there’s no ice,” is a famous quote by Dorothy Strachan, though the term ‘icebreaker’ is commonly used for any activity at the start of a class or meeting meant to ‘warm-up’ the atmosphere and to introduce the content of the lesson, to relax students and allow for latecomers to join. We thus also call it class ‘warmers’.
ESL teachers usually do not correct students during these warm-up activities to reduce their fears about using English as a foreign language and make them more receptive to the lesson. It is often also used as a way to either review earlier work or prepare the learners for the rest of the lesson.
Let’s look at 10 Icebreakers for the first day of class:
Something in Common
Give each person a class list with everyone’s names on it. (If the class is large, or you cannot print it out; let the students write the names of each person in their group.)
Then, they have to go around the room and talk to each other. Their mission is to find out one thing they have in common. “Same vacation home, the favorite food, the same number of brothers.”
Students may not use the same answer twice.
The great thing about this activity is that students will talk about many things before they can find the one thing they have in common.
Then check-in with the students, ask them randomly, or in the case of a class with many students, let them change partners and tell each other what they have in common with their partners.
“What did you have in common with the person next to you?”
Get students to line up according to different pieces of information.
Start with something simple: Let them line up according to height. Their birth dates, the first alphabet letter of their names, the first digits of their cellphone numbers.
Another fun idea is to ask them to think of an interesting animal, but they may not make it too easy. They then have to mime the animal and arrange themselves by what they think the size of these animals are. Once done, let the students reveal their mystery animals.
This is a really fun group activity. Split the class into two teams; let them line up to face each other. Tell them to look at the other team to make sure they notice all the details. Then one team looks away while the other team has to change things about themselves; they can switch places, they can exchange jackets, they can untie their shoes, untie some buttons, switch their watches from one wrist to the other; anything changes they can.
Once the other group turns around, they have to spot all the changes that they can see. It’s a really fun activity because students love trying to trick each other and fool the other team.
Interview a Partner
Get the students to interview a partner. They get a couple of minutes to ask each other questions and write down the answers. Make sure to ask them to make it interesting and to build up or promote their partner – almost like a hype man in rap music. They should also focus on asking follow-up questions during the interview process.
Once they are done they should introduce their partner to the class.
The teacher should do an example before they start.
A fun variation is ‘Psychic’, a game where students each have to look at their partners and make guesses about them. “You have two brothers?” “You like spaghetti?” “You are good at math?” Make sure that they make positive assumptions.
Here is a link to questions that students can ask each other to make it easier:
Buy a couple of packets of M&M chocolate-coated candy. Decide with the students on what topic each color should represent, for example: Blue – hobby, Yellow – family or friends, Green – vacation, Orange – favorite place, Brown – make a wish, Red – food. (Remember to watch out for students who may have a peanut allergy, rather use the chocolate-only ones.)
250 Conversation Starters
Place the students in groups of three to five. I use a collection of 250 conversation starters. (There are many available on Pinterest.) Cut them out and place them upside down in front of the groups. Taking turns, each student picks up a question which they have to ask to the person to their right.
Also, review after every activity you do. Ask each student what they have learned (learnt, UK) about someone else.
Two Truths and a Lie
Write three facts about yourself on the board. Two are true, and one is a lie. Make it interesting. After that, students should ask you questions to find out which one is true and which is a lie.
Then let them vote before revealing the answer. Now give the students a couple of minutes to write down their own facts. Two must be true, and one a lie.
It should be random. Make it fun. They may not copy your examples. Then put the students in smaller groups and let them take turns sharing all three facts. The other students have to ask questions, then let them vote or guess before the reveal.
Ask students to walk around in the class, the teacher then says a number and the students must form groups with that number. For example, while they’re marching around you say the number “two” and the students have to form pairs. If you say “three,” they have to be three in a group and so on. Students who fail to form a group are out.
Another variation is where you write a number on the board and they have to do a pre-arranged action with that number. For example, if it’s number one, they have to sit back-to-back with someone; if it’s two, they have to stand with toes touching; three they sit in a circle; four they have to sit on their chairs. The activities are really up to you as the teacher.
Get all your students to stand in an open area and then ask them to write their names onto post-it notes. Then take all the post-it notes from them and attach them to students’ backs randomly.
Say ‘go’ and the students each have to find their own names by walking around (tell them no running) and look for their names.
When they find the notes with their names on, they have to put it on their chest to show that they are done. You can also play it with some variations and make teams. This is a really easy and fun game to play with your students. Just make sure they don’t get over-excited.
This is a very simple exercise that involves all the students together and provides a lot of movement. You should have a list of cues you call out to the students and depending on their answers, they have to run to the left or right side of the room.
Cues you might use:
Salty or Sweet?
Coffee or Tea?
Hot or Cold?
Dogs or Cats?
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Spring or Fall?
Justin Bieber or Ed Sheeran*
(Use popular artists, this depends much on the culture/ country and age of the students.)
I usually end class by asking students to think of any questions they want to ask me. I give them some examples, “What’s your favorite food? Where are you from?” Then, go around and answer each student’s question. Sometimes I ask them the same question or a different one. It’s usually something like where are you from, are you married, how old are you – then I show a sad face and say that I’m single.
Some of my favorite questions are:
“What’s your best friend’s name, what do you do together?
“What’s your favorite Baskin Robbins* flavor? If I took you to the convenience store, and say that I will buy you any snack, what would you buy?”
“When is your birthday? What did you receive? Did you get a cake, what flavor?”
And there we are, 10 Icebreakers your can use with groups.
- Baskin-Robbins, founded in 1945 in California, is the world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty stores, with about 6,500 shops in nearly 50 countries
❓ Questions to a partner ► https://etateach.com/english-question…
250 Questions► https://sendfox.com/etacude
📘 1000 Questions and Answers to Learn English! ► https://amzn.to/3DisGfC
💡10 Writing Activities ► https://youtu.be/Yr1MG5z0g5o
💯Classroom Games Playlist ► https://bit.ly/classplay1