Icebreaker activities for ESL are a great way to get to know your students on the first day of class. Walking into a room full of new students can be a bit nerve-wracking, especially if you don’t have a lot of ESL teaching experience. Don’t forget that your new students are sure to be a little nervous, too. Whether your students are so energetic that you can barely keep them in their seats, or so shy that getting them to say “Hello” is a challenge, it’s important to find a way to ease their nerves and let them get to know each other and their teacher. The right ESL icebreaker activities can be the perfect way to do it.
Here are a few ideas for icebreaker games and activities that you can use next time you’re staring at a classroom full of new faces.
Icebreaker Games For Beginners:
With a new group of students who have little to no English ability, it’s important to keep it simple. Teaching them a simple English song and dance is a good way to get them moving around and having fun. Check out this resource for some song ideas: http://www.supersimplesongs.com/cds.html
Icebreaker Games For Lower-Intermediate Students:
Students from 6 to 10 years old can have a lot of energy, and will be able to understand your instructions a little bit better. Here are some games that are a bit more complicated, but still easy for younger students to understand and play.
Duck-Duck-Goose With Names
This game is similar to duck-duck-goose. Students sit in a circle, while one student is “It.” This student walks around the outside of the circle tapping each student on the head. Instead of saying “duck, duck,” they say the student’s name as they tap them. At some point, the “it” student will tap someone on the head and say the name of the class, or a silly word, instead of that student’s name. Then, just like in duck-duck-goose, the student who was tapped chases the “It” student around the circle. If the “It” student is tagged, he or she is “It” again. If the “It” student makes it back to the empty spot in the circle, then the new student is “It.”
The Name Game
Another great name-based game is to sit in a circle and have the first student say his name. The next student in the circle has to repeat that student’s name and then say their own name. The third student has to repeat the first two students’ names, and add his or her own to the list. See how far you can get around the circle until someone forgets a name. Then, start again with a different student.
Icebreaker Games For Upper-Intermediate and Advanced Students:
More advanced students can often be shyer, and it can be difficult to get them talking. Often, I’ve found that it’s difficult to even get full sentence answers from middle school and high school aged students. Icebreaker activities for this age group can be a bit more complicated, and are a great way to help the kids relax, open up, and actually use their English ability. Keep it fun, encourage them to speak, and don’t be too picky about correcting grammar or pronunciation during these activities.
Who am I?
Give each student a post-it note, or a piece of paper. Have them write the name of a famous person on the paper. Then collect the names, and give them out to different students. The students stick their post-it-notes on their foreheads or backs without looking at them. They have to ask the other students questions to find out who their famous person is. You can plan in pairs, or let them walk around the classroom and ask anyone.
Question and Answer
For older students who don’t like to play games, have them ask you a bunch of questions about anything that they want. Then give them a few minutes to write down everything that they can remember about you. Not only does this give them a chance to get to know you, it gives you a chance to gauge their listening and comprehension skills.
While these icebreaker games work great for the first class, you aren’t limited to the first day of school. Whether it’s the first day or the middle of the semester, these ESL icebreaker activities can be just what you need to get your students relaxed and having a good time.