The beginning of the school year or the start of the semester is a good time for students to get to know one another.
It is also a good time to do some grammar review activities since students’ minds may still be on vacation. The following activities serve double duty – letting students get to know each other while targeting specific grammatical concepts. Pick and choose the ones that will help your class most and make double use of your time.
Incorporate These Simple Activities into Your Back to School Lessons
Two Truths and a Lie (Past Tenses)
This simple get to know you game takes no preparation or special equipment. Each person writes three facts about himself. Two statements will be things that he has done. One statement will be something he has not done (a lie). Students can use any appropriate past tense to write their sentences. One at a time, each student reads his statements to the rest of the class. Their task is to determine which of the statements is the lie. This icebreaker is sure to bring up some interesting facts about your students and keep everyone entertained.
Have-You-Ever Tumble (Past Perfect)
One of my best investments for my ESL classroom was a Jenga style block game. While the game alone is fun and gives students a chance to talk and get to know one another, I made the game an even more effective icebreaker. I took a list of get to know you questions and wrote one on each block in the game. Each question began with, “Have you ever…” Then, when a student pulled the block during play she had to answer the question before putting it back on the top of the stack. Some questions were simple (have you ever broken a bone?) while other questions were more personal (have you ever been really embarrassed?). I found that students became more interested in the questions than they did in the balancing game, and often every student wanted to answer the questions that were pulled. You may find the same to be true in your classroom. Note, this game is best saved for intermediate and advanced students since beginners usually aren’t familiar with all of the vocabulary in the questions.
The Lottery (Simple Future)
This icebreaker starts with good news for each of your students. They have all won the lottery! How will they spend the one million dollars they have won? Have each person write three to five sentences about how they will spend their money using the simple future. The put students in groups of three or four to share their plans. After each person shares, their group members should feel free to ask questions about their choices.
Would You Rather (Second Conditional)
Would you rather travel into outer space or the center of the earth? Would you rather not have to eat or not have to sleep? Would you rather cook or clean up? In this simple icebreaker, each of your students has the same choice. Have everyone stand in the center of the room, ask a question, and direct those who answer one way to one side of the room and the others to the other side. Then “interview” a handful of students and ask why. “I would rather travel to the center of the earth because no one has done it before. I would rather not have to sleep so I could get a job and make money.” If you want less of a challenge for your students, just ask for their answer using the second conditional structure. (I would rather clean up.) Either way, you and your students will discover things you wouldn’t otherwise know about one another.
More Than a Name (Adjective Placement and Vocabulary)
If you want to help your students remember one another’s names, try this simple adjective centered icebreaker. Sit your students in a circle. The first person gives his name and uses an adjective to describe himself which begins with the same letter as his name. “My name is Michel and I am messy.” The second person in the circle repeats the name and adjective of the person before her and then ads her own. “This is messy Michel. I am Kimiko, and I am kind.” The third person in the circle starts with “This is messy Michel, kind Kimiko…” and then ads his own information. Players take turns around the circle until they come back around to the first person who must give the names and adjectives for everyone in the class.
Unique Habits and Hobbies (Yes/No Question Formation)
What do your students do that few would expect? Who has the most unusual hobby? Have each person in your class write down the most unusual habit or hobby that she has. (I eat sandwiches for breakfast. I collect monkeys. I have a pet crow.) Then collect all the papers and compile a list (in random order) leaving a blank for each student’s name. Make copies for your students and hand them out the next class period. You students will go around the room asking each other if they do a certain activity on the list. For example, one student might ask a classmate, “Do you collect animal bones?” That student answers with a complete sentence. If the answer is yes, the asking student writes that person’s name in the blank for that sentence. If the answer is no, he must go to another student and ask a question before coming back to the first person. The student to fill in all the banks first wins the game.
Bananas (Information Questions)
In this silly get to know you game, choose one person in class to be “it”. The rest of the class will ask that person information questions (those starting with who, what, where, when, why, and how). That person will answer them without smiling or laughing, but the only answer they can give, no matter what the question, is “bananas”. For example, what is your mother’s name? Bananas. If “it” cannot answer without smiling, he is out and the person who asked the winning question is now “it”. Be prepared for some very silly questions and the laughs that will follow.
You may not be able to be in two places at one time, but you can get double use out of the icebreakers which also review key grammatical concepts.
Do you have icebreakers to add to the list?
Share them in the comments below.