Favourite Activities and Ice-breakers for New EFL Classes and Students
Time to read 7 min
Time to read 7 min
After all the craziness of the last 18 months, I’m sure we are all keen to get back to working with our students! The beginning of a new term can be a bit daunting for learners, even at the best of times - and this year, with so much disruption and time spent away from school and regular school routines, even more so. Today we’re going to share some fun ice-breakers and ‘getting to know you’ activities that will banish those stresses and help learners enjoy getting back into the swing of things. Whether the students in your class know each other or not, it’s always good to start things off with a range of activities aimed at setting everyone at ease on those first days back.
This list is intended as a reminder of some favourite activities, but will also hopefully include some that are new to you:
This is a variation on a classic list-building activity. Get the students to sit or stand in a circle. Tell them you want them to introduce themselves by giving their first name and saying something they did during the summer. Each time the turn passes to a new student, they not only introduce themselves but must also recap the previous students and their activities.
Students write three things about themselves on a piece of paper, two of which are true and one which is false. In turn, they read their sentences out to the group who must guess which statements are correct and which one is a lie. Students can do this part individually, in pairs or in small groups. This is a popular activity and a fun way for students to learn something about each other. If the students already know each other, ask them to think about obscure facts that even their friends don’t know.
Divide the class into pairs. Give them three minutes to interview their partners and find out three interesting facts about them. Once the time is up, each student presents their facts to the group. This activity can take some time if you have a large class of students, but you can always have them just share the fact they find most interesting.
Each student should be given three sticks and then they form a circle. The first person starts by saying: “I have never …". Each person in the group who HAS done that activity should throw a stick into the middle. This continues as many times as necessary. The goal is for each person to get rid of their sticks. Examples of statements:
I have never driven a car
I have never visited another country
I have never played the guitar
I have never seen the ocean
I have never eaten at McDonald's
Ask students to introduce themselves, in turn, revealing something they have done that they think no one else in the class will have. If someone else has also done it, the student must try and think of something else until they find something that no one else has done.
Give each student a pre-prepared sheet of paper with a list of tasks to complete. This is a really good mixing game because, for certain tasks, learners must speak to everyone in the group. Tasks could include:
Count the number of people with green eyes
Find out who has the longest journey to school
Discover who has the most unusual hobby
Find out who has the most siblings
Decide who in the group has eaten the weirdest thing
You could split students into small groups (6-8) for this activity if you do not want to spend so long on it.
Choose a discussion topic and then get the students to start passing a ball or other object around the class. Randomly call out ‘Positive!’, ‘Negative!’ or ‘Crazy!’. The person holding the ball when you call out must make an appropriate statement about the topic. For example:
Positive: ‘I really like pizza,’ or ‘The best restaurant I’ve ever been to is in France.’
Negative: ‘I hate polenta,’ or ‘Coke and Pepsi are both disgusting.’
Crazy: ‘I’d really like to try eating a snake,’ or ‘I was once so hungry that I ate my dinner in two minutes.’
You will need a ball of string or wool for this activity. Prepare in advance, enough level-appropriate questions for one per student. Have the students stand in a circle. Hold the end of the string and throw the ball to one of the students and ask one of the questions. Once the question is answered the student must hold on to the string and throw the ball to another member of the group. This is a great way of ensuring that everyone gets asked a question. At the end of the game, you will have created a unique web – much like the unique group of students that you have in the class. Sample questions:
If you had a time machine which point in the future or past would you visit?
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
What’s your favourite thing to do in the summer?
Does your name have a special meaning and/or were you named after someone special?
What is the hardest thing you have ever done?
What book, film or series have you read/seen recently that you would recommend and why?
Questions for this activity may range from silly to serious. Place a line of tape down the centre of the room. Tell the students to straddle the line and ask a ‘Would you rather …?” question. Assign each side of the line one of the two options. Students jump to the left or right according to their preference.
Would you rather…
...visit the doctor or the dentist?
...watch TV, or listen to music?
...have a beach holiday or a mountain holiday?
...be stranded on a desert island alone, or with someone you don’t like?
...eliminate hunger and disease, or be able to bring about lasting world peace?
...see the future, or change the past?
...find your soulmate, or find a million pounds (and never find your soulmate)?
...speak all languages fluently, or be able to speak to animals?
...eat your favourite meal for every meal for the rest of your life, or never eat your favourite meal again?
...wrestle a lion or fight a shark?
Ask the students to stand with you in a circle. Say the name of a country, city, river, ocean or mountain. The student on the left or right must then say another example that begins with the last letter of the word given. Put a time limit of three or five seconds per answer. Students who cannot think of an answer in the time, are eliminated. The game continues until there is a winner. Repeat with another topic or vocabulary group.
(1) London, (2) Niagara Falls, (3) Switzerland, (4) the Danube
Collect a number of objects and place them in a bag, hat or box. The objects can include everyday items such as a pencil, keyring or book - or some more unusual ones like a wig, torch or sandwich. Pass the bag around and get each student to take out one of the objects without looking. Draw out an object yourself and begin a story that includes the object.
After 10-20 seconds ask the next person to continue the story by adding their own 10-20 seconds and incorporating the object they chose. Continue until all the students have included their objects in the story.
This is a very popular activity for all ages (including adults!). If you have a large class, you can split the students into two or three groups and they can compete against each other. Ask the students to form a line ordered according to a specific criterion. For example:
Height (shortest to tallest)
Birthdays (January to December)
Alphabetical first names
Hair colour (lightest to darkest)
Number of cousins
Number of T-shirts owned
On separate pieces of paper, sticky labels or post-it notes, write the names of some famous or infamous people such as actors, musicians or cartoon characters. Students stick or pin the names on each other’s backs, ensuring no one knows which person or character they are. Each student then tries to guess the name that is pinned to them by circulating and asking others yes/no questions. Because this is a well-known game, you can mix things up by using objects or famous places as an alternative.
This is a good activity if you have a new group of students who don’t know you and can be used as a way of introducing yourself. Write answers to some questions about yourself all over the board.
Answers could include:
In pairs or small groups, students should discuss and come up with the questions that give the answers on the board. As students guess the answers rub them out until you have a blank board.
If you need any further activity ideas, why not take a look at our collection of TEFL Games and Activities.