Today I’d like to share three more activities that have worked great for me as icebreakers for the first class with groups of teenage students. All the games help students get to know each other better and promote discovering what they have in common.
#1 Two Kinds of People
I first saw this activity on James Taylor’s blog and fell in love with the visuals, originally featured here. I knew I’d want to use them in class somehow and was able to do just that during the summer when each week I’d meet a new group of students.
This is a light and fun icebreaker that involves moving around, expressing one’s opinions, persuading others, and discovering what we all have in common.
Display the presentation on the board.
Tell your students they will have to choose which kind of people they are and move to either left or right side of the room, according to the picture they prefer.
You should feel free to join them as well.
Once they are in their smaller groups, ask them to talk to each other why they prefer this option over the other.
- The teacher plays undecided and both groups need to come up with argument to convince him/her to join their group;
- One group tries to persuade students from the other to switch sides but needs to accept potential rejection respectfully (a good exercise in agreeing to disagree and tolerance);
Why I like it
This activity serves as a great energiser for students who enter the class anxiously or feel uncomfortable. Pictures I used were not only eye-pleasing but also clear enough for students to be able to understand the meaning without any extra explanations. Students also had a natural reason to talk to each other and share their opinions about something that already interests them.
The persuasion variation was an interesting experiment in trying to present another POV but I stressed the importance of being tactful and not insulting the other choice (“your thing is stupid” is not persuasion but being offensive).
The game is easily adapted for the needs of 1-1 classes.
What you need
#2 Four Corners modified
I learned about this activity thanks to my summer school DOS, Aleks, who mentions it on her blog. I like its personal appeal, versatility, and the fact it requires minimal preparation.
Prepare 6-8 categories. Write each on a small piece of paper. Place the pieces of paper in a container. My favorite categories include:
- Alternative universe (If I weren’t … I would …)
- My perfect holiday
- The best day of my life
- Fun with friends
- My favourite possession
- My favourite people
Depending on your students’ level, you might be more or less specific and narrow down or broaden the categories to make it easier for them to come up with ideas.
Each student gets an A4 sheet of paper. They write their name on it. They divide it into four, either by drawing lines or folding the paper twice.
Draw 4 categories from the container or ask students to assist you.
Students write the name of categories in each part on their worksheet.
Their task is to write a sentence that best describes them in the given categories.
Model some sentences first:
Fun with friends → I love going to the cafe with my friends because we can chat and have some great coffee.
My perfect holiday → I would love to go to Hawaii and swim in the beautiful ocean.
Grade the language depending on your students’ level.
Allow your students plenty of time to come up with their own sentences.
When they are done, give each a small piece of blue tack and ask them to put their worksheet on the wall.
Ask students to take a walk around the classroom and see what others have written.
When they are done reading, say one of the categories out loud and ask students to stand next to a piece of paper which describes an idea they find interesting / they have a similar opinion / they think it’s fun etc. Then, they write their name below the sentence in the given category.
They can’t choose their own worksheet!
Asks students to explain their choice or give some extra info. Once they know whose worksheet they are standing next to, they might share their opinions directly with this person.
Here’s the worksheet one of my students ended up with at the end of this activity
Why I like it
This exercise is very simple but allows for learning a lot about each other. It is a great fit for quieter students who prefer to listen and observe before getting into a conversation.
When I gave the worksheets back to the students who originally filled them in, they already had a bunch of names written there which belonged to people they had something in common with.
It was a nice and encouraging beginning of our week together and I think it would work even better in case of students who know they will spend a long time together in the classroom.
What you need
Pieces of paper
#3 Random groups
This activity requires absolutely zero preparation, is entirely student-centered and puts students in a situation where they need to work together, show creativity, imagination, inquisitiveness, and persistence.
Divide your students into groups at random. I mean totally at random, put absolutely no thought into it (which should not be difficult given you might not know them at all yet). Try to keep the groups equal in size.
Then, give them 3 minutes to find as many things they all have in common as possible.
Model the task with one group by for example asking them: Do you like pizza? If everyone says yes, they may count it as a thing that unites them.
Encourage your students to think about different aspects of life they might share: preferences, experiences, opinions. The information they share will definitely depend on their language.
You might give each group a sheet of paper where they mark each thing in common they have so that after the time is up you can compare how they did.
Depending on the class size, rotate the students putting them in different groups 2 or 3 more times.
Why I like it
This exercise is extremely fun. Some students are able to come up with hilarious ideas, others dig quite deep to discover what they agree with others about. The best thing is that there are no wrong answers and it is entirely up to the learners what they choose to focus on.
The activity is also quite dynamic because of the time limit so students have to think fast and work together to brainstorm ideas. I had a group of 3 boys who managed to come up with roughly 50 ideas in 3 minutes and high fived each other each time they agreed.
What you need
A piece of paper and pens per group (optional)