A low-prep icebreaker: time travel

This icebreaker requires virtually no preparation from the teacher but is guaranteed to involve all the students and help them discover the things they have in common. A great option for groups at all levels, especially B1 and higher.

The Task

Here is how this ice-breaker works.

Prepare three strips of paper: THE PRESENT, THE FUTURE, THE PAST.

Put each strip of paper on a separate table. Works best if the tables are farther apart from each other, creating speaking stations of sorts.

Divide your students into three groups. Each group needs a piece of paper and something to write with.

For bigger groups, you might have to double the speaking stations.

Tell your students they are about to time travel together. They will get some time at each table to discuss things they have in common, depending on the time frame at each table: the present, the future, and the past. It will require them to ask questions and talk both about memories, plans, dreams, ambitions, and facts. Depending on the language they are able to use they will discover more or less sophisticated details about each other, but they will keep learning about each other regardless.

Ask them to take notes visiting each table.

Students visit each station in their group and switch to the next table at your signal. Monitor and allow as much time as necessary for them to discuss and have fun.

Once every group has visited each table, ask them to share their findings. Depending on the class size they might share with the whole class or smaller groups join together to create bigger ones. Ask which findings were the most interesting/ shocking/ funniest etc.

Personal Experience

I used this icebreaker activity with my teen groups this summer. It is a fun and quite loud activity which allows or a lot of information to be shared with different classmates. Searching for the things which unit everybody often proves more challenging than looking for differences but ends up having a beneficial effect on rapport building and the feeling of unity, which is especially important in multinational, multilingual groups. The fact it requires almost zero preparation is an additional perk.


For more ideas for icebreakers see here:

–> A betting game icebreaker

–> More back to school icebreakers

–> Adding new twists to old icebreakers

–> 5 icebreakers for the first day of class




  1. Hi Gosia! This sounds like a cool idea but I don’t quite understand how it works… what do the students do at each station? They have to work out what they have in common in their past (for example)? Is this then left open to them? Or are they supposed to ask each other questions about things they ‘used to do’ etc? It sounds great, but very ‘open’ and I think my students might need more structure…

    • I have the same doubt as Claudia. I’m doing the class online now and the whole group is going to be a station, but I don’t quite understand what they are going to do.

      • Hi! The students are supposed to talk to each other at each station to find out what they have in common. For lower level groups, you might have to scaffold some example questions they might ask each other and model the procedure at one of the stations with a volunteer. The activity is very open on purpose, to allow students (in my case, quite fluent teens) to simply chat and get to know each other.
        As for doing this as an online activity, I am not sure what kind of tools you are using, but many video conferencing platforms allow dividing students into separate rooms or channels, so as to imitate the idea of working in smaller groups.

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