At the beginning of a course, students are often meeting each other for the very first time. Therefore, it’s advisable to use icebreakers or “getting to know you” activities, so that students can become more familiar with each other and get along better as the course progresses. The activities featured in this article enable students to find out what they have in common with classmates, as well as help students feel comfortable communicating in English.
For more icebreakers, read the article “My Favorite Icebreaker Activities for New University Classes” by Tory Thorkelson
1. Write on the board a selection of six or seven topics for students to discuss (for example, your favorite animal, a movie you saw recently, your idol or favorite celebrity, your favorite color, what you like to do in your free time, where you like to go on Saturday, the last book you read). Students choose three topics and write on a small slip of paper three sentences related to the topics. You may wish to provide some examples before they get started writing. Give them a few minutes to write. Next, collect the papers. Choose one slip at random. Read out the three sentences on the slip of paper, and ask students to guess who wrote it. Next, get the author to identify him or herself. Ask the student a question about his/her answers. Then, ask a different student to ask the writer a question about one of the sentences. Repeat a few more times with different slips of paper.
2. Ask students to each write a short paragraph introducing themselves. Give them a few areas to focus on, such as their personality, hometown, family, interests, and goals for the future. When everyone’s finished writing, put students into pairs and ask them to swap papers and read their partner’s paragraph. After reading, they should ask each other questions to get more information. Finally, students work in groups of four and introduce each other.
3. Hand a student a pen. The student writes one of his interests on the board (for example, a sport, a hobby, his favorite band, his favorite celebrity). Next, he hands the pen to another student, who writes one of her interests. Repeat until there are at least ten items on the board. Ask a few students who didn’t write anything on the board questions about the topics, such as:
“What do you think of…?”
“What’s your opinion of…?”
“What do you know about…”
“How do you feel about…?”
or perhaps “What’s one fact you know about…?”
or even “What’s something you can’t stand about…?”
Next, students talk about the topics in small groups.
4. Prepare seven incomplete sentences that students can finish with their own information, such as:
After class, I like to ___________.
When I’m very angry, I usually __________.
Even though I’m a ________ person, sometimes I can be extremely _______.
Something not many people know about me is _______________________.
If I have some extra money, I like to spend it on ________________.
Three things I like about this city are ___________________________________.
_____________ is the most unique person in my family, because _______________.
In class, read the incomplete sentences aloud as students write them. Repeat each sentence a couple of times. Afterwards, write the partial sentences on the board so students can check their work. Next, give students a few minutes to complete the sentences with their own information. Finally, students work in small groups to discuss their sentences and ask questions to get more information about each other.
5. Write five conversational questions. Here are some examples, or you can substitute them with your own ideas.
“What’s your favorite smell?”
“How much money do you usually spend over the weekend?”
“Where do you usually go on Friday night?”
“What is your least favorite vegetable?”
“What are three goals you have for this year?”
In class, choose a student to come to the front of the classroom. This student will ask you the questions and you answer them. After the student has finished, thank her and ask her to return to his seat. Next, ask the class if they can recall the questions. Write them on the board as the students say them, correcting when necessary. Put students into groups of four or five to ask each other these questions.
If you enjoyed reading this article, please take a look at my new book from iTDi Publishing, 101 EFL Activities for Teaching University Students: