ESL Teachers meet tons of international students in a year and teach a multitude of classes. You never seem to have enough ESL icebreakers. So here are more "Getting to Know You Icebreakers" that you can use in your first week of a new class.
1. Interview Rows
In this icebreaker students are getting out of their seats, speaking English and getting to know each other.
Have the students stand in two rows facing each other. Tell them they have 5 minutes to introduce themselves to their partner. After 5 minutes, use your loud voice to say "STOP" or "CHANGE".
One row stands still, the other row moves down one. Person at the end comes to be partners with the person at the front so they will each have a new partner. Repeat. Afterwards, have students tell you something they have learned from another person or introduce the person who they spoke to last.
1. Topic Interviews: Each new partner, tell students a new topic. (ie. Family, Hobbies, Hometown, Internet, Travel)
2. Interview Questions: Each new partner, ask students a question they have to answer. (ie. What are your hobbies?, Tell me about your family, What is famous in your hometown?, What is school like in your country?)
I was inspired by the game show "Jeopardy" where they give you the answer and you have to guess what the question is. That is exactly what this icebreaker does.
First I write down answers about myself on regular paper. One answer per paper. This is my demonstration that I do first. (Note: If you have a computer and projector in your classroom, you can write the answers on powerpoint slides). Then I show the class the answer one at a time and they have to guess what the question is. You want to do at least 5 answers as your example and you want to start with the easy ones first. It's fun to hear their guesses and they get to know me better as I reveal the true answers.
Hong Kong (students guess what the question is. answer is "Where was I born?"
One (answer: "How many brothers or sisters do I have?"
Blue (answer: "What is my favourite colour?"
Ten years (answer: "How long have I lived in the city?"
After knowing about you (the instructor), students individually write down their own answers for 15 mins. Then get them into small groups of 4 and they play jeopardy with each other. Have each group share one with you to guess.
3. Class Survey
There are great ESL Surveys at this site and in particular for the Survey Results sheet and blank template. You can use them to tailor the questions to be related to getting to know each other. If you have advanced students, as a class you can brainstorm topics and then have the students write the questions on their survey results sheet.
Examples of survey questions if you do your own for beginner students.
How many brothers or sisters do you have?
Where are you from?
How old are you?
What is your favourite musician?
When students are surveying each other, they are also getting to know each other because they have to write their classmates names. After the surveying, as a class students can present their results.
4. Find Someone Who
Here is a super popular icebreaker to get students mingling with each other and out of their seats. Find Someone Who worksheets are simple to make your own for your class. Have them use follow up questions to make sure they speak lots and get to know each other in the process.
One simple rule for this activity: Can only use one classmate's name once!
You'll need to monitor to make sure they are mingling or make it into a game. First one done with different names for each question wins! Either way, students will be talking!
5. Getting to Know You
Give each student an index card and they write four different likes or topics or hobbies of their choice in each corner. (or have them write eight on the card). The idea is to get the student's ideas on the card of topics that they can talk a lot about.
They mingle and show their card to a classmate who chooses a topic or asks a questions about what's on the card and they can discuss that topic.
This puts the discussion in the hands of the students. It's hard to know what they will like so have them decide. Do an example to the class first with your own card. My index card would have words like TRAVEL, BLOGGING, CRAFTS, FOOD, FAMILY. Those are 4 topics I could talk a lot about but the partner decides what they want to listen to :)
6. Things in Common
This is a mingler icebreaker where students go around the room and find out three things that they have in common with each classmate. Students can write down the things in common in their notebook. Give students a time limit to talk to as many classmates to make it more interesting.
Group option: Get students into groups and students must find as many things in common amongst them as they can. The group that has the largest list is the winner. The more students in a group, the more talking they will have to do to find commonalities.
Note: How do we make friends? By having common interests. This is not only get students to know each other, but also to see how much they share in common.
7. Ball Throw
To prepare for this hands on icebreaker, you need a ball (old soccer ball, or old volleyball). That will be the correct shape and easy to throw. Write getting to know you questions on post-it notes and tape them around the ball. You can use conversation starter questions for this icebreaker such as:
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Tell us one secret about yourself.
What was your favourite subject in high school?
Where do you want to travel and why?
Get the students to stand in a large circle. Students will throw the ball to another person in the circle and the person who catches needs to answer the question that their right hand index finger lands on. Since the students are getting to know each other, they must say their name and then read and answer the question. Then they can throw the ball to someone who hasn't answered yet.
This is a great way to get students outside or moving in the classroom. Very important to have students introduce themselves in this active icebreaker. "I'm Maria. The question is What was your dream job as a child? I wanted to be an elementary school teacher."
This family game is a nice icebreaker to get the class laughing, guessing, and getting to know each other better. Have students write their favourite movie, actor, place, or word on a piece of paper. Collect all of the papers and mix them all up. One student takes a paper and acts out the words - they cannot say anything. After they guess what it is, then everyone has to guess whose favourite movie it is.
1) Students get into two teams and they have to see which team guesses first. Each team has a different word to act out. Give points for the winners.
2) Students stand in two rows. The first person in each row is facing the second person and everyone else has their backs turned. The first person does the acting of a simple word to the second person, then the second person taps the shoulder of the third person who turns around and has to guess as it moves down the line. The first team that gets to the end wins.
Remember to spend time to guess who wrote on the paper and the person and say a sentence or two about why it is their favourite movie, actor, place.
9. Circle Introductions
Here's an active ESL Icebreaker that gets students to know each other in the class with speed introductions. It's always great to have a change in space and get students out of their seats.
Have students stand in two circles, the outside circle is facing inward and the inside circle is facing outwards. Each person is facing a partner. Give each partner 5 minutes to introduce themselves to the person in front and then say 'CHANGE' and the inward circle moves clockwise so they are facing a different partner.
This variation also works well with conversation starters by having students discuss a topic and then change partners with a new topic.
10. Toilet Paper Introductions
It's great to set the scene and give students props for those hands-on learners. Here's a fun ESL icebreaker that is great to get students used to being Canadian with the introduction of camping.
"We are all going camping, there are no washrooms so you will need to bring your own toilet paper for the day or weekend. I'm passing around the toilet paper, take as many sheets as you need."
Now we will go around and for each toilet paper sheet you have, you must say something about yourself to the class.
ESL Books with Icebreaker Activites
More ESL Icebreakers
- Board Games ESL Icebreakers
Boards games can be educational and fun! They are fun ESL Icebreakers and can be modified easily to suit your student's level and needs. Be inspired and try one of the board game ESL icebreakers.
- ESL Teaching Strategies: 5 Change Partner Activities
- ESL Reading Activities - Interactive Games
- ESL Ice Breakers for Adults - Get Moving
- Getting to know you Games - 5 ESL Icebreakers
enduttovern on August 10, 2015:
Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, very nice article.
Prachi Sharma from India on August 01, 2013:
Luís on February 17, 2013:
great hub, but wouldn't be useful for beginner students.
Stephanie Henkel from USA on June 07, 2011:
These ice breakers sound like they'd be good for any group of people getting to know each other. Very useful hub!