TEFLChina.org > Teaching: Speaking: Games & ice breakers:
Games & ice breakersIce Breakers
All of these are appropriate when the teacher and students don't know each other. They work even when the students do know each other but the teacher doesn't know them.
Name Game. Goal: to learn students' names. Students are in a circle or an oval -- maximum should be 30 -- split larger groups.
- #1 says name with a verb ending in -ing.
- #2 repeats what #1 said and adds his/her own.
- #1, "Bobbi talking."
- #2, "Bobbi talking, Sheryn cooking."
- Continue the string around the circle. The last person must remember everyone.
Variation 1 -- using adjectives.
- Example: "Generous Roy, happy Leslie."
Variation 2 -- sounds the same.
- Example: "Smiley Smith, crazy Caroline."
Pair students. One cannot speak. The other tries to find out personal information such as Where are you from? How many people are in your family? Answers must be narrowed down through body language.
Interview. Students work in pairs to interview each other. Then they report to the class what they found out about the other student.
Survey. Students mingle with each other similar to a cocktail party. They ask questions and record the answers. At the end, they total the answers and report the results to the class.
Bingo. This is a variation where the card has categories on it. The students must find someone who fits the category. That person then would sign the first person's card.
Find a person who. This is a good one with a large crowd such as an English Corner. Each student is given a list of questions such as: Find a person who has a cat. Find a person who speaks a language other than Chinese and English. Find a person whose parent is a farmer. The student must ask others to sign but they may only sign each sheet one time. The winner could be either the first ones done or those drawn at random.
What's in my pocket? This is an impromptu show and tell and good for low level students. One or two sentence answers are acceptable.
- Variation: in my hand, on my wrist, on my desk.
Fine Fun. This encourages the students to speak English, not Chinese. The students are fined for speaking Chinese. This can be done with either money or tokens. Reward the students who have the most tokens left. Class can also have a party with the money collected in the fine jar or cup.
Hide the puppet. The students hide the puppet while one person is out of the room. When that person returns, the students give verbal clues using prepositions so the puppet may be found.
Strip Stories. Cut a story or dialog into strips and have the students put it back into order.
- Hint: To check it quickly, make the first letter down in each strip form a word.
Cartoons. This requires a four picture sequence, or a six picture sequence with more advanced students. The students must come up with the words to tell the story as quickly as possible -- "cartoon style".
I'm thinking of. The students are allowed twenty questions to find out the item.
- Hint: put vocabulary on the board: bigger than, smaller than, animal, vegetable, mineral
Question game. The parts of speech are written on cards and are color coded. The students have to put the question into the right word order. This teaches word order especially with interrogative words and helping verbs.
Continue a story. This is good with groups up to about 5 students. One student starts and each student adds to the story in turn.
What's in the bag? A number of familiar objects are placed in a bag. One student comes to the front and faces the class. Behind him/her, the teacher takes out an object. The student's team gives verbal clues so the student may guess what the object is.
Pictionary. This can be continually updated by adding new words and reviewing the previously learned words.
Vocabulary recap. This is used after teaching a lesson. The teacher says a word and the student must say the new vocabulary word related to it. Then the ball or yarn is passes to another student and the teacher says another word.
Baseball game. The teacher must prepare flash cards based on known vocabulary. The Pitcher has a card and shows it to the Batter. If the Batter guesses the word correctly, he/she goes to first base and anyone already on base advances. If the Batter does not know the answer, the Catcher gets a chance. If the Catcher is correct, the Batter is out. If the Catcher is incorrect, the Batter gets one strike and the game continues.
Family shopping. The class is divided into families and each is given a limited amount of money. Using pictures, they make their purchases. The family must justify its choices -- for whom, why?
Story writing. Each student has a phrase and begins writing on that phrase. After a set time (for example 2 or 3 minutes) they pass the paper to the student behind them and begin writing on the paper that was passed to them. Keep changing the papers but allow slightly more time towards the end as the students must also read what has been previously written before they can begin to add their own words.
Store. Cut out ads with prices and allow the students to go shopping. The students must report what they have bought to class or group.
Variation: The teacher can give guidelines about what to buy. For example: The students have a limited amount and must buy five things and have as little as possible left over. Or buy as many items as possible with the same amount. Or buy three of one, two of another and just one to spend the most (or the least).
Other popular games: Seven Up; Mother, may I?; Hangman; Charades; etc.
One suggestion was to divide the class into permanent teams for games. This allows for smoother transition to game time and allows the teacher to keep track of who wins over a long period of time, not just one lesson. It is also good psychology to let the problem students be winners. Sometimes it is necessary to skew the game to balance the results. Everyone should win sometime.
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