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8 ESL Icebreakers Guaranteed To Engage Your Next Class

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The first day of class is never easy, but a bad first impression can create an underlying sense of tension for even the best English teachers. Thankfully, there’s an engaging, entertaining tool to get your student relaxed and conversing, and it’s absolutely free: Icebreakers!

Everywhere from professional orientation days to small-talk at casual gatherings, icebreakers can bring out a room’s energy, lower anxiety and encourage new friendships. The overall aim of icebreakers is to bring the class together in an interesting, often active way that fosters shared, positive sentiments and where possible, facilitates putting down their electronics to engage.

Here are 8 Icebreakers Guaranteed to Engage Your Next ESL Class:

1 - “This or That?”

A task that quickly showcases common interests among students. Designate one side of the room “true” and the other “false”, then offer the class simple statements that refer to habits and hobbies. For example: “I enjoy reading for fun.” Students can recognise fellows with similar interests and form fast friendships, and you get to learn more about them too.

2 - “Sweet Sharing”

Another easy one, with the added boon of a treat; pass around a box of sweets or treats and tell the students they can take as many as they like, but not why. Once they’ve all taken what they want, inform your students that no sweet can be eaten until a fellow student in the room asks them a question about themselves. The more sweets they took, the more questions to answer!

3 - “Common Interests”

Divide your students into small groups and ask them to talk and find out three things they have in common. Banana sandwiches? A fear of clowns? Perhaps they share holiday traditions. It can be anything, the more bizarre the better!

4 - “Pictionary”

An old favourite: put the names of some objects and items - animals are always fun - into a box and have each student take one, but keep it secret. They then take turns going up to the board and drawing their word for other students to guess.

“Nothing brings a class together like a game and Pictionary is so well known, it’s guaranteed to bring even the quietest students out of their shells!” praises Emma Keys, an English teacher at Draft Beyond and Research papers UK.

5 - “Time Bomb”

This game requires students to stand in a circle. Have your students each say their own name to the circle, then throw a tennis ball to a random student. They have a few seconds - how many, you can decide - to say another student’s name and throw the ball to them before it “explodes” and they’re out. Keep playing until one student remains.

6 - “Two Truths and a Lie”

An easy but fun game; a student says three things about themselves, for example: “I love pie.” “I was born in Somerset, England.” “I have a pet sheep.” The catch? Two of these statements have to be true, while one is a lie. The class decides individually which they think is a lie and whoever guesses right first goes next.

7 - “Telephone”

Have everyone sit in a circle, whisper something into the student to your left’s ear, then ask the student to pass it onto the next person the same way. Have the message passed around the room until it reaches the last student, who then says the message they heard aloud.

“It’s amazing how skewed a message can get through a dozen students! It teaches a valuable lesson about gossip,” says Landon Harper, a tutor at Writinity and Last minute writing.

8 - “Find Someone Who-”

Very similar to student bingo, provide each student with a sheet of paper covered in a number of statements, such as “born in May” or “owns a cat”. Ask them to mingle with one another and find someone who correlates with each statement. If the class is large, be sure to ask for a different name for each, to encourage interaction.


Mother of two Ashley Halsey is a professional writer who has been involved in projects across the country, as well as writing articles for Business assignments and Gum essays. In her free time, she enjoys reading, travelling and attending business training courses.

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