Getting to Know You – ESL Icebreaker

Activities Discussion
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We’ve all had those days when it was the first day of class and we needed a quick and easy icebreaker to use to get students talking and to stop us from sweating in front of a class full of blank stares. This is just such an activity. The problem with a lot of classes on the first day is that they don’t know each other and they don’t know you.

Time might also be more of a crunch on the first day. You have to find out student’s names and still get the teacher/student talk-time ratio correct. The correct ratio is that students should be talking 80% of the time while you are only talking 20%. I’ve seen a lot of classes like this that help students get to know each other.

Here is my version. Try to put students in pairs or if you have to, groups of three. The questions below are fairly simple. Simply copy this page and cut the paper in two. Give one half to each student in the pair. Then you circulate around and help any students who might be having problems. This is also a great class to practice after you have taught the follow-ups in conversation or small talk both located here on the site.

In fact, if you haven’t done one of those classes already (because it’s the first class of the month), It might be a good idea to do a quick overview of follow-ups in conversation. Otherwise, this will be a two-minute exercise. I would suggest modeling one of the questions with a student to show how you would like students to do the exercise.

ESL TEFL Icebreaker discussion activityA: What’s the first name of someone you don’t like very much?

B: Jim

A: Oh Really! Why don’t you like that lovable guy?

B: Now I dislike you too… just kidding! I dislike him because he talks too much and too fast!

Try that out to begin with, just to get them warmed up. Below are the questions for this TEFL icebreaker.

Getting to know you

  1. The subject you hated most at school (Math, History, English, Ethics, etc.)
  2. Your favorite thing you own (watch, computer, Xbox, etc.)
  3. The first name of someone you don’t like very much
  4. The year in which something important happened to you
  5. Two things you really like doing
  6. The name of the job you would choose if you could choose any job in the world
  7. The most beautiful area of your country
  8. ? (Make Up Your Own Question)


Getting to know you

  1. Two things you hate doing (homework, cleaning clothes, etc.)
  2. First name of your favorite relative
  3. The name of the subject you were worst at in school (Math, English, History, etc.)
  4. A date when something important happened to you (ex. your birthday)
  5. Anything you are afraid of (spiders, death, snakes, etc.)
  6. The country where you would go if you could go anywhere in the world
  7. Full name of the person you admire most
  8. ? (Make Up Your Own Question)


How did It Go?

Hopefully, you got some great conversations and some fun interactions between students. I think some kind of icebreaker class is needed to start the chemistry that makes up a successful class. I have tried some months to just dive into the lessons in a book or start a serious discussion topic and it usually makes for a lame beginning to a class.

Having them chat with each other about just simple things starts the class getting to know each other. It begins to create the cohesiveness that will turn “meh classes” into “good classes” and “good classes” into “great classes!” Remember to keep them chatting.

Follow Up With a Q&A Session

Question and Answer ESL TEFL classEnding the class with a Q&A session about what students found out about each other is another great way to finish this up. It will open them up to each other and help set the tone for your future classes. You will be thankful that you took the time to get to know them and have a litle fun in class.

I experimented with going from a strictly academic class to a class that incorporated a little “infotainment.” I found that there is a balance, but the class should start off on a positive fun note, at least for teaching adults. Children are a little harder and you will have to set the terms for what you will and won’t allow at the beginning of the class. Of course, I also realized that I was too serious at the beginning of my time teaching children.

Depending on the country you are teaching in and the socioeconomic level of your students, they might be in classes all day long. A wise fellow teacher once told me to relax and have fun with them and they will actually learn faster. After 20 years of conferences and teaching both kids and adults, I learned that that is indeed true.

Have a great class and remember that Teaching English Is Fun!


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