Yes/ No – A Great ESL Ice Breaker!

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One of the hardest things about teaching ESL in a language academy or institute is that every month you have new students mixed in with your old ones. Trying to find exercises that are engaging and fresh is sometimes challenging. This is an exercise that I was able to use no matter what the size of the class.

I think I discovered this exercise while attending a KOTESOL seminar in South Korea. This is a great ESL icebreaker but it can also be incorporated into almost any class from intermediate to even high level. The whole premise of the exercise is that you cannot answer a Yes or No question with yes or no. You have to answer with something else, providing information that is related to the yes or no question. It is called Yes! No!

Yes! No!

Yes or no questions are the most basic type of question that can be answered. For example: Are you Korean? The answer would usually be “Yes, I am” or “.”No, I’m not.” Some other questions could be:

  • Can you play the ukulele?
  • Do you like Kimchi?
  • Are you tired?

For today’s class, I want you to first make up your own yes or no questions. Instead of answering with yes or no, respond without using yes or no. For example:

      Q: Can you play the ukulele?

      A: I am learning to play right now.

If you answer using yes or no you lose a point. You will be playing in groups of 5. This is a good way to get to know your fellow students and practice answering in another way than just yes or no.


Write down as many (at least 5) yes or no questions you can think of below:








This Exercise Can Be a Great Follow-up to Wh- Questions

If you are studying different types of questions, this exercise can be used as a way to have students practice the way to answer wh- questions. You can also do more modeling at the beginning of the class to practice how to do this.

I recommend pairs or groups of three in order to execute this ESL activity. It really all depends on your class. Have fun and encourage students to ask questions that help them find out about each other.

Conclude the Exercise By Having Students Report Back What They Learned

Often I try to have students report back to me what they learned about their partner. I’ve had some students for a long time and this class unlocked something surprising about them. Have students ask about abilities, skills, life experience and other things that might bring out a surprising result.

Depending on their level you can try this out after the follow-up class I prepared and have students practice their follow-ups to the other students non – yes or no answer. That is the key to improving students speaking skills. Repetition, building on lessons you have already had.

Teaching them English as a Second Language but making it fun with exercises like this are the key to an active class. For every new skill they learn, try to find an activity that practices that skill combined with other skills. They will grow in their abilities and have fun doing it.

Until next time teach, build, practice, and teach again. And remember that Teaching English is Fun!


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