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TEFL Ice Breakers: What You Need to Know

TEFL Ice Breakers: What You Need to Know

What are ice breakers and when and where do we use them? In this blog post, we will cover these issues and give actual examples of activities you can use with your classes.

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Icebreakers are games or activities that are designed to ‘break the ice’. Typically you would use these kinds of games or activities at the beginning of a new school year, when you have a new set of students, or a new class that you don't know and they don't know you. You also can use icebreakers to get your students going at the start of the lesson speaking in English and that's really important as you don't want to come into the classroom and say, “Open your books to page five” and then start studying.

Often your classroom may be the only place where they are exposed to English, so the whole day they speak their own native language, they may not be surrounded by English at all. They need time to switch their language in their brains. If you speak another language, you know that it is sometimes really difficult to just turn it on and off and then the other language can become confused. Icebreaker activities are not about studying per se; these activities are about loosening up, creating a comfortable and fun environment for you students to use English. Icebreaker activities are also great for getting to know your students, especially if you are teaching them for the very first time and you don't know your students at all. You may get to know a little about your students, what they like what they don't like and a little bit about them too. The third important reason for the icebreaker games and activities is that you can use them to build rapport with your students, by creating this fun environment and comfortable environment for them to feel safe to use English. These activities allow you, as there is no teaching involved, to participate and transfer information about yourself to them and learn information about your students.

We are going to consider five different activities.

Two Truths and a Lie

The first activity is called “Two truths and a lie” and many of you might know this game already, it's a very popular, fun game to play and often creates a lot of laughter. It is a good activity for building rapport, as well being great for your very first lesson when you don't know the students and the students don't know you.

First of all, you and the students each write down three statements; two statements need to be true and one of them has to be a lie. Depending on how you want to play it, either you present yours first and then the students. If you are doing yours first, you read them out and the students have to guess which one of the statements is the lie. You then reveal which is which. You then repeat the process for each of the students.

Word Chain

Moving on to the second activity, this activity is called “Word chain”.

This game is great for building vocabulary and it's also very versatile. You can use this for very lower level students and higher level students alike, depending on the category that you choose for this game. The teacher chooses a topic and asks a student for a word that fits into that topic, so for example the topic could be animals and then you ask, “Who can tell me the name of an animal?” Let’s say the student says “lion”, so you write down lion. The next student starts building a word chain by looking at the final letter of the first word in the row so, here it is n. This student needs to find an animal that begins with n. In this case it could be, newt, which is then followed by other students saying, turtle, elephant, and so on.

Positive, Negative, Crazy

This game can be used to improve sentence building.

The teacher writes a category or a topic on the board and then you need an item to act as a ‘hot potato’ for example a ball or a little toy. After writing the category you have this hot potato that you pass around the classroom, so it is going from student to student to student. When the teacher says ‘positive’, the student holding the hot potato in their hand needs to make a positive sentence that fits into the topic on the board. If it's correct, then we move on and we pass the hot potato. When the teacher says negative, then the student holding the hot potato at that time needs to make a negative sentence that fits into that category or the topic. When the teacher says crazy the student holding the hot potato can create a sentence however they like.

Next is an example of the game in use. The topic is “In your free time”As the teacher calls out, positive, negative and crazy students come up with the following sentences;

Positive In my free time, I always go swimming in the sea.Negative In my free time, I don’t like to do homework.Crazy In my free time today, I will eat a whole crocodile.

Encourage the students to make full sentences as this is a really important aspect of the game.

Would You Rather

This game is great for building rapport with your Pre-Intermediate or higher students.

Start by giving the students examples of the question form.Would you rather ride your bike or go to the beach? Would you rather watch TV or play a game with your friends?

You can have your students write down their own questions and after the students write their own questions, they present them to one another in class. You would be looking for full sentence structure in the answers.

If you have more advanced students you can expand the scope of the activity. Present a topic, for example, ‘Would you rather be at the beach or in the mountains?’ You could then, depending on how big your class is, split the class into two teams. One side is the ‘beach team’ the other side is the ‘mountain team’ and then you give them time to write down arguments, or positives about each location and then you can have a debate between the two teams.

Finish the Sentence

The final game here is called ‘Finish the sentence’. This game is also great for building rapport and to practice sentence building. The teacher writes the beginning of a sentence on the board and then the students they need to finish the sentence in their own words on a sheet of paper. After a few minutes the teacher asks the students to read out their answers to the class.

You can also modify this outline to make it more difficult depending on the level of your students.

For example, for higher level students you can expand the task to finish the story instead of finishing a sentence. You write down the first line of a story and then have your students write four or five more sentences to complete the story and then you read it out loud.

A further variation is that of a chain story, so instead of having your students write their own stories individually, you can do this together as a class where every student would just add one sentence to the story as the paper goes around the class.

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