Introduction Icebreakers

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ICEbreakers and Warm-Ups

Introduction Icebreakers

Toss the Ball

Introduction icebreakers encourage students to meet new people and warm up to the group as a whole. Have the kids stand in a circle and, holding a ball in your hands, state an adjective that best describes your personality, followed by your name, such as "Fierce Anna!" Toss the ball to a teen across the circle who must do the same thing. Tell the students they only can hold the ball for five seconds, so they have to think off the top of their heads. To make it harder, you can tell the teens to repeat the adjective and name of each person who went before them.

Have You Ever?

-an active, fun way to explore and celebrate the rich diversity of experiences that different people bring to any group.  Works best with larger groups.

Usage: Use this Ice Breaker game to have a little fun with your students while they warm up to each other and learn details about each other's lives in a playful way. It's a great way to usher in the first day of school as a group.

  • The instructor explains that he/she will call out different things that may or may not apply to each person.  If the item does apply to you, then run into the middle, jump in the air, and do a high 5 with anyone else who runs in.

  • A list of about 20 items should be tailored to the particular group, setting, and program goals, but some suggestions are below.  Usually the items are of a "Have You Ever....?" form, but also free to ad lib, e.g., "Does Anyone Have....?"
  • Items should be carefully considered in order to prevent embarrassment, ridicule, etc.

  • The motivation of participants to participate often needs some amping up.  Try to do some other warm-ups first.  The rest is down to the leader's skill in demonstrating and encouraging.

List of Possible "Have Your Ever?" Items:

    1. Have you ever climbed to the highest point in your country of birth?

    2. Have you ever lived overseas for more than 1 year?

    3. Have you ever sung karaoke?

    4. Have you ever been without a shower for more than 2 weeks?

    5. Do you have both a brother and a sister?

    6. Have you ever ridden a horse?

    7. Have you ever eaten frogs' legs?

    8. Can you speak 3 or more languages?

    9. Have you ever been in love with someone who was vegetarian?

    10. Have you swum in 3 or more different oceans?

    11. Have you ever flown an aeroplane?

    12. Have you broken 3 or more bones in your body?

    13. Have you done volunteer work sometime in the last month?

    14. Have you ever free-climbed a tree or rockface more than 10 meters vertically?

    15. Have you ever had a close relative who lived to over 100?

    16. Have you ever cooked a meal by yourself for more than 20 people?

    17. Have you ever kept a budgerigar as a pet?

    18. Have you ever been parachuting or done a bungee jump?

    19. Can you not click your fingers on your non-dominant hand?

    20. Have you ever seen a polar bear?


  • Participants can generate their own questions. Here's one way.  People are sitting in a circle. Everyone has a chair (or rope ring or hula hoop) except the person who is IT, standing in the center.

  • The person in the middle asks a "Have You Ever" question that is true for him/her self e.g., "have you ever climbed a mountain over 10,000 feet?"

  • Anyone whose answer is "yes" gets up and moves to an empty seat. So,if four people get up they try to exchange seats as quickly as possible. The person who asked the question tries to quickly gain a seat, leaving one other person without a seat and they become the new IT.

  • In choosing a question, participants can try for questions which reveal something e.g., “have you ever trekked the Great Wall of China?” or ask simple questions like “have you ever fallen off of a bicycle?” for which everyone would get up.

  • Pileup variation: Anyone can ask a question and if you can answer yes to the question you move one space to your right and sit in that chair. If you cannot answer yes to the question, you stay seated in the chair where you are. This means somebody may be coming to sit on your lap from the seat to your left. Sometimes you get three and four people sitting in sort of a lap-style game on top of you. Then, when they ask the next question to go one space to the right by answering yes, they peel off one at a time sit down and you end up on top. It creates some very interesting combinations. Physical touching reveals something about people and it breaks the ice so that people can then begin to feel more comfortable talking about and doing other novel things.

Write 3 words indicating something which is valuable to you in your life.

Find a partner-who is to guess what it means.

Eg. “24”- been married for 24 years..!

Change partner.

YES-NO is banned:

All students prepare 3 questions and get 5 small sheets of paper (points)

Ask the questions-but your partner is not allowed to answer YES or NO.

If he/she manages he/she wins a point (a sheet of paper) for the 3 questions.

Students are given short slots of time to make the game more exciting. They move on to another partner after having swopped their questions.

Fruit Salad

Line up alternate facing chairs-or chairs in a circle, one less than the number of children playing.( E.g. If there are 10 players, place 9 chairs).

Each child picks an item, learns the word and presents it to all in the class.

The “caller” (to start with it´s the teacher, after a few calls pupils alternate) –calls out two pupils who will swop chairs. He calls out the items they have chosen, and in between he calls “Fruit salad” and they all swop. The “slowest” pupil will be left without a chair!

Who are You?

2 people

Each is given a picture (covered up)

Ask questions until you´ve guessed each others identity. Provide questions according to level.

Two Truths and a Lie

Object of the Game: Guess which of the three "facts" is the lie.
Items Needed:

Note: This is a great icebreaker or get to know you game.

At their desks, ask your students to write down three sentences about their lives (or their summer vacations). Two of the sentences should be true and one should be false. Obviously, the more realistic your lie (or mundane your truths), the harder time people will have figuring out the truth

Example: The three things I could say about myself are, "I have been to Africa. I am allergic to horses. And I am one of 11 children." The people guess which of the three is not true. Then,when everyone has made their choice the person reveals the lie, "The lie is I am allergic to horses."

Fear in a Hat

Paper and pen/pencil per participant; Hat, tin or bag.

5 minutes + 1-2 minutes per participant, e.g., 15-20 minutes for a group of 10.

Brief description:
People write personal fears anonymously on pieces of paper which are collected.  Then each person reads someone else's fear to group and explains how the person might feel.

  • Set an appropriate tone, e.g., settled, attentive, caring and serious. 

  • The tone could be set by introducing the topic of fear and explaining how it is normal and natural at this stage of program that people are experiencing all sorts of anxieties, worries and fears about what might happen.  A good way of starting to deal with these fears is have them openly acknowledged - lay them on the table, without being subject to ridicule.  Having one's fears expressed and heard almost immediately cuts them in half.

  • Ask everyone, including the group leaders, to complete this sentence on a piece of paper (anonymously):
    "In this trip/group/program, I am [most] afraid that..." or "In this trip/group/program, the worst thing that could happen to me would be..."

  • Collect the pieces of paper, mix them around, then invite each person to a piece of paper and read about someone's fear.

  • One by one, each group member reads out the fear of another group member and elaborates and what he/she feels that person is most afraid of in this group/situation.  No one is to comment on what the person says, just listen and move on to the next person.
  • If the reader doesn't elaborate much on the fear, then ask them one or two questions.  Avoid implying or showing your opinion as to the fear being expressed, unless the person is disrespecting or completely misunderstanding someone's fear.  If the person doesn't elaborate after one or two questions, leave it and move on.

  • When all the fears have been read out and elaborated on, then discuss what people felt and noticed.

  • Can lead into other activities, such as developing a Full Group Contract, personal or team goal settings, course briefings which specifically tackle some of the issues raised, or into other activities in which participants explore their feelings and fears


  • Likes and dislikes - in two separate hats

  • Worries

  • Complaints

  • Wishes

  • Favourite moments

What's the Time Mr. Wolf?One player is the wolf and he/she will stand with his/her back turned to the others about 5 meters from the others. The others call out, "Whats the time Mr. Wolf" and the wolf turns to face the others and shouts out a time. Eg: 10 o'clock. The others would then take 10 steps toward the wolf. The group will take the same amount of steps toward the wolf as the amount of hours in the wolfs time. eg, 2 o'clock = 2 steps, 6 o'clock = 6 steps etc. etc. The wolf will then turn his back to the group again for them to yell "whats the time...." (He looks at the group only when he shouts the time at the group". When the group gets close to the wolf the next time the group yells "what´s the time Mr. Wolf" the wolf will say 'DINNER TIME" and run after the group who are running back to the start line, and hopefully catch one of the group who will then be the wolf. It sounds messy, but when played is an enjoyable.

Whispering Trees...

Get the students standing in a line. Stand at one end and whisper a short phrase or sentence in the ear of the student next to you. For example, you could say, 'My dad once met Bernard Cribbins in a bus queue in Dover.' Each student repeats the phrase to their neighbour until you get to the end of the line, when the last student tells the class the sentence they heard, and you can reveal what the original sentence was. A good game for practising listening and speaking skills.

Name & explain...

This is a good game for practising spelling furniture words and getting students to talk about their immediate environment. Split the class into two groups and give each group a pack of sticky labels. Their task is to write labels and stick them on twenty different things in the classroom. Spellings must be correct, and at the end of the game students must give you a tour of their labelled items, explaining what each object is.

A Capital Game...

Write a load of nouns on the board, both common nouns and proper nouns, but donít use capital letters. Vary the list of words to suit the level of your group, so for an elementary class you could write something like: 'table, usa, book, house, garden, england, philip, the times, shirt, ice cream, ...' and so on. The students split into two groups and compete to be the first to write the list of words again, but this time putting capital letters on the proper nouns (in this example, 'USA, England, Philip, The Times').

Interesting Articles...

Similar to 'A Capital Game', this involves writing plenty of different nouns on the board getting the class - in two teams - to discuss and write down whether there should be 'a' or 'an' before the word. This is a quick and easy game, intended for elementary students really, that allows the students to identify and practice the grammar rule for articles.

What Is Going On (In The World)...?

Probably better for an intermediate or advanced class, this one. Prepare twenty questions, based on what is happening in the news (be it local, national or world news). You could include spelling questions too, and questions about different members of the class, for example, 'Which country does Louisa come from?' Split the class into two teams and youíre ready to play. Give five points for a correct answer, and bonus points at your discretion for any extra information that the students give in their answer. If the first team doesnít know the answer, hand it over to the other team for a bonus point.

Ace Anagrams...
Based on the TV quiz game 'Countdown', students at all levels enjoy puzzling over this game. Itís also a good way to get them looking in their dictionaries. Your students suggest nine letters at random, either vowel or consonant, which you write on the board (or you could have cards with them on if youíre really organised!). In small groups the students have five minutes to come up with as many (real) words as they can from the original nine letters. The team with the most correctly spelt words gets a point, and the next round begins.
Another good letters-based game. Itís good because students can get up and lead this one just as well as the teacher. Itís also good because itís quick and can pull students together for a quick bit of group work just before going home. Think of a word or phrase and draw a number of dashes on the board that corresponds to the number of letters. The other students suggest one letter at a time. If they are correct you have to fill in the letter on the board in its correct place. If they are incorrect you draw part of the hangman shape. Students can take a guess if they know the word. The person who guesses correctly steps up to the board to think of a word for the next session.
My Butler Went To Meadowhall...

The title refers to Meadowhall shopping centre near Sheffield. The game is really just a version of My Grandmother Went To Market. Students sit in a circle, away from desks and paper, and so on. Tell the students that you teach because you love it and donít need the money as you are actually rather well off. In fact, you have a butler who goes up to Meadowhall for you every Friday to go shopping for you, and he gets you loads of different things. This week, however, you canít decide what to buy and ask the students to help you. You are going to make a list. Start with saying, 'My butler is going to Meadowhall on Friday and will buy me...(think of any item that you can buy in a shop)'. The next person has to say, 'Your butler is going to Meadowhall on Friday and will buy you...' whatever you said, plus an item of their own. The list goes around the circle until the last person has to remember the whole list of x number of items. Students will give prompts if other students are struggling. A good vocabulary game, as well as being fun and a test of the memory. Plus they get a laugh thinking about your (imaginary) butler.

Balloon Rodins...
Split the class into small groups and give each a large quantity of balloons and a roll of sticky tape. Their task is to create a fantastic balloon sculpture, which outshines those made by the other teams. After forty five minutes or so the groups come together and look at all the sculptures. Each team has to describe what their sculpture represents - and is welcome to elaborate on the principles of art that they have been influenced by...or not, as the case may be! Prepare for some explosive balloon fun in this team-building and communicative activity. Note: this activity works just as well with modelling clay.
Dead Heat...
The class needs to be in groups of around eight people. Lay out a finish line at one end of the classroom with no desks or chairs in the way. The students stand in a line, as if about to start a race. On your signal they either run or walk towards the finishing line. However, all the students must cross the line at exactly the same time. A fun and energetic warmer which encourages students to talk to each other - particularly when they keep getting it wrong. Give your teams several attempts at this and they should get it in the end.
What’s in the Bag...?

Have a 'lucky dip' style bag, or box, which you can use from time to time for this quick activity that draws the class together in mutual curiosity. Put something different in the bag (or box) each time, for example, a paper clip, or an orange. Students take it in turns to feel inside the bag (or box) - without looking - and then describe what the object feels like and what they think it is. This activity can easily be handed over to the students for them to facilitate among themselves, even using items that they have brought in from home.

What Is It...?

Get the class into two teams. Take one student from each class out of the room, give them both a whiteboard pen (or chalk stick, or marker, etc.) and give them the name of a book, TV show (for example The A Team), film, or famous person. They have to run back into the room and draw clues on the board, with the other students trying to guess the name that they have been given. Students love this game, and it gets rather loud as the students get more involved. Make sure your students are aware of the cultural references that you want to give them. The game can be played just as well using vocab sets such as, furniture, food, animals, and so on.

Get A Move On...

Split the class into two teams. Set a starting line and a finishing line. This is basically a slow-walking race, where both teams are competing to be the last to cross the finishing line. The only proviso is that everyone in the race must keep moving forward - just very slowly. Itís also good fun played with individuals in heats, building up to quarter finals, semi finals and a grand final. A fun team-building activity that will bring out the team dynamics of your group.

The Yes/No Game...

An old favourite from TV, this is great for practising question and answer forms. Get students up to the front of the class one at a time and ask them questions, about themselves, the weather, the school or college - anything. The student must reply verbally but cannot say the words 'Yes' or 'No'. If they do they are out. Ask someone to act at the timer (and as the 'gong' or 'buzzer' when each player slips up and is out), and write the times for how long each student managed to go without saying 'Yes' or 'No' on the board. If the students get the hang of this game they could play it in pairs, with one asking the questions and the other answering, before swapping over roles.

Audio Pictures...
Get the students into pairs, then give one half of the pair a picture from a magazine, for example, a man wearing a hat and coat and playing the piano. They have to describe what they can see, in detail, without showing the picture to their partner, who draws a sketch based on the description. At the end of the description they compare their pictures, before swapping roles. At the end of the session the whole class can see how close all the drawings were to their originals. A good activity for practising communication and listening skills, and giving descriptions.
The Instant Story Generator...

The whole group sits in a circle and comes up with a few story keywords, for example, a place, a manís name, a womanís name, an object, and so on. Tell the students they are going to tell a story as a group. Each student can only contribute one word at a time, before the story moves on to the next person. If the story reaches a natural break the student whose turn it is next can say 'Full stop' instead of carrying on. The story must include all the keywords that were agreed at the beginning. This is a great game for identifying sentence structure and bringing out grammar points, as well as letting the imagination run riot. A variation is to let each student contribute one sentence instead of just one word.

Our Living Photo Album...

Ask each student to bring in one or more photographs of something that is important to them, that you can keep to put into a class photo album. Give them time to prepare a two minute talk about their photograph, which could be, for example, of a place, or a family member or an event that has touched their life. Then sit in a circle with all the students and your 'living photo album' will come to life as each student in turn explains why their photo is important or memorable to them. You could make a display with the pictures, or literally fill an album with them that everyone can enjoy looking at. Explain that you will give the photos back at the end of the course (or even the end of the week). This is a good activity to help a relatively new group get to know each other.

Board Game Boffins...

As a project get the students working in pairs or small groups to design a new board game. They have to form a games 'company', then plan the concept and design of their game. After that they have to actually make a working prototype, which they test out, and which is then tested along with all the other ideas in a games tournament. Each company has to explain the reasons behind the design choices that they made in constructing their game. The students then all vote for their favourite games in categories such as: 'Most playable game', 'Game most likely to make a $million', 'Best design and construction', and so on.

Party Invitations...

The whole class sits in a circle. Tell them that itís your birthday next week and that youíre planning a birthday party. They are all invited...on one condition. They must bring you a present, and it must be something that you really want. Each student in turn tells you what they will bring to give you on your birthday. You will either tell them that they can come, or that they are not invited. This depends on what they offer to bring you. The item theyíre going to bring must begin with the same letter as your first name. If it does, they can come; if it doesnít, they canít. For example, if your name is Lucy and they offer to bring 'a lemon' as a present, they will be welcome. If they offer to bring 'a bottle of wine' they will be given short shrift! This game is hilarious, as some students will twig onto your 'unspoken rule' fairly early on, while some wonít get it at all, however obvious you make it!

Something's Different...

Get the whole class together. Ask one of them to leave the room, then get the remaining students to change five things about the classroom. For example, you could put a chair on a table, or get two students to swap jumpers, or anything - so long as itís not too subtle. Then bring the student back in and get them to guess what changes you have made.

What Am I...?

For this game you will need to put a sticker on the back of each student, with a noun written on it, for example, apple, chair, Wednesday, bathroom, or bottle of tomato ketchup. The students have to mingle with one another and ask questions of each other to find out 'What am I...?' Students can only reply with either 'Yes' or 'No'. When they have found out what they are they report to you and tell you what questions they had to ask in order to find out what noun they were. They could then go and write down the different questions. This also works when you use celebrity names instead of nouns - as long as all the students are aware of exactly who all the celebrities are. In my experience they will definitely know Tony Blair. And thatís about it! You could also use specific vocab sets such as countries ('Am I north of the equator, or south?'), or clothes ('Am I worn on the head?') The skyís the limit! Good for question forms and to get students talking.

Ten Things...

Get your students to leave the building and go out in small groups or pairs with the task of writing down 'Ten things you can see at...' various places near to your college or training centre. For example, they could write down ten things you can see at...the leisure centre, the shopping centre, the sports stadium, the post office, the doctors, the bus station, the railway station, the market, the funfair, and so on. Ask them to ensure their spellings are correct before coming back to you with their list(s). Of course you could always make it 'Fifty things you can see at...' if your group are particularly gifted - or you just want to get rid of them for the whole morning...!

What Shops Sell What...?

This is a similar exercise to 'Ten Things', in that the students leave the classroom in pairs or small groups and go around town for a couple of hours. They have to write down the proper names of as many shops as they can, along with a brief description of what you can buy at that shop. For example, 'Marks and Spencer - clothes and food', 'Debenhams - clothes, gifts, and perfume', until they have a list of around twenty shops. When the students get back they could write sentences about the shops, for example, 'At Marks and Spencer you can buy clothes and food'. This works well in the UK as an orientation exercise. It gets students to go into and have a look around shops that they might walk past every day but have never visited. You could always set the list of shops for your students to visit, ensuring a variety of types. Of course, it gives an opportunity to practise shopping vocab wherever you happen to be teaching.

Simon Says...

A party game that works well with English students as a way of practising listening to and understanding commands. The teacher says a number of simple commands, such as, 'Put your hands on your head', 'Stand on one leg' or 'Start humming', and the students have to do what you say - but only if you have prefaced the command with 'Simon says...' If you donít say 'Simon says...' and the student follows the command, they are out, and the game resumes until there is a winner!

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