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Getting to know you Games - 5 ESL Icebreakers

Updated on May 24, 2017

Teaching an ESL (English as a Second Language) class has its own challenges such as dealing with cultures of international students, having shorter classes, and building a rapport quickly. The most important part is starting the first day of class with some good icebreakers so everyone can get to know their classmates and then be able to participate in the class more easily.

Here are 5 easy ESL icebreakers for you to try.

1. Partner Interviews

In pairs students introduce themselves to their partner. Give them 15 minutes. After as a class everyone will introduce their partner.

2. Three Truths and A Lie

As the teacher, I write 4 sentences on the whiteboard about myself. Three are true statements and one is a lie. In pairs or groups students guess which of the following is a lie. As a class we discuss and students have a chance to ask me questions. After each group has given a chance to share their thoughts, I reveal which one is lie.

Then I ask students to take 10 minutes to write down 4 sentences about themselves on a piece of scrap paper.

In groups of 4 students read their sentences to their group and they discuss which one they think is a lie and their reasons why.

As a class, students share what was the most surprising, interesting truth or lie.

Which one of the sentences below is a lie?

See results

3. The Story of My Name

Students sit in a circle or semi-circle (horseshoe shape) to encourage open discussion. One by one students share what their name is, where they are from and what is the story of their name. Why were they given that name? What does their name mean?

4. Stranded on a Desert Island

Write the following on the whiteboard: You are stranded on a desert island. You can bring three things with you. What will you bring? Why?

Students write down their three things on a piece of paper individually first, then in groups of 4-6 students will discuss their ideas and as a group decide on what their top three things will be and the reasons why.

Groups present their ideas to the class.

5. Human Bingo

Give students a blank bingo template and have them write a getting to know you question in each square.  Or give students a pre-made bingo sheet with the questions already on it so you can get the students moving.  Students will then mingle and meet the other students in the class.  They ask each student only one question and write the student's name in the bingo box.  The first person who has completed the entire bingo sheet calls "BINGO".  After as a class, students can share one fact about a classmate. 

6. Who Am I?

Everyone writes down three facts about themselves on a piece of paper and do not put their name. This is best during the first day or week of class when the students do not know each other very well yet.

Example facts include: I was born in Hong Kong. This is my first time travelling to another country. I cannot swim.

Then they fold up the paper and put it in a hat or bag. A student will pick up one piece of paper and they have to ask questions to find out whose paper it belongs to. The students can write their questions on the back of the paper to help them.

Where were you born? Is this your first time travelling to another country? Can you swim? Is this your card? What is your name.

After they find their partner and are found, they can introduce the person on their card to the class.

Now you have 5 ESL Icebreakers for your first week of classes. One for each day of the week. An ESL icebreaker a day will get the students talking, laughing, and getting to know each other better.


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