This list of back to school activities comes out a bit late, but you are a teacher – you know how the first school days in September look like. I am happy that I finally caught my breath and found a couple of minutes to sit down and put together this list of ESL icebreakers, warm ups, energizers and other fun activities.
To be honest, I’m doing it for myself because when I started planning my first lessons a couple of days ago, I realized I have to refresh my memory and prepare a list of activities I can do not only at the beginning of the school year but which I can use whenever I need a little filler, warmer or energizer.
1) Learn your students’ names
New class, new faces, new names – a mess. This activity has saved me multiple times. You can learn 30 new names in minutes, kids have fun and they painlessly learn new adjectives. Start by explaining how difficult it is for teachers to learn students’ names and that you need their help. At the end of the activity let them test you- they will be thrilled. Students need to introduce themselves by an adjective that starts with the same letter as their first name. You start by giving an example: My name is Al, so I am Artistic Al. The first student has to repeat your name after you – You are Artistic Al, and add their own – I am Hilarious Hannah. The second student repeats the previous names and adds their own, and so on. At the end of the round, ask the first student(who had the easiest task) to say all the names backwards. Finally, say all their names quickly(with or without the adjectives). Congrats, you’ve learned your new students’ names!
Have your students write a questionnaire. Chose a subject(summer holiday, school, hobbies, general personality questions) or let them decide. After that, students circulate the classroom and ask their questions. They should talk to 4-5 people. When they finish, ask them to share any interesting answers, it usually leads to lively discussions.
3) Find someone who
You can easily find tons of these worksheets online or just put together a couple of ideas.
-who doesn’t like chocolate.
-who is vegan.
-who has a tattoo.
-who speaks more than 2 languages.
-who’s never flown before.
-who wants to be famous.
-who has a special talent.
4) Vocabulary race
This is probably more suitable for younger kids. Put them into two teams, divide the board into two sections, give them a topic and let them run a relay with the marker to write as many words on the topic they know.
5) Get physical- Gordian knot
This activity doesn’t involve any language practice but it is great for kids who don’t know each other, to break the ice and create a positive atmosphere. It also shows you how the students communicate, who is a natural leader and how they deal with problems, so it’s quite useful.
You need an even number of students for this. The students stand in a tight circle. Tell them to close their eyes. Then they put their left hand in front of them and try to grab any free hand they can find. Eyes still closed. Repeat the same with the right hand. Eyes open. They should be intertwined – hence the Gordian knot. Without letting any hand go, they should untangle the knot and form a circle. Sometimes there are two or three smaller circles when they grabbed a hand right next to them. That’s ok, they will work it out after a couple of attempts.
6) One minute talk
This is a very simple, no-prep activity. In pairs, students give each other a topic to talk about and they have to talk uninterrupted for a minute. It is more difficult than it sounds, especially with dry topics such as door, socks, or air. If your students lack imagination, you can use these ideas: One Minute Talk Cards.
7) What do they have in common?
This is mostly an activity you can use with new students, but it can be also used in larger classes where the students don’t know each other that well. Put students who don’t know (or don’t know well) each other into pairs and tell them to find out 3-5 things they have in common and 1-2 things they don’t have in common. Let them talk to more people. After that, discuss with the whole class what surprising or interesting things they’ve found out about their classmates.
8) Online quizzes
If your students like technology, you can use some fun interactive activities. You can find a list of 10 great sites here: 10 Websites To Make Your Lessons More Engaging And Fun.
9) Vocabulary: taboo
A timeless classic! If you have time, you can make your own, if not try these:
10) Get them to know each other
A timer, fifteen questions and a lot of fun. A classroom appropriate variation of speed dating. Arrange the desks so that two students sit at one desk facing each other. Give each a set of “speed dating” questions. You can download a set here. Set a timer for a couple of minutes, and when the time’s up one student moves and another sits in their place.