ESL Icebreakers for All Ages and Abilities
The following is a list of ESL icebreaker activities for students of all ages and abilities. This page is constantly being updated, so please check back for more fun and interesting icebreaker activities for the ESL classroom. If you would like to suggest an activity that works for you, please use the contact form to get in touch. I’ll include a link to your web site on all of my ESL pages.
Icebreakers are activities that are generally used during the first class to help students relax, get acquainted, and establish goals. These activities can be a fun and interesting way to jumpstart your class.
ESL Icebreaker Activities for zero-beginners: 3-6 years of age
There’s no doubt about it. These classes can be rough when it comes to the first few weeks of class. Not only are the little tykes traumatized about being in a new classroom, but they’re also being taught by a big, scary, strange-looking teacher they can’t understand. Count yourself extremely lucky if you make it through the first class without anyone crying or throwing a temper tantrum, and don’t feel bad if it happens.
l Teach your students a simple little song and dance with hand gestures. A great online resource for teaching with music is Super Simple Songs.
ESL Icebreaker Activities for beginners or low-intermediate: 6-10 years
Name-based activities such as the English Name Game always work well with small groups of students. Ask your students to sit in a circle. Ask a student to begin by saying his/her name. The next student says his/her name and repeats the name of the previous student. Keep going around in a circle until someone makes a mistake. Repeat.
The Musical Hand Shake
is a lot of fun for younger kids. Play some music and ask the students to walk around the room shaking other student’s hands. Stop the music. Each student should be shaking hands with someone else. The students have to ask each other a simple question. Start playing the music again. Students have to ask a different question each time the music stops. They should find someone new each time. At the end of the game, ask them if they can remember what they found out about each other.
ESL Icebreaker Activities for high school intermediate-language learners: 12+ years
Who am I? is a super-fun game that most kids can relate to. Bring some Post-It notes to class and ask each student to write down the name of a famous person. Collect the Post-It notes and redistribute them among the classroom by putting a note on each student’s back or forehead. The game begins with a student asking yes-or-no questions about the name on his or her Post-It note.
Me Too is a fun game that works well with small and large groups. Have everyone sit together in a circle. Everyone in the group gets 10 poker chips/pennies/paper clips etc. Start the game by saying something that you have done. For example: I have gone skating. Everyone who has gone skating throws one poker chip in the middle of the table and repeats the sentence. Go around the circle until everyone has had a chance to say something. Continue the game until someone runs out of poker chips.
ESL Icebreaker Activities for advanced learners: 14+ years
Older students and adults can be difficult to engage in conversation at first. They don’t like to play games, they are generally there for a very specific learning goal, and they don’t want to waste valuable time. Another thing to keep in mind is that with these kinds of classes, the learning level of each student usually varies dramatically. If you can, try to do some homework on your students ahead of time.
One way to begin class is to hold a general Q&A session. Everyone in the class asks you a question. Answer the questions and then have them write down as many things as they can remember about you. Collect their notes. This simple activity helps you learn about your students’ listening and writing skills.
Please visit Wandering Educators for more ESL icebreaker activities.