Get Your Students Talking With ESL Icebreaker Games

Updated on: January 31, 2019

In this article, we’ve outlined 6 of the best icebreakers to liven up the atmosphere in your classroom.

1. What are ESL icebreaker games?

Classroom icebreakers are games that can help the students in an ESL class get to know each other and their teachers.

These icebreakers are designed to be fun and engaging. They are meant to encourage students to interact with each other and learn English at the same time.

2. 6 ESL Icebreaker Games for Kids

ESL Icebreaker Game #1: Paper Planes

To play this icebreaker game for kids, tell your students to follow these steps:

  1. Write 3 to 5 facts about themselves on a piece of paper.
  2. Make a paper airplane.
  3. Fly the paper airplane towards the center of the room.
  4. Each student should pick up the plane that landed next to them, unfold it, read the facts and try to guess whom these facts belong to.

You can also adjust this fun icebreaker game to the subject of your lesson. For example, if the subject is food, the students can write 3 to 5 their favorite meals.

ESL Icebreaker Game #2: Concentric Circles

This type of easy icebreaker game is played in the following way:

  1. Divide your class into two groups.
  2. In the middle of the room, form two circles, one inside the other. Each student should facing one partner.
  3. Ask an icebreaker question and give the students a chance to answer.
  4. After one minute, call out “Rotate!”
  5. The inner circle should move one spot clockwise, so the students should be facing a new partner.
  6. Repeat steps 3 to 5 until the students are back facing their first partner.

ESL Icebreaker Game #3: World Map

This ESL icebreaker is suitable for an international classroom. For this game, you will need a paper map of the world and a set of pins. And here’s how to play:

  1. Give each student a pair of pins of different colors.
  2. Ask each student to mark the place where they are from with one pin, and the place where they want to go with another.
  3. When all pins are in place, the class tries to guess who placed each pin on the map.

Again, you can adjust this activity to the subject that you are currently teaching in the class. For example, you can ask the students to use modal verbs in order to guess the countries, such as “[name] might be from [country]” or “[name] could have marked [country]”.

ESL Icebreaker Game #4: Corners of the Room

These ESOL icebreakers are aimed at listening comprehension and would be more suitable for intermediate and advanced students. Here are the instructions:

  1. Mark the corners of your classroom with numbers from 1 to 4.
  2. Ask the icebreaker questions, such as the students’ favorite foods or sports.
  3. Give the students four answer choices, one per each corner of the room. For example, if you’re asking about favorite sports, you might give them these choices: 1. Ball games 2. Cycling 3. Water sports 4. Winter sports.
  4. The students should move to the corners that are closest to their answers.

As a result, the students see what they have in common and thus get to know each other better. While playing they can use it as a vocabulary game for terms in your current lesson plan.

ESL Icebreaker Game #5: Deserted Island

This simple and fun icebreaker for kids needs no preparation. Here’s how you play:

  1. Tell your students to imagine that they are trapped on a deserted island. To make the game livelier and make the students’ imagination work, you can show them some pictures of deserted islands.
  2. Give them some time to think of five items that they would take to the deserted island. You can start the game yourself by naming your five items.
  3. Ask the students to explain why they want to take exactly these items. You can set an example by your own explanation of your five items.

Again, you can adjust the game and make it more challenging by asking the students to use the new vocabulary for the items and explanations.

ESL Icebreaker Game #6: Multipurpose

  1. Choose one object for your students, such as a broom.
  2. Divide your class into pairs or groups.
  3. Ask each group to come up with as many alternative and fun usage examples as they can for this object. For example, a broom can be used as a vehicle, like in Harry Potter.

This article is used with permission from VIPKid.

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