Tuesday, January 5, 2016


Each term I go through lists of icebreakers, recycling old ones and trying out new ones. In this blog post I outline a few of the ones I've used. If you have suggestions, feel free to add your comments to this post.

Worst/Best Class I Have Ever Had

  1. Put class into groups of 3-4 students. Consider assigning a group leader, notetaker and a reporter. 
  2. Split the whiteboard/chalkboard into two sections. On the first section write "The worst class I have ever had." On the second panel, write at the top "The best class I have ever had." Under each of these headings write "What the teacher did" and "What the students did."
  3. Have students come up with their examples and stories for the different parts. Walk around the classroom and monitor group participation and involvement. I had the groups only focus on one section at a time rather than both the good and bad behavior at the same time. 
  4. Call on groups to volunteer some of their examples for each section and write it on the board. 
  5. Finally, explain to the class that the aspects under the "best class I have ever had" is our goal for the term. However, it is going to take a mutual agreement that they need to do their part in order for me to do mine. 

I tried this icebreaker out in an intermediate level academic listening/speaking course at INTO OSU. This icebreaker functions in a similar way as a class contract, but is good for getting students talking to each other right from the beginning of the class. I also like it as a nice introduction to group activities.

Side note: During this activity one of my female students related a story about her worst teacher she ever had who called her up in front of the class to write an answer on the board and called her "stupid" when she couldn't answer. Then the teacher later hit her over the head with a book!
This activity is fairly simple to set up. Have each student take 3 pieces of paper and write some interesting facts about themselves. They then crumple up the papers into snowballs and have a snowball fight. Students gather up a snowball and identify the person who the snowball belongs to and introduces that person to the class and their snowball paper. Then the student who was introduced follows the same routine and so on until all the snowballs have been used.

Interviews: Break Down First Day Barriers

I got this activity off of Dave's ESL Cafe's Idea Cookbook. I was teaching a high level listening and speaking course and wanted something that gave students a bit more autonomy from the beginning of the course. I designed a short handout to accompany the activity where students came up with a subject, the questions, and then answers. I asked them to interview at least 2 different students. Then they were asked to present them to the class. As this was their first class meeting, I then asked them to each think of one question in order to better get to know me. It could be from their list of questions or an entirely new one. I felt this activity really solidified the classroom community feel and it also allowed them the freedom to get to know things about their teacher they were genuinely interested in. 

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