First Lesson: Low Level Ice-Breaker

Levels: beginner to low pre-intermediate. Teachers with higher level classes might want to use my friend Jackie’s interview lesson, which you can find here.
Ages: teens; adults
Type: conversational; “breaking the ice”
Skills: listening; speaking; pronunciation (intonation patterns and individual sounds).
Language focus: introductions; any grammar and vocab that arises.

Preparation: copy about four sheets of this worksheet per student. Then cut up some of the sheets so you have up to three rectangles (each containing one speech bubble) per student, and up to three for yourself.

Procedure:

  1. Distribute the cut-up paper, a maximum of three pieces per student. Keep up to three for yourself as well.
  2. Everyone must say one thing about themselves for each piece of paper they have (teacher should go first, to demo the activity).
  3. Pair the students and ask them to try to remember what everyone said, and write it down on the sheets of paper you didn’t cut up. They can write down what they said as well.
  4. Invite each student to pick ONE thing they said, which they’d like everyone in the class to remember.
  5. Each pair passes their paper to the pair on their left.
  6. Each student stands up and says the one thing they’d like to remember about another student. As they speak, the teacher writes what they said on the board, word for word (don’t worry about mistakes at this stage). Students look for this thing on the paper in front of them. If it’s written down, they write a tick on the paper. Make sure you say one of your sentences as well – many students will have forgotten to write down anything about you, which can be funny for them when they realise!
  7. After each student has said their thing, pairs add up the points and give the paper back to the pair who wrote on it.
  8. Teacher tallies up the points on the board.
  9. Still in pairs, students look at the sentences on the board. They decide what corrections (if any) they would make to each sentence.
  10. Explain that you will point to a sentence; if students want to change it, they shout “yes!” If they think it’s a good sentence, they shout “yes!” The pair who shout first say if the sentence is good, or to change it if they want. Allocate points if they’re right. If they are wrong, another pair can correct them and get the points.
  11. Play the game, giving points as appropriate and changing the board so all the sentences are correct.
  12. Invite students to write down any (corrected) sentences from the board – ones that they want to remember.
  13. If time, students could then work in new groups of 3 or 4 and write a dialogue using sentences from the board, as well as any other sentences they want to add. The teacher can monitor and help with language as they do this. Groups can then practice, and then perform their dialogues, trying to get as much energy as they can into them. Listening students can draw a mark on a piece of paper each time they hear a sentence from the board. How many boarded sentences did they hear?

Note: the inspiration for this idea came from this page at the Internet TESL Journal (see their “Toilet Paper Ice-Breaker”!).