First Day ESL Introduction Games
Age/Level: Any Time: 15 to 20 minutes Players: Individual Preparation: 3 blank cards or pieces of paper for each student
Aim: To help students introduce themselves to the class
You can use this card game on the first day of class to help students introduce themselves. This introduction game works best with small class sizes.
Each student is given three blank cards.
On the first card, students write their name, surname and age.
On the second card, the students write four adjectives to describe their physical appearance and personality.
On the third card, they write their favourite TV programme and type of music.
You can change what information the students write on their cards, depending on their level and your chosen language focus.
When the students have finished writing, take back all the cards from the students and shuffle them together.
Next, sit the students in a circle and hand out three cards to each student.
Each student should have three cards that other students have written.
One student starts and tells the person on their right to swap one, two or three cards with the student sitting to their right or left.
Students should always have three cards in their hand.
Then the next student does the same and so on around the circle.
This continues until one of the students gets their three cards back.
When this happens, the student says “ABC”, and all the students place both their hands in the middle of the circle.
The last student to do this gets penalized and gets the letter ‘A’.
The student who got all their cards back introduces themselves to the class using the information they wrote on their cards, e.g. My name is Toby Smith. I’m thirteen years old, etc. The student then leaves the game and becomes a spectator.
The game continues until all the students have introduced themselves.
If a student is the last person to put both hands in the circle a second time, they get a letter ‘B’. If this happens a third time, they get a letter ‘C’ and have to repeat the names and information of all the students that have introduced themselves.
My Life in Five Sentences
Age/Level: Elementary and above Time: 20 minutes Players: Pairs Preparation: None
Aim: To practice sequence words and find out interesting information about a partner
This is a great ice-breaker activity to play with new students on the first day of class.
Write five sentences on the board about interesting things you have done in your life.
Tell the students that the sentences on the board are things you have done in your life but the order is wrong.
Ask the students to put the five sentences in the correct order using words that express sequence, i.e. first, second, then, after that, finally.
The students can do this verbally or you can have them write the sentences.
Ask various students for their sequence until someone gives you the correct order.
Next, tell the students to write five sentences about interesting things they have done. Tell the students to avoid writing sentences where the chronological order is obvious.
When they have finished, divide the students into pairs.
The students look at their partner’s sentences and try to put them in the right order using sequence words.
If the order is wrong, the student tries again until they get it right.
You can make this ice-breaker more challenging by using more sentences, e.g. My life in ten sentences.
When the students have finished, get feedback from around the class about any interesting information students found out about their partner.
Age/Level: Elementary and above Time: 25 minutes Players: Individual Preparation: None
Aim: To ask questions to determine who is telling the truth
This is a fun mystery game to play on the first day of class. This game motivates students to ask questions. The students also get to find out interesting things about their classmates.
Hand out a slip of paper to each student.
Tell the students to write their name on the paper.
Then, ask the students to write down a secret about themselves.
The secret could be anything, such as a hidden talent, a skill, accomplishment or a place they have visited. However, it should be something that is unknown to anyone in the class.
Collect the slips. Read them and choose one slip that has an interesting secret.
Then, ask three students to stand up and go out of the classroom. One of the three students must be the person who wrote the secret you have chosen.
Go out of the classroom with the students and explain to them that they must all claim to have the secret.
Bring the three students back and sit them down in front of the class.
Tell the class the secret. The class then has to question the three students to determine which two are lying and which one is telling the truth.
After about five minutes of questioning, the students vote on who is telling the truth and who is lying.
Award points to the students who guess correctly and then play another round.
Age/Level: Young learners Time: 25 minutes Players: Individual Preparation: Recycled paper
Aim: For students to introduce other members of the class
Here is an inventive way for students to introduce each other on the first day of class. This game works best with children.
Give each student a piece of recycled paper.
Ask them to write their name and five things about themselves on the paper.
Then, split the class into two teams and have them stand facing each other at opposite sides of the classroom.
Tell the students to crumple up their paper into a snowball.
When you say go, the snowball fight commences.
When you shout stop, anyone who is holding a snowball must go and find the person whose name is on the paper and introduce them to the class using the information written inside.
Students continue the snowball fight until everyone has been introduced to the class.
You could also use this activity to review a topic by writing a question on each piece of paper. Then, when you shout stop, anyone holding the snowball must answer the question written inside.
Teacher's Question Time
Age/Level: Any Time: 40 minutes Players: Individual Preparation: None
Aim: To write and respond to questions about the teacher
Here is a fun icebreaker to play with a new class of students. This activity is an entertaining and intriguing way to introduce yourself to the class. It also provides the students with a chance to write and respond to a variety of questions.
Before you begin the activity, don’t give the students any information about yourself.
Begin by asking the students to write some questions that they would like to ask you. The questions can be about anything they want to know about you or the course.
If you have a large class, ask each student to write three questions. If it is a small class, ask each student to write five.
While the students are writing the questions, write the students’ names on the board.
When the students are ready with their questions, ask a student to come to the front of the class. Tell the class that the student at the front of the class will now play the role of the teacher and attempt to answer the questions of another student.
The student then tries to guess the answers to the questions asked by another classmate.
It’s important not to reveal how the activity works until the students have written all their questions as this may affect the questions the students write.
While the student is answering the questions, you keep score.
The student scores one point for a correct (or close enough) answer.
Write an X for any incorrect answers. If a student gets an X, the classmate asking the question should also mark an X next to the corresponding question.
The students take it in turns to be the teacher and guess the answers to another classmate’s questions until everyone has asked and answered a set of questions.
The Name Game
Age/Level: Young learners Time: 10 to 15 minutes Players: 2 teams Preparation: Two balls
Aim: For students to get to know one another's names
This ESL introduction game is ideal for the first day of class and helps young learners get to know each other in a fun and imaginative way. This game is also great for teaching pronouns.
Arrange the students into two teams and sit each team in a circle.
Tell the teams that they are going to race each other to say everyone's name in their team.
Give the first student in each team a ball. The first student begins by saying their name, e.g. I'm Tom.
The first student then passes the ball to the second student.
The second student repeats the first student's name and then adds their own name, e.g. He's Tom, and I'm Kate.
The second student passes the ball to the next student.
The next student continues, e.g. He's Tom. She's Kate, and I'm Amiko.
This continues until all the names have been said.
If a student forgets the name of a teammate, the team starts over from the first student.
The first team to finish wins a point.
You can carry on the game with other personal information, e.g. age, height, etc.
Trip to the Moon
Age/Level: Young learners Time: 15 minutes Players: Individual Preparation: None
Aim: To say an item that begins with the first letter of your name
Here is an effective game to help students remember their classmates' names. This introduction game works best with young learners.
The aim of the game is for students to join a trip to the moon. Tell the students that you are a spaceship captain and you are going to travel to the moon. You want some students to join you, but each student must bring something for the trip.
To begin the game you say, “I’m the captain of a spaceship. I’m going on a trip to the moon. Who wants to go with me and what are you going to bring?”
Then, write the following sentence on the board for the students to follow:
My name is ________ and I will bring a/an/some ________.
The students who are allowed to go are the ones who will bring something that begins with the first letter of their name. However, you don’t explain this to the students. It’s up to them to work it out!
The first student then stands up and says, “My name is ________ and I will bring a/an/some ________."
If the item doesn't match the first letter of their name, you say, "I’m sorry, you can't go." Then, you move on to the next student.
If a student manages to work it out or accidentally says an item matching with the first letter of their name, you accept them on board and write their name on the board.
Eventually, most of the students will understand the game when they see that some of the students are allowed to go.
Who am I?
Age/Level: Any Time: 20 minutes Players: 2 teams Preparation: None
Aim: To ask questions about the teacher
Play this fun ESL icebreaker on the first day of class. It's a great game to get the students asking questions. It also helps to introduce the teacher to the students and helps identify who are the strong and weak students. This introduction game can be played by students of all ages. This game is useful as it gets your new students to open up and start asking questions from the very first day of class.
Before you start the game, cover the board with information about yourself. Next to each piece of information write a number. The type and amount of information you write will depend on the level of your class (see an example in the PDF below).
Divide the students into two teams (A and B).
Tell the class that on the board is information about you.
Tell the students that the objective of the game is for teams to choose a number and ask a question that they think matches the answer on the board.
Teams then take it in turns to choose a number and ask a question.
Teams score one point for asking the correct question and one point for using the correct grammar.
The winning team is the one with the highest number of points at the end.
Explain that for some answers many questions may be possible, but only one question is correct.
For example, you have written the colour blue as one answer.
Teacher: What number would you like Team A?
Team A: Number 2 please. What is your favourite colour?
Teacher: Sorry, that's the wrong question. My favourite colour is green. What number would you like Team B?
Team B: Number 2 again. What colour are your eyes?
Teacher: Correct. Well done. Two points for Team B. That's the correct question and the grammar is correct. (The teacher crosses off number 2 from the board) What number would you like Team A?
Team A: Number 8 please. How long have you been teaching English? Etc.