ESL First Day of Class Games

The Name Game

ESL First Day of Class Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Young Learners - 20 minutes

This engaging introduction game is ideal for the first day of class and helps students get to know each other. In the game, students race to give basic personal information about themselves and repeat other students' information. 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 Ryan'. The first student then passes the ball to the second student. The second student repeats the first student's name and then says their own name, e.g. 'He's Ryan, and I'm Kate'. The second student passes the ball to the next student. The next student continues, e.g. 'He's Ryan. She's Kate, and I'm Amiko'. The game 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 the round and scores a point. Then, start with a different student and repeat the game with other personal information, e.g. age, height, etc. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
 

Trip to the Moon

ESL First Day of Class Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Young Learners - 15 minutes

Here is an entertaining way to get students to introduce themselves to the class. This introduction game works best with young learners. Begin the game by saying, "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 say: Hi, my name is... and I'm going to bring a/an/some... The students who are allowed to go are the ones who bring something that begins with the first letter of their name. However, don't explain this to the students. It's up to them to work it out! The first student then stands up and says, "Hi, my name is... and I'm going to bring a/an/some..." If the item doesn't match with the first letter of their name, say, "I'm sorry, you can't go." Then, 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 up their name. Eventually, most of the students will understand the game when they see that some students are allowed to go. You can also have the students give more information about themselves (e.g. their age, hobbies, etc) by adding to the text on the board.
 

My Life in Five Sentences

ESL First Day of Class Game - Reading, Writing and Speaking Activity - Elementary and above - 25 minutes

This is a great icebreaker activity for the first day of class to help students get to know each other. In the activity, students use sequence words to order information about a partner. Write five sentences on the board in a random order about interesting things you have done in your life. Then, write some sequence words on the board, e.g. first, second, then, after that, finally. Tell the students that the sentences on the board are things you have done in your life but the order is wrong. Have the students put the five sentences in the correct order using the sequence words on the board. The students can do this verbally or you can have them write the sentences. Then, ask the students for their sequence until someone gives you the right order. Next, tell the students to write five sentences in a random order about interesting things they have done. Tell the students to avoid writing sentences where the chronological order is obvious. When the students have finished writing, divide them into pairs. The students read 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 icebreaker more challenging by using more sentences, e.g. 'My life in ten sentences'. When everyone has finished, ask the students to give feedback to the class on the information they found out about their partner.
 

Secrets

ESL First Day of Class Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Elementary and above - 25 minutes

Here is a fun mystery game to play on the first day of class. The game motivates students to ask Wh questions and helps them learn interesting things about their classmates. Give each student a slip of paper. Tell the students to write their name and a secret about themselves on the paper. The secret should be something that is unknown to anyone in the class, such as a hidden talent, a skill, or accomplishment. After the students have written their secrets, collect in the slips. Read them and choose one slip that has an interesting secret on it. Next, 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. Go out of the classroom and tell the three students the secret on the slip and explain to them that they must all claim to have that secret. Bring the three students back in the classroom and sit them down in front of the class. Tell the class the secret and explain that the secret belongs to one of the three students. The students' task is to ask the three students Wh questions to determine which students are lying and which student is telling the truth. After a few minutes of questioning, the students vote for the person who they think is telling the truth. Award one point to the students who guess correctly. Then, choose another secret and repeat the process and so on. The student with the most points at the end of the game wins.
 

Snowball Fight

ESL First Day of Class Game - Reading and Writing Activity - Elementary and above - 25 minutes

Here is an inventive way for students to introduce each other on the first day of class. This game works best with younger students. Ask the students to write their name and five things about themselves on a piece of paper, e.g. their age, hobbies, etc. If you want to give the students more direction, write a short introductory text on the board for them to copy onto the paper and complete with their own information. Next, divide the students into two teams and have the teams stand facing each other at opposite sides of the classroom. Tell the students to crumple their paper into a snowball. Explain that the two teams are going to have a snowball fight. When you say 'go', the snowball fight commences. When you shout 'stop', anyone holding a snowball must open up the paper and find the person whose name is written inside. The student then introduces the person to the class using the information written on the paper in the third-person, e.g. 'His name is Joshua. He is 11 years old', etc. When the introductions have been made, the corresponding snowballs are removed from the game. The two teams continue the snowball fight until everyone has been introduced to the class.
 

Teacher's Question Time

ESL First Day of Class Game - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Elementary and above - 40 minutes

This fun icebreaker game can be used to introduce yourself and the course to a new class of students. The game also helps you gain insight into your students' level of English. Before you begin the game, don't give the students any information about yourself or the course. Tell the students to work alone and 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, put the students' names on the board. When everyone has prepared 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 is going to take on the role of the teacher and attempt to answer another student's questions. The student then tries to guess the answers to the questions asked by a classmate. It's important not to reveal how the game 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. If the student gives an incorrect answer, write an 'X' next to their score. The classmate asking the question should also mark an 'X' next to the corresponding question. The game continues with students taking it in turns to be the teacher and guess the answers to a classmate's questions until everyone has asked and answered one set of questions. The student with the most points at the end of the game wins. Afterwards, tell the students to ask you the questions marked 'X' that were left unanswered.
 

ABC

ESL First Day of Class Game - Writing, Listening and Speaking Activity - Any Level - 20 minutes

You can use this card game on the first day of class to help students introduce themselves. The game works best with small class sizes. Give each student 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, students write their favourite TV programme and type of music. You can change the information the students write on their cards, depending on their level and your chosen language focus. When the students have finished writing, take all the cards back and shuffle them together. Next, sit the students in a circle and hand out three cards to each student. If a student receives one of their own cards back, exchange it for another. Each student should have three cards that other students have written. One student begins by asking the person on their right to swap one, two or three cards with the student sitting to their right or left. Then, the next student does the same and so on. This continues until one student gets their three cards back. When this happens, the student says "ABC." All the students then place both hands in the middle of the circle. The last student to do this loses 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. 'Hello everyone. My name is Toby Smith. I'm 12 years old', etc. The student then leaves the game. 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'. The student then has to repeat the names and information of all the students that have introduced themselves. The game continues until all the students have introduced themselves to the class.
 

Two Truths and a Lie

ESL First Day of Class Game - Writing, Listening, and Speaking Activity - Any Level - 20 minutes

This fun first day of class ice breaker can be used to either introduce yourself to a new class or for students to get to know one another. There are two versions of this game. One version is played between the teacher and the class and in the other students play in small groups. In the teacher to class version, divide the students into teams of four or five. Present the first set of 'Two Truths and a Lie' statements. The students then race to answer by raising their hands. The first student to raise their hand guesses which statement is a lie. If the student guesses correctly, award one point to their team. If they guess incorrectly, subtract two points from their team. Go through all the categories of statements. The team with the highest number of points at the end wins the game. In the student to student version, students prepare three or four categories of 'Two Truths and a Lie' statements. In small groups, students then take it in turns presenting a category of statements. The other students then call out their guesses. The first student to guess correctly scores one point. The game continues until all the students have presented their statements. The student with the most points wins the game. As a follow up, students report back to the class the three or four things they learnt about one member from their group.
 

Who am I?

ESL First Day of Class Game - Speaking Activity - Any Level - 20 minutes

Here is an excellent game for the first day of class. This game helps you to introduce yourself to the class and gives you insight into your students' level of English. 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, e.g. 1. London, 2. steak, etc. Next, divide the students into two teams (A and B). Tell the class that on the board is information about yourself. Explain that the aim of the game is for teams to choose a number and ask a question that they think matches with the answer on the board. Tell the students that for some answers many questions may be possible, but only one question is correct. Teams then take it in turns to choose a number and ask a question. Teams score one point for the correct question and one point for using the correct grammar. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
 
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