For many teachers, though the school year might have just ended – the joy of summer school classes is about to start.  Or may have already, but I think lessons at my habitual summer haunt are due to begin on Monday morning – I’m not there this year, so not sure.

In any event this post contains a collection of getting to know you type activities / ice-breakers or first lesson warmers for you to choose from.  If you started teaching summer school last week – sorry about the delay – but you can probably use these or adapt these as warmer or lead in type activities – so it might still be useful!

A little guidance:  the activities listed towards the top are intended more for younger learners and the ones closer to the base are more for older learners.

Acknowledgement:  This is a collection of stuff drawn together from the last nine years so my thanks to all those colleagues who shared ideas in that time.  Two in particular need a special mention –  James Lambie gave an input seminar on “first lessons” in Katowice in 2004 at which I took copious notes – Sarah Robbins worked with me on running a seminar on the same topic in Coimbra about two years ago and provided many of the younger learner based ideas contained within.

So – here it all is!

Baseball Cards: Learners draw a picture of themselves and write their name and age on one side of the card. They turn the card over. The teacher asks them some questions and they either write or draw the answers on the back. Stick the cards up around the room face side down (and numbered?) Learners read all the cards and guess which answers are which learners’ (and write answers on a worksheet?). Higher levels can interview a partner and make cards about them.

Shields: An old favourite.  Learners have a “shield” outline divided into quarters.  Teacher dictates a question e.g favourite colour/dream job depending on level etc.  Learners fill in shield with their ‘answers’ to the questions. Either put up round the room for people to guess who is who and/or get another learners to write a profile of someone else based on their shield. You could make flags instead just to vary it a bit…

Hands: The same idea but learners trace round their hand on coloured paper. As in the other ideas they write the answers to questions on their fingers. Use to make a “class tree” to display them.

Name Poems:  Learners write their name vertically and write a word beginning with each letter of their name.  Alternatively they can draw a pictorial representation which the other learners can then “decode”.

Rabbits/Wizards: Learners write their names on a picture and colour, decorate etc.   These then all get put in an envelope and each lesson one is picked out to decide who chooses the magic word for the class. Remove from any chosen names from the envelope so that everyone gets a turn.  Can also pick more than one name to decide who gives out papers, presses play on the tape recorder etc.  A very simple idea but cuts down on bickering and the kids really get into it.  Especially useful with primary age children / larger young learner classes.

Interests Faces –  Learners create “faces” by drawing /collaging things they like /hobbies etc.  Other learners can guess what the pictures represent etc.

Ordering –Again not very new but works as a quick warmer/ice breaker.  Learners in two teams race to order themselves according to age, shoe size, number of letters in their names, alphabetically by best friend’s first name etc.  Can be competitive or not.

TPR – You’ll probably be using lots of TPR to practice classroom language and objects but this is another variation for higher level classes. You ask q’s and s’s respond by doing the action. However, they need to watch the other people in the class to see what they do. At the end the you put learners in teams and quiz them based on their observations e.g name one person who can play the piano…Suggested actions: If you have a brother, clap.” If you have a a dog put your right hand on your head.” “If your  favourite sport is football, stand on one foot.”

Snowball Fight – Learners write five things about themselves on a piece of paper. Then they crumple the paper up into a ‘snowball’ and have a one-minute snowball fight. At the end of the minute, everyone grabs the closest snowball and has to try to find the person who wrote it. They could then introduce that person to the rest of the group, sharing the facts/ask more q’s and write about the person etc…..

Memory Quiz – Learners stand facing a partner and remember everything about their appearance for 30 seconds then one person turns around while their partner answers questions about them e.g What colour are his eyes…

Guess Who – Write 10/12 facts about someone famous on different pieces of paper as if they were answering e.g I have two children. I used to live in America but now I live in London. (Obviously difficulty depends on level).  Learners in teams. You hold up an answer and they race to write the correct question on a piece of scrap paper and hold it up…. 3 points for the first team 1 point for every team with a correct question. At the end of the task put all the answers on the floor the first team to correctly identify who the answers are for wins a bonus 5 points Go through any errors with question formation ….this leads nicely into any interviewing/profile writing activity as they can use the questions to interview each other or….

Interview the teacher – Good for classes who’ve been together for ages but don’t know you. Put s’s in teams of 3.   Learners think of a question, one learner races to the front and asks you the question, runs back to their team and tells them the answer. They write down the answer and tell the runner the next question which they were thinking of in the meantime. To speed things up I usually say that the first team to get 12 facts about me wins. The proviso is that I will only answer each question once so every team should have different facts. After they have their 12 facts they then write a profile of you including 15 facts. 3 of which are lies. (At this point you might have to go around letting the slower teams who didn’t get 12 facts, ask you a couple more questions).  Number the profiles, put them on the wall and the s’s walk around reading them and writing down the 3 lies. S’s reveal their guesses and the authors tell them if they are correct the people who spot the most lies “win”. (With Guess Who this is a whole lesson).

Find someone who Bingo  – As for “find someone who” but you write the categories on a grid. 1st person to get a line of 6 (or, if you’re feeling evil, complete the whole grid) wins. NB make it clear you have to have 6 different people!

Guess the Question – Stick an icebreaker question on everyone’s back. As learners mingle everyone else answers the question on their back without telling them what it is. They have to figure out what the question is.

What do you know about…?   Again good for learners who know each other or in the second lesson as a follow up to the getting to know you activity you did in the 1st class. One learner at the front. Everyone in teams.You ask everyone a question about that person. The learner at the front secretly writes their answer and everyone else writes what they think is their answer. The teams reveal their answers then the learner at the front reveals the “correct” answer. One point for every “correct” answer.

Crossword Names – Either student created in the first lesson or, if you’re feeling keen, teacher created later in the week / course. Basically learners ask questions and then write clues to create a crossword for and about the class. Or the teacher uses what they know about the learners to do the same. e.g 1 down – a student with 6 brothers who hates cats. Obviously watch out for things like: 5 down “a fat student who smells”

Knowledge Races – Cut up a load of questions from a workbook at a level below the level of the class or just create questions they should know. Divide learners into teams, they take one question, answer it, show you the answer, get the next… Just like a reading race. Quite useful way to find out gaps in their knowledge early on and can be very confidence building….

Clouds & Questions:   Learners draw six cloud shapes on a bit of paper.  Get learners to tell you topic areas you might talk to someone about when you meet them for the first time (e.g.hometown, job, hobbies etc).  They write down the areas in the cloud shapes and put their names at the top.  Learners then swap papers.  They then have to find out about the person whose paper they have, BUT are not allowed to talk to that person directly and can only use one intermediary per question.  For example:  Sarah must find out about Dave, and needs to get Alexis, Neil, Jamie,  Regina, Lidia, Jane and Anna to ask Dave her questions and report back to her.

Self-Directed Interviews:  write up five (fun / funny) questions on the whiteboard that you’re happy to answer.  Nominate random learners to ask you the qus.  Give out some scrap paper and get learners to write down five questions they would be happy to be asked.  EITHER pair them off and let them ask each other OR carousel the class (inner & outer wheels)

Mix & Match Identities:  Like a consequences / round the room story writing task.  You ask learners a series of questions and they write short answers, passing on the answer paper after each question.  Ask the same number of questions as you have learners and they should get their own paper back with some interesting biographical information!  They can then find out who wrote what on their bit of paper.

OK – I think that’s all for now.  Any questions of clarifications needed – let me know!