Help your students get to know each other and feel more comfortable right from the start!
First days are stressful for students and teachers alike. Naturally, it’s a little difficult to feel at home in a classroom when there is a sea of new faces around you. Students usually worry about their English level and that they won’t be able to express themselves properly when they’re called on. Introductions are an essential first step to putting everyone at ease, but sometimes, talking about yourself while everyone is staring at you is the most anxiety-producing part of the first day! As teachers, using an icebreaker activity that varies from the traditional self-introduction can help students feel a lot more comfortable in your classroom.
Icebreaker activity: Interview a classmate
This is one of my favorite icebreaker activities because it gives students a chance to talk to just one person for a while before getting to know everyone else. I find my students are far more comfortable with a pair activity rather than with a group activity on the first day, and often they form instant friendships with the person they are paired up with.
Method for beginner/low-intermediate students:
1. Give students a list of questions, either on a handout or on the board.
- Suggestions: What’s your name? Where are you from? Do you have any brothers or sisters? Do you have any pets? What do you like to do in your free time? What do you do/what would you like to do in the future (job)? Do you prefer summer or winter? What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite movie? What kind of music do you like? Etc.
2. Put students into pairs.
3. Have them ask each other all the questions. Assign a time limit, such as 10–15 minutes.
4. If some students are finished quickly, encourage them to think of other questions to ask each other.
5. When everyone is finished, have each student introduce their partner to the rest of the class. You can allow them to give as much information as they want, but if you have a big class, you may want to limit their talking time by saying something like, “Tell us three interesting things that you learned about your partner.”
Method for high-intermediate/advanced students:
1. Put students into pairs.
2. Tell them they should get to know each other by asking any questions they’d like. Assign a time limit, such as 15–20 minutes.
3. If some students are finished more quickly than others, encourage them to continue their conversation by asking their partner to elaborate on something that they found interesting during the interview.
4. When everyone is finished, have each student introduce their partner to the rest of the class. You can allow them to give as much information as they want, but if you have a big class, you may want to limit their talking time by saying something like, “Tell us three interesting things that you learned about your partner.”
By using this method, I hope you and your students will feel relaxed and comfortable!