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Warmers and Ice-breakers

January 26, 2009

Hello again,

Somebody has asked me if I think ice-breakers are a waste of time. Well, frankly, no, I don’t think they are. There are two situations when I find them very useful.

When a group meets for the first time...

... the ice-breaking activity helps people to relax and to get to know each other in a non-threatening situation. People are often anxious when they join a group of strangers. They don’t know how well they will perform in relation to the others, they don’t know what the teacher will expect of them. I think the best ice-breakers for a new group are those that involve physical movement to help everyone loosen up. However, don’t go straight into the “human knot” game because they need to feel comfortable about physical contact before you try that!. A good one is to have the group in smaller sub-groups with one person in each as the reporter. Each group has to find out what they have in common: not things they can all see but subtler things (we all like cheese). Then re-form the groups until you get to the point of finding out what the entire group has in common. This means they have to move about and mingle and decide on a strategy for getting the information (likes, dislikes, family, holidays, hobbies, etc.).

The other time I find brief warmers useful is first thing in the morning or just after lunch. This is when some people always drift in late and so you have a messy start to the main activity. By spending a few minutes on a warmer, you can make sure everybody is there for the main tasks. These are some of my favourite warmers:
• Room 101
• Ask each person to name three things they really dislike and wish they could lock away into Room 101 forever. I sometimes start the ball rolling myself as clients may need a few moments to think of the things they really wish they could lose form their lives.
• Describe three things
• Ask each person to describe a person who influenced them in childhood, a place they really love and the most interesting journey they have ever made.
• Three favourites
• Ask each person to name their favourite colour, book and piece of music.
• Three gizmos
• Ask each person to name the three gadgets that they find most helpful—at home or at work.
• Three historical figures
• Ask each person to name three historical people they would have liked to have been able to meet and why.

Why not share some of your favourites with us?

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  1. susan Says:

    I like to teach a magic trick as a vehicle to learn english and have them come up and perform. you can google simple magic tricks and teach one of these.
    I like to get two sides in a contraversial quesiton and have them debate. Could be as simple as who they think is the best singer, athelete etc
    Games like Family Feud questions, or guess the meaning of an idiom by groups with four choices are also fun...

  1. samuel salami Says:

    why is it that all companies that are employing teachers in china discriminate?u hire in the name of native speaker but most of the native speaker did not go to school.but u have people that goes to school and have the potential to do the job u refused to give them too bad.nigeria too is has english as the official language but u will never want to hear that.isnt that racial descimination?think about it

  1. Anne Mac Leish Says:

    Brenda Hi! I agree with you! First lessons or meetings are important. I study the kiddies & adults! I wok or had wok in big companies in Rome-now they cut the lessons because of crisis. I adapt. Good starter 4 me & adults is stretching! They all luv it! Breathing from your tum! Movement! I'm always myself. Been teaching 4 25 years! Luv anne(Mac Leish)

  1. damian Says:

    I have liked your ice-breakers. I think these things to start a group anew and create a rapport it depends on the group. Sometimes is just asking them simple questions name?age?siblings?where live? and going to different questions, likes and dislikes is a good formula because you make them share information deaaling with social positioning and that is good for interaction.
    Another icebreaker is the yes-no groups
    you ask questions and if they answer yes they go to yes group and if you answer no they go to no group. Then they have to ask questions and get people from the other group. questions can be very simple or difficult do you drink coffee ? or can you fly a plane?
    if you want to make more than two groups you can make never-sometimes-always-hardly ever groups

  1. Hamed Says:

    Greetings all,
    Thanks for Brenda,She always motivate us all,evoke dormant abilities,Ice breaking techniques are nor friviulous as some think,on the contrary,they help me to start energetically all day teaching,I feel satisfied on seeing my Ss being motivated,ready to share in the new lesson after such successful ice break activities.I hope all my colleagues do them in Egypy and other foreign coworkers

  1. Renate Fekete Says:

    Icebreakers? I have often taught Access in Colleges filled with new citizens, or for Language Schools. These pupils usually feel a bit out of sorts at all the new things they are learning, as well as excited by it all, and don't know how to get grievances off their chests: little things, the food, the weather, -therefore - even though I have books of 'games' to 'icebreak,' I have found the most popular thing is to ask classes:
    share with the class, three things you like here and three things you dislike..
    I remembered this from when I was a child and had first arrived here. I noticed my parents, though strictly, sternly honest, never dare give an honest response when questioned by the indigenous, and my mum, now 92 years old, still dare not mention even the smallest quibble she has to local people, though the time of : 'they will send you back East,' has long gone..difficult as in our culture it is normal to air your grouses with no hard feelings meant as it is for most students.
    I found that it gets little problems off chests earlier rather than later, and the class can then all support each other. I can laughingly add as a comfort: we felt the same and look we are still here half a century later! Such a great deal of education is tied to psychology and culture.

  1. Bill Dunhour Says:

    I have a question regarding certification programs, for a person looking for a position overseas does a TEFL or a TESOL certification carry more weight?


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