Thursday, October 30, 2014

Key Strategies for Developing Oral Language

Being able to talk and express your thoughts clearly is vital in life. Yet, too many students are graduating without sufficient experience with group discussions, or arguing their ideas effectively, and they are finding themselves unprepared for the communication demands of college and their careers.

How can we prepare our students for these rigors?

To lay a better foundation for this learning, we can do a few things: we can value oral language development, we can value communication of ideas over grammatical correctness, and we can value oral language as a powerful way to learn and remember content.

Here are three strategies to help develop oral language skills.

Strategy One: Adapt Activities to Include Authentic Talk

Adapting current activities to include more authentic, original, and extended discussions gives students opportunities to contribute more than one sentence to a conversation. Sometimes, we miss the opportunity to encourage language development. For example, many teachers use some form of a jigsaw activity, in which students get into expert groups, read a text, and answer questions or fill in charts. They then go to mixed home groups to share their information. Yet, often what happens is this: students just read aloud what another student has copied from a resource — and opportunities for oral language development are lost.

To improve this strategy, you can have the experts engage in a discussion of what to put, in their own words, onto paper. Then, they can rehearse what they’ll say — covering their papers to avoid reading aloud. Then in home groups, you can have each person glance at their notes, cover them again, and share with the group members, who listen and take notes. You can even ask students to try to speak in paragraphs, starting with a general claim or topic sentence, and then support it with evidence sentences. For example, in this video, notice how the talk evolves as students prepare their ideas for sharing.

Strategy Two: Use Activities that Develop Strong Language

Use activities that allow students to develop a “stronger and clearer” answer, as they talk to different partners successively in an activity. Instead of the all-too-common whole class discussion, with the teacher asking questions and a few students answering, ask a question and have students talk to three different partners. Or have students talk in different groups (see this 1-3-6 activity video).

A crucial aspect of this strategy is that students shouldn’t say the same thing each time; rather, they need to build on the language and ideas of previous partner(s) to improve, expand, clarify, and support their evolving answer each time they share it.

Example Activities (from Zwiers, O’Hara, Pritchard, 2014):

Interview Grid: Students talk with one different partner each time, making their answers stronger and clearer each time, taking minimal, if any, notes on the chart. Note that this activity can also work using inner-outer conversation circles, such as the one in this Debrief Circles video.

Opinion Formation Cards: Students receive a quotation from the text (before it’s read) that includes evidence for one side or the other of an issue. Students share their quotations and their evolving opinions, with reasons and evidence for them.

Opinion Continuum: Students share where they fall on the continuum of a two-sided issue and why. At the end, they share if they shifted at all along the continuum based on their conversations with partners.

Strategy Three: Use Strong Discussion Prompts

Try to use discussion prompts that foster evaluation in some way. Evaluation is usually needed for ranking, prioritizing, and choosing. For example, if you ask for evidence of a theme or a claim, many students just find the first three remotely evidence-y things they can, and stop there. But if you prompt students to rank the evidence from strongest to weakest, or to find the most influential cause of some war, you can often get deeper thinking and better conversation.

When students evaluate, their ideas often differ. And if you allow them time to argue and negotiate the ideas, lots of learning can happen.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Active Engagement Strategies

Keeping students actively engaged throughout the day is critical for academic success. However, active engagement involves more than "hands on" instruction. Students need opportunities to work collaboratively with a partner or team in order to gain a deeper understanding of the content they are exploring.
On this page you'll find a two free webinar recordings with lots of practical and easy-to-implement active engagement strategies.
  • Part One includes strategies for whole group engagement and partner activities.
  • Part Two focuses on cooperative learning team management and strategies for teams.

Options for Active Engagement Strategies for Success Webinar

  • Mp4 Video Version - Available on YouTube and embedded in this page above. You will not be able to see the chat panel.
  • Full Recording in Blackboard Collaborate - Watching this format will make you feel that you are right there in the room with us! You'll be able to see the chat panel as you watch the webinar.
  • Active Engagement Strategies Part One Chat Transcript - Over 250 pages long with lots of great strategies from participants. Just scroll and scan to find what you need or use the Find feature in Word if you are looking for something specific. The times listed in the chat will help you navigate.

Part Two - Taking the Chaos out of Cooperative Learning

Options for Active Engagement Strategies for Success Webinar - Part Two

  • Mp4 Video Version - Available on YouTube and embedded in this page above. You will not be able to see the chat panel.
  • Full Recording in Blackboard Collaborate - Watching this format will make you feel that you are right there in the room with us! You'll be able to see the chat panel as you watch the webinar.
  • Active Engagement Strategies Part Two Chat Transcript - Over 70 pages long with lots of great strategies from participants. Just scroll and scan to find what you need or use the Find feature in Word if you are looking for something specific. The times listed in the chat will help you navigate.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

8 ways to Increase Student Talking Time and decrease Teacher Talking Time

the person doing the talking is the person doing the learning

Even when the learning has been turned over to the students, it’s still tempting to spend too much time giving directions, repeating important information, and telling students how they did instead of asking them to reflect on their work. Here are 8 ways teachers can talk less and getting students talking more:
1. Don’t steal the struggle.
It can be uncomfortable to watch kids struggle to figure out an answer, but they need time and silence to work through it. Resist the urge to talk students through every step of a problem and instead just observe. Similarly, learn to love think time. I often worry about keeping the momentum of a lesson going, and it’s uncomfortable for me to allow several moments of silent “wait time”or “think time” before calling on students. However, I try to push against the feeling that I will lose students’ attention because I know providing wait time can actually increase the length and quality of their responses. Letting kids think instead of rushing in to narrate or question builds anticipation around what’s going to be said next and increases participation as more kids are prepared to move into the conversation.
2. Move from the front of the classroom.
It’s easy to get in an instructional rut when you stand at the same place near the board all day long. Try occasionally sitting on the side of the classroom or in an absent student’s desk and say, “I need someone to go up and demonstrate ___ for us.” Because students are used to the person at the board facilitating the lesson, they are likely to talk for much longer than if you stay at the front and they’re in their seats answering you. You can even remain sitting among the class once the student is done demonstrating and ask follow up questions from other students instead of commenting on the students’ demo yourself (“What do all think? Is that an effective method–how do you know? Does anyone use a different strategy?”)
3. Teach students signals for your often-repeated phrases and for transitions.
Cut down on conversations about bathroom/water/pencil sharpening/etc by teaching kids to use sign language to request permission: use sign language to indicate your answer back: yes, no, or wait. I also like to teach kids sign language for please, thank you, and you’re welcome so that I can reinforce their good choices and acknowledge kids without constantly talking. Use music, a chime, or other auditory signal to indicate when it’s time to start an activity, pause, and clean up. The idea here is to give kids a break from hearing your voice: they are far more likely to tune in to a unique sound than to a 20 word direction.
4. Use non-verbal reinforcement for behavior whenever possible.
A lot of the talking most of us do throughout the day is related to student behavior, and most of the time, we’re wasting our breath. Resist the urge to lecture students every time someone forgets their materials, interrupts your lesson, or makes an inappropriate noise. It’s far more effective (not to mention easier and less disruptive) to give students “the teacher look” and keep the lesson moving. If you need to have a conversation about the behavior with a student or issue a consequence, try to wait for a break in your instruction rather than stop the whole class from learning while you discipline one kid.
5. Turn your statements into questions and prompts.
Instead of saying to a group, “Nice work over here, I like the strategy you used for ___”, ask the kids to reflect on their own work: “Tell me how your group has chosen to solve ___.” Instead of telling a child, “Take a look at #3, that answer is incorrect” say, “Would you tell me how you got the answer for #3?” Not only will these questions get kids talking instead of you, kids will also have the chance to reflect on and articulate their learning.
6. Instead of asking, “Does that make sense?” say, “Can you put that in your own words?”
If you’ve ever asked kids “Are you getting this?”, you’ve probably noticed you rarely get an insightful response. So, you either move on without kids understanding or you repeat something you’ve already said. Try inviting kids to put what you’ve explained into their own words, either repeating it back to you (if you were helping the child in a one-on-one conversation) or by turning and talking to a partner/doing a quick think/pair/share.
7. Stop repeating yourself.
It’s tempting to say important points and instructions a couple of different ways to make sure every child understands, but that strategy can backfire when it’s overused. Kids learn that it’s okay to tune you out because you’ll repeat everything you say. Instead, experiment with different strategies forgetting kids to follow directions the first time you give them and use call-and-response routines to get kids’ attention right away.
8. Notice moments when you summarize/review for students and instead get their input.
If you hear yourself saying once again, remember, as I said, as always, so to sum this up, or don’t forget, that probably means you’re about to drive home an important point for the second or third (or tenth) time. Practice making those moments a chance for kids to share: What’s the rule about this? Who can sum this section up for us? Who remembers the way to determine ___? Some teachers even turn these moments into interactive activities, where the whole class does a hand motion, body movement, sound, or chant to indicate that they’re summarizing an idea or reviewing directions before getting started.
Do you have any advice for a new teacher on making the shift from teacher talk to student talk? Please share your ideas (or struggles!) in the comments.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Two awesome visuals on ADHD for Teachers

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopment disorders. People with ADHD find it hard to concentrate on a single chore at a time, however, though they are strong symptoms of ADHD, lack of inattention or focus alone is not enough to diagnose somebody as having ADHD. Academy of Pediarics categorized ADHD into three major types:

1- Inattentive:
Child exhibits significant inattention across multiple domains with no significant hyperactivity or impulsivity. This is what used to be considered ADD.

2- Hyperactivity:
Child exhibits adequate attentional control, however, presents with significant deficits with activity level/or impulse control.

3- Combined:
The most common form of ADHD in which the child struggles with paying attention as well as regulating behaviour.

To help teachers learn more about ADHD, here are two awesome infographics I want you to have a look at.


2- What is ADHD

Sunday, October 5, 2014

10 Amazing Activities you can do with index cards

Can a simple index card hold the key to a creative language activity for your ESL students?

Read the following 10 ideas before you give your final answer.

10 Things You Can Do With Index Cards

  1. 1
    New Perspective
    How you look at life all depends on your perspective, right? If that is the case, why not force a perspective change with this observational activity? Give each of your students an index card, and tell him to poke a hole in the card using a pen or pencil. It should only be big enough for him to see through it a little. Then have each of your students look around the room and write a description of something he sees through the hole (without naming the object). When finished, the rest of the class should listen to the description and try to identify the object.
  2. 2
    Newspaper Headlines
    When it is time for your students to learn some new vocabulary or just practice what they already know, look to the newspaper for some inspiration. Cut out interesting individual words from the headlines and tape each on to its own index card. Then have your students each select two to three cards randomly. They should then try to combine the words into a coherent sentence or original newspaper headline. If you like, have your students write the article that follows the headline.
  3. 3
    For a little index card fun, give two cards to each student. On one card, have each student write a question that begins with the word “why”. Then on the second card, he or she should write the answer beginning with “because”. Collect all the ‘why cards’ in one pile and shuffle and do the same with the ‘because cards’. Then pull one card from each pile and read them together. You should end up with some funny combinations. After reading all of them, you can challenge your students to match up each question with an answer that makes sense.
  4. 4
    Who Am I?
    Index cards have their place in speaking class, too. Collect one card for each student and put the name of a famous person that your students would know on it. Then tape one name to each student’s back, and he “is” that person. Give your students enough time to walk around the room and ask each other yes/no questions about who they are. (One question per person and then he must move on to another student.) If a person guesses his identity correctly, he may sit down. Keep playing until everyone has guessed who he is.
  5. 5
    Story Starters
    If you give your students any free writing time in class, they may sometimes need a nudge in the right direction. When that is the case, have available a stack of story starters (one on each index card) that they can pull and use when they are looking for inspiration. When she is finished writing, have your student turn in her story with her card paper clipped to the top for your review or designate an area of the classroom to post original stories.
  6. 6
    Memory Game
    Memory is another simple game you can play with index cards. This is especially useful when reviewing vocabulary. Simply write each vocabulary word on one card and its definition on another. Shuffle the cards and place them face down on a table. Each person can turn over two cards on his turn. If he is able to match the word to its definition, he may keep the set and go again.
  7. 7
    When you want to make the memory game a little more challenging, instead of matching words to their definitions, match words to their antonyms. Your students will still get practice using their vocabulary words as well as challenging their memories.
  8. 8
    Order, Please!
    If you want to cast a wider net than isolated vocabulary, write one sentence of a narrative on each card. Then challenge groups of students to use transitional words and signal words to put the sentences in the correct order.
  9. 9
    Take 5 Notes!
    Anytime your students are doing research, index cards are a functional and flexible place to take notes. You can find information on how to take notes on Busy Teacher or teach your students your preferred method for taking notes. Challenge them to read a magazine article and take at least five notes on index cards, and then have them use those cards as part of a larger research assignment. They will have the flexibility to rearrange notes as they like without losing valuable information in a cumbersome notebook.
  10. 10
    Oh, How Practical!
    Index cards do not have to be relegated to the world of fun and games. They have practical uses as well. They are a concise place to keep emergency contact and allergy information about your students. It is especially helpful to have this information in one place should you ever need a substitute teacher.

When you can get one hundred index cards for only a dollar, the possibilities for your ESL class can be endless as well as inexpensive. The next time you are looking for some inspiration, shuffle on down to your local store and get a back of the 3x5 wonders.

With a little creativity and some blank cards, your ESL class can do more than you might think.

5 Simple Reading Games For Beginners

Beginning students often get the short end of the stick when it comes to fun classroom reading activities.

They’re not ready to read a book. Even short stories are too complex. Forget about traditional vocabulary and reading games. But just because their skill levels are at the start doesn’t mean their fun level has to be, too. Here are 5 games you can play with beginning reading students that won’t overwhelm them with difficulty but are sure to create fun in your classroom!

Try These 5 Simple Games with Your Beginners

  1. 1

    Choose Your Path Wisely

    This reading game takes as much room as you can afford to offer, and it can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it. The basic goal of the game is for players to get from the start to the finish of a paper path. To set up, decide on the words you want your students to read, and write each on a standard sheet of paper; laminate them if you so choose. Using those pages as well as blank ones, make one or several paths on the floor from the start point to the finish. (Think along the lines of paving stones.) When a student takes his turn, he rolls a standard six sided die. He is then allowed to move that many spaces (sheets of paper). If he encounters a page with a word written on it during his move, he must read the word. If he reads it, he continues to move his full number of spaces. If he cannot read the word, read it for him, but he must stay on that space and cannot pass that space until his next roll. Students choose which path they will take along the pages, and the first one to reach the finish wins.
  2. 2

    I Spy Reading Edition

    This game can take as little as one or two minutes or as many as you want to fill, so it makes a great time filler to keep on hand for those down moments in class.To prepare for the game, write many words on a blank piece of paper in random order and positioned at all angles. The more words that are on the page, the better. Make sure you include words that your students can read easily as well as those that are more of a challenge. Then make enough copies of the page for each of your students to have one. To play, you read a word to your class. They race to find that word on the page. The first one to find it reads it out loud and then circles it or crosses it out. That person scores one point. Then wait until everyone in class has found the word. Read a second word, and students then search for that one on the page. The first to find it scores a point. As you call out more words, students will be reading many of the words on the page. It’s a great way to get in lots of reading practice without your students getting bored. Play until someone reaches a certain number of points or until you have called out all the words you want your students to read.
  3. 3

    Reading Relay

    This reading relay may be a bit confusing at first, but it will become easier the more often you play it. You will divide your class into teams, and each team will need a list of target words, a pen or pencil, several loose letters they can use to spell out those words (game tiles, letters cut from cereal boxes, magnetic alphabets, alphabet beads, etc.), and a desk or table on which they can work. The first player from each team comes to the table and chooses a word from the list. She then spells that word out using the letters at her station and turns the list face down. The second player comes up and must read the word the first player arranged with the playing pieces. If he reads it correctly, he turns over the list and crosses that word off. He then chooses another word from the list and spells it out with the letter pieces. He turns the list face down, and the next player comes up. She reads the word, crosses it off the list, and spells out another word. Play continues until one team has successfully spelled out and read every word on the list.
  4. 4

    Bean Bag It

    If you made word pages for “Choose Your Path Wisely” (#1 above) here is a way you can make them work double duty (that is, if they survived the game). Scatter the word pages on the floor in an open area, and gather some bean bags for the game. Have each student toss their beanbag into the playing area. She must read whatever word the beanbag lands closest to. If she does, she scores a point and you remove the word from the playing area. (You can make the game even more challenging by having students give the definition of the word or use it in a sentence as well.) Students take turns tossing and reading until all the word pages are gone. The student with the most points wins.
  5. 5

    Bang! Reading Game

    Come Together Kids has a great reading game designed for two to four players that can be very effective in the ESL classroom. You can even have students make their own set of game cards to use during free learning periods. Give each student a list of target reading words (you will want to have at least twenty) as well as several blank index cards. Students write one reading word on each index card (they will get some writing practice in, too). In addition, students take between five and fifteen (depending on how long your word list is) index cards and write “BANG!” on each of them. Shuffle the cards and the game is ready. Give each group a paper bag, can, basket, or some other container to put their cards in. Players take turns pulling one card from the container and reading the word on it. If they read the word correctly, they keep the card. If a player pulls a BANG! card, she must put all of her cards back in the container. Play continues until you call time up. At that point, the player with the most cards in his possession is the winner.

Even beginning students love to have fun, and these games are just right for those in your reading class.

Try one or more with your students, and watch as the smiles take over! :)
Do you have great ideas for beginner reading games? We want to hear them! Share them in the comments below.

10 Fun English Spelling Games for Your Students

Are your students ready for a fun filled game style spelling review?

Here are some ways to get their pulse quickening and the letters in the right order.

Try These 10 Fun English Spelling Games with Your Students

  1. 1

    Unmix It Up

    Have students unscramble letters to make an English word. Using a current vocabulary list, have each student write the letters for one word on index cards – one letter per card. Then under the flap of an envelope, have each student write out the correct spelling of their word. Students then tuck the flap into the envelope, shuffle their letter cards and put them into the envelope in front of the flap. Now you have a learning center game ready for your students. Just put the envelopes out in a box or basket. Students using the center should pull out the index cards and arrange them to make a correctly spelled English word. They can check their answer by lifting the flap of the envelope when they are finished. As the year progresses, add words to the collection while leaving those that are already there and it becomes a way to review vocabulary as well.
  2. 2

    Unmix It Up Relay

    Using the envelopes your students made for the ‘unmix it up’ learning center, have a spelling relay race. Divide your class into teams of five, and put a stack of ten envelopes on a desk across the room for each team. One at a time, students run to the desk, take the cards out of an envelope and unscramble the letters to make a word. When they think they have a correct word they call “check”. You should see to be sure they have a correctly spelled English word. If so, he should put the letters back in the envelope and put it on the floor before running back to their team. The next person then runs to the table and choose his own envelope to unscramble. Whichever team finishes unmixing all their words first wins the game.
  3. 3

    Blind Relay

    If your whiteboard is also a magnetic one, this game will get your students excited about spelling. Divide your class into two teams. Each team should have a set of magnetic letters (the simple kind you find at the dollar store) on their half of the board. On your go, announce one word for each team to spell. One person from each team runs to the whiteboard and uses the magnetic letters to spell out the word. Just be sure you have enough duplicate letters to spell the words you call out. (For example, “taller” would require two letter ls.) The team that gets the word first scores a point. Then two other players take a turn. Play until everyone has had at least one turn. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins. If you want to make the relay even more challenging, blindfold each person and position them at the board before calling out the word. They will have to feel the letters on the board to spell their word correctly.
  4. 4

    Telephone Spelling

    This game is just as much a test of pronunciation and listening skills as it is of spelling skills. Divide your class into two teams, and have each team sit or stand in one long line. You whisper a word to the person at the back of the line, and she must carefully whisper it to the person in front of her. That person whispers to the person in front of him and so on until the first person in line hears the word. When he does, he should go to the whiteboard and write the word that he heard using the correct spelling. If he gets the word right, his team scores a point. If not, he does not score for the team. He then goes to the back of the line and the teams play again with a new word and a new player.
  5. 5

    Secret Speller

    This game requires a small whiteboard or flipchart that you can face away from the students in your class. Set the flipchart up so it is opposite the front wall of the classroom. Put your students in pairs and have them choose one person to be the speller and one to be the writer. On the flipchart, write five to ten words that are difficult to spell or pronounce. When you say go, the speller from each team runs to the front of the classroom and looks at the list of words on the flipchart. He tries to remember as many of the words and their spelling as he can and runs back to his partner. He must then help his partner write the words on her paper, but the speller is not allowed to look at the paper. He can run back to the flipchart as many times as necessary to check spelling or remember words. When the pair thinks they have all of the words right, they call check. You should then look and tell them if the words are all correct or if there is a mistake. Throughout the game, the speller and the writer can say anything they want, but the speller can never look at the writer’s paper. The first team to get all the words written correctly on the writer’s paper wins.
  6. 6

    Scrabble Slam

    Scrabble Slam is a fun spelling game that also builds vocabulary. Each card has one letter on the front and another on the back. (You can also create your own Spelling Slam cards by writing one letter each on index cards. Have more copies of common letters like vowels, t, s, r, n and l in your set, also omitting q and z.) Play starts with any four letter word laid out on the table and each player holding ten cards. The remaining cards go in a pile on the table. On go, players add one letter at time to the word to create a different four letter word. For example, pole may become poke which becomes pike which becomes bike. Every time a letter is laid down, it must correctly spell an English word. Up to four players play at one time trying to get rid of all their cards as quickly as possible. If someone plays a word that is not spelled correctly, players stop and that person must take a three card penalty from the draw pile. If no one can play a new word and everyone still has cards, each person draws one letter from the draw pile. The first person to use all her cards wins.
  7. 7


    This classic grade school game gives your students a fun way to practice spelling.For the traditional rules, look here. Start by playing with your entire class, you putting a word or phrase on the board. Players guess letters trying to decipher the words. If a student calls a letter that is in the phrase, you fill in all the places where it belongs. If they call a letter that is not in the phrase they receive a penalty. After a practice round with you leading, have students break into groups of three and play on their own.
  8. 8

    3-D Spelling

    Why have a spelling test with pencil and paper when you can use play dough, beans, toys or other fun items to write out the words. You call out a word to your class, and they race through the items in their desk to spell the word out on their table. They might spell the word by arranging crayons, paper clips or other items in their desk. If they do not have enough items in the desk to spell the word, they can use items from around the room though collecting items will take more time. The first person to spell out each word correctly gets a point. The person with the highest score at the end of the spelling test wins.
  9. 9

    Spelling Battleship

    In traditional Battleship, you sink your opponent’s boats. In this spelling version, you sink their spelling words. Each person needs two 10 by 10 grids. Have students start by labeling the rows letters A-J and the columns 1-10. Then each person writes the same set of 5-7 spelling words on one grid, in random order and location, either vertical or horizontal. On the other grid, he tracks his opponent’s words. Players take turns calling out a coordinate, for example D-5. His opponent checks his grid and announces whether D-5 was a hit or miss. The first player should mark that square on his blank grid – red for a hit and blue or black for a miss. Play continues until one person finds every letter of all the words on his opponent’s grid. (For more detail on how to play as well as a printable grid, see Salvo - the complete rules.)
  10. 10


    This game tests spelling as well as listening skills. Have your students arrange themselves in a circle. Announce a word from the current vocabulary unit. The person to your left says the first letter of the word. The second person says the second letter. The third person the third and so on until the word is completed. The next person says ‘sparkle’. Then you call out a new word. If at any time a person says the wrong letter, he is out and returns to his seat. If a student does not say sparkle when the word is completely spelled or if he says it too soon, he is out. Play continues until only one person remains in the circle.

10 Fun Icebreakers for the Beginning of the Year

Everyone loves a good icebreaker—it’s a great way to get to know other people and help people feel relaxed in stressful situations, such as the first day of a new school year.

Here are a few icebreakers and some variations to the icebreakers to try during the first week of school to build a good sense of community in your classroom that will last throughout the year!

Try These 10 Awesome Ideas to Kick off Your School Year

  1. 1

    Name Chain Games

    By far and away the best way to learn and retain student names is to do a name chain game to start off the class. You can vary the specifics to fit the needs of your particular class, but my class usually goes like this: the first student says 1) his or her name, 2) his or her home country, 3) one interesting fact about himself or herself, and 4) his or her favorite English word. The next student must then repeat all of the information about himself or herself and then say the name and favorite English word of the preceding student. The third student introduces himself or herself and then says the names and favorite English words of the preceding two students, and so on until the last student. For a challenge, tell the last student not to write anything down! As the teacher, you can also go last instead and impress the class with your knowledge of their names while simultaneously making the last student feel better. Make sure you quiz your students throughout the week to see if they can remember everyone’s names and favorite words. I’ve also made a practice vocabulary quiz using each of their favorite English words before which is a great way to transition them into your testing style.
    Variation: Instead of having students say their favorite English word, have them choose a word that starts with the same letter as their name, a favorite city, favorite food, etc... the options are endless!
  2. 2

    New Year’s Resolutions

    Your students may familiar with this popular tradition in January, but a new school year should bring about new resolutions for students and teachers alike.Have students partner up with each other and discuss what goals they have for themselves for the school year. Encourage them to be specific with the things they would like to accomplish and what they want to be different. Make sure that you as the teacher make some resolutions too!
    Variation: While students are talking together, have them create a poster of their resolutions. Display the posters around the room to help students remember their goals throughout the term.
  3. 3

    Name That Person

    Another great activity to get to your students to know each other a little better is a guessing game. Pass out small pieces of paper or notecards to each student and tell them to write down two facts about themselves on the card without writing their name on them. Collect the cards in a basket and mix them up before redistributing them to the students. Students take turn reading out the facts from the note card and the other students guess which person wrote the card.
    Variation: Instead of writing them down on notecards, have them discuss their facts with a partner. After groups have had some time to discuss, come back together as a whole class. The partners will take turns sharing facts and the rest of the class has to guess which partner the fact is about! Give a point to the partners who guess the facts correctly and a point to the partners who are able to fool the class.
  4. 4

    Would You Rather....

    Line students up in two lines with each line facing each other. Tell them to come up with creative “Would you rather...” questions to ask their partners, such as “Would you rather eat pizza for the rest of your life or chocolate?”; “Would you rather be a ballerina or a florist?” etc... Give them a few examples to prompt them and see what kinds of creative questions they come up with. This will help to pique their creativity and get to know their new classmates. After a short time, have one of the lines move down so students will get to meet everyone in the other line.
    Variation: In a large circle as a whole class, have Student A pose a would you rather question for Student B to answer. To make things even more interesting, have Student B answer for a different student. For example, Student A might ask “Student B, do you think student C would rather have a crocodile or a zebra for a pet?” The students will then guess for their classmate; be sure to have Student C answer to see who close Student B was!
  5. 5

    Find Objects to Describe Me ....

    A classic get to know you activity is to have students go through their backpacks, folders, pockets, etc... and find 3 or 4 things that they feel describe them very well.Students then need to describe their objects and why they chose them as their defining objects. Put students into pairs to share their objects or share as a whole class so that way everyone can hear about their new classmates!
    Variation: Send students around the building with cameras (phones work nicely these days) and take a picture of something in the building that they think defines them or could describe them.
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    Word Association

    A great speaking activity that helps to loosen up nervous students on the first day is a word association game. One student says a word (choose a category like travel if you wish to narrow things down) and the next person must say a word associated with that word; the next student says a word associated with that word, and so on. If another student challenges the association, the student must justify how those words are related. Make it a competition to see who can get the most points if you want to add a little friendly rivalry in the mix.
    Variation: To make things more challenging or adapt this activity for a higher level class, put extra restrictions such as the word you say must begin with the last letter of the word the previous student said. For example, if Student A says “Japan,” Student B might say “ninja.”
  7. 7

    Who Am I?

    A great way to mix students up to arrange them into groups or just get them speaking to one another is to put nametags on the back of the students of famous people, teachers, movie characters etc... Make sure that these people will be well known by all of your students. Students must walk around with their nametag on their back that they cannot see and ask questions to their classmates about who they are.
    Variation: If you wait a few days and do this activity on the 2nd or 3rd day of class, you can put a classmates’ name on their back and their peers will have to know that classmate well enough to describe him or her to the student. This is a great way to review names!
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    Picture Story-Telling

    To get some of the more creative students included, give each student a blank piece of paper. Tell them to draw a picture of an event that happened to them recently, for example, a vacation they took, or a graduation ceremony etc... There can be no words on the paper. Put the students into pairs and have the partners guess what went the event was based on just looking at the picture.
    Variation: Before putting students into pairs, collect the students’ pictures and randomly redistribute them to different students. The students will then have to describe to the class what is going on in the picture. When they finish, ask the artist of the picture to say how close that student was and to narrate what actually happened in their life event.
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    I’m Cool Because...

    If students are getting sluggish and you need them to move around the first day, do this activity. Have all of the students seated in a circle and you as a teacher stand in the middle. To start off the activity, you will say “I’m cool because...” and then finish that sentence with something that’s true about you, for example, you’re wearing blue jeans, you speak 3 languages, etc... Then, every student who shares that fact in common with you must stand up and find a new seat. You also will need to find a seat meaning that one student will be stranded in the middle. This game is great for finding commonalities and getting in some good laughs!
    Variation: Play “I have never....” instead. When students are in the middle, have them call out things they’ve never done and have the students move who have done those activities.
  10. 10

    3 Common, 1 Unique

    This activity is good for small groups. Randomly group students into three or four and give them a time limit to discover three things that all members of the group have in common and one thing that is unique for all of them. When the time is up, have each group report to the class. Then, change up the groups and have them do it again with their new class members. If it starts to get too easy, start ruling out common answers like “We’re all from different countries” or “We all breathe oxygen.”
    Variation: Try this with the whole class after doing it in small groups. If they’ve been good listeners, they should be able to recall many things that all students had in common. It may take awhile, but there are surely at least 3 things the whole class has in common!
The first day of school can be stressful for everyone, but these icebreakers will help you and your students get to know each other in a fun, interactive way to help build the classroom environment all year long!

How To Break The Ice: 5 Creative Ways To Get Your Class Talking

Icebreakers are important when you are trying to get to know your students.

They are even more important if your students do not know one another well either. Depending on how your school organizes its classes, you may use these types of activities primarily at thebeginning of the school year. You can also adapt icebreakers into activities to use when starting new topics. It is sometimes easier for students to share their ideas if they know the rest of the class will have to share theirs too.
Here are some fun icebreakers you can do with almost any class.

Try These Ice-Breakers:

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    Learn The Names 
    In order to learn students’ names, you can conduct an activity where students take turns saying their name. You can make this more challenging by having students say the name of the last student to speak or even the names of all the students who have already said their name before saying their own name. To make it more interesting and to learn a little more about your class, ask students to include something specific such as their favorite cereal, color, sport, or movie. By the end of the activity you should try your best to say every student’s name. If students are learning the names of their classmates for the first time, conduct some other name activities for practice. For one activity, have students stand in a circle, on a student’s turn he should say a word or sentence related to whatever prompt or topic you choose, and then call out the name of a classmate to go next.
  2. 2
    Find Someone Who... 
    If students know one another’s names, get them talking about some other topics by having them play “Find Someone Who ~” where students ask and answer questions based on pictures or phrases to find someone for each question who can answer “Yes.” The model question for this activity could be “Do you like ~.” or “Do you have ~.” After five to ten minutes, depending on the number of questions students have to ask, have everyone sit down and call on students to read some of the answers, for example “Ben likes soccer.” this way the class can learn more about individual students. Try to encourage students to give sentences about people who have not yet been mentioned. This gives everyone the opportunity to share something.
  3. 3
    Talk and Remember 
    Another activity gets students talking with the people seated around them. Have students talk to the person to their right about hobbies for instance. After a minute or two have students turn to the person to their left and talk about another topic. You could also do this as a mingling exercise where students have a limited amount of time to exchange information before moving on to the next person and conversation topic. Be sure to ask some students things they learned about their peers at the end of the activity so that they try their best to remember the conversations they had.
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    What's Important
    If your class is quite small you may also consider having students think about the three things they would take with them to a deserted island and then share why they chose one or all of those things. This is an excellent way of getting to hear about what is important to your students and how they are able to organize their thoughts. If your class is larger, you can conduct the same activity in groups which is good for getting students talking with one another but will exclude you for most of the activity. Another similar group activity is to have students write down the first word that pops into their head when they hear you say a certain color. Students can then discuss why they chose certain words in their groups or just have the student with the most unusual choice explain his choice. After a few minutes give them another color to think about and discuss. Groups should present the class with a brief summary of their discussions towards the end of the lesson.
  5. 5
    Three Adjectives That Describe You 
    For introductions, you could also have students choose three adjectives to describe themselves. Perhaps a the end of the year have students fill in adjectives for all their classmates, nothing mean spirited, and give students a summary of what their classmates said about them in the last lesson. This should give students some positive reinforcement and point out their personality strengths. It may be interesting to compare these with the adjectives students chose to describe themselves too.
Icebreakers are excellent because they give students the opportunity to share things about themselves and learn about their peers. These activities often get students moving or thinking creatively. They can be lots of fun and dissolve any tension or nervousness there might be in your classroom. It is important that students be able to interact with one another easily because learning English is all about communication. Students will need to be comfortable sharing ideas with the class and talking with other students in groups or in pairs on a regular basis.