The first day of class can be daunting and challenging. It’s an opportunity for students to get to know each other, get to know their teachers, and feel comfortable in their new classes.
Here are four of my favorite first-day-of-term activities to help break the ice:
1. Picture me!
For this activity, ask students to find (or draw) five pictures that represent them. Give them time to discuss in pairs or small groups why they chose each image.
You'll want to encourage them to ask as many questions and talk for as long as possible.
You could model this activity first by selecting five flashcards from Ellii's Media Gallery.
Student A: Why did you choose a bicycle?
Student B: I love cycling.
Student C: Where do you cycle?
Student B: I usually cycle along the river or to class.
Student A: I like cycling too.
Student C: I don’t have a bike, but I want one.
Online, this works well in breakout rooms and then as a whole class in the main room.
As an extension, you could ask your language learners to write about another student or introduce them to the rest of the class.
2. Find someone who...
Where would the English language teaching world be without "Find Someone Who…," also known as "People Bingo"?
In this activity, students go around the room, asking their peers questions based on a list of personal attributes. When they ‘"find someone who" meets the criteria they're looking for, they write their name on a list.
The first person to find someone who ticks each box on their list wins. But if you ask me, the real winners are anyone who has used their English as much as possible throughout the activity.
Here are some questions to get you started:
Find someone who…
…got up at 6 am.
…has two brothers.
…lived in another country.
…speaks three languages.
…can stand on their head.
Online, you can do this using breakout rooms, switching the people in each room every 2–3 minutes to maintain energy.
You may wish to create your own questions or have students write their own. If you're already an Ellii subscriber, you can use their Find Someone Who template.
You could also try this fun Ellii alternative: Find Someone Who Didn't.
3. Two truths and a lie
In this activity, students write two facts about themselves and one thing that isn't true. In pairs or small groups, they work together to decide which two out of the three statements are true.
Demonstrate the activity first by giving your own examples. Here’s the one I usually use:
- I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
- I ran Edinburgh, Berlin, and New York marathons.
- My husband usually cooks for me.
At higher levels, students can ask questions (e.g., Do you like cooking? What are your hobbies?) to discover the answers. At lower levels, they can have just as much fun guessing.
In terms of which of the example statements is true for me, I’m going to leave you guessing here. Feel free to write your guesses (or questions) in the comments section!
Please note: Some students may not wish to tell lies for religious reasons. In this case, you can ask them to write correct and incorrect sentences instead.
4. Adjective acronames
This activity is a great way to review vocabulary and learn more about your new students’ language level.
The aim is for students to assign an adjective which describes them to each letter of their name. Students can refer to a dictionary, search online, or ask a peer for help.
First, think of adjectives that correspond to your own name. Then demonstrate the activity.
This activity can be adapted for lower levels so that students can write any word beginning with that letter. You could also try this fun variation: Adjectives with a twist.
Join the conversation!
What’s your favorite first day of class activity? We’d love to know! Share your ideas in the comments.
The name games. Pick a person who you think has a shark mind for details or ask the group , who has a good memory? Pass an object (like a nice stone) around the circle. First person tell their name and country. the second repeat the first person's information and adds their and so on around the circle till the poor last person has to remember everyone's' name and country.
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That's always a fun game, Myriam! Thanks for sharing.
I have used activities 2, 3 and 4 in my class. My students love them. However, I combined activity 4 and what Myriam has suggested above to make it hard but more fun for them.
One student says their name and an adjective describing them, and then their original country, say, I am Simret, smiley Simret, from Eritrea. The next student will say: Hi Smiley Simret from Eritrea. I am name, Adjective + their name, from their country.
It's lots of fun and they can learn new words, too.
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Thanks for sharing this great adaptation, Kim!
In a similar way I do weekend activities with my students. Good revision of the past tense.
I went shopping.
Betty went shopping and I drove to the city. etc etc etc
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Great idea, Sophie! Thanks for sharing. I did the same thing in my classes too. Every Monday we'd break the ice by discussing our weekend activities using the past tense. Every Friday we'd start by talking about upcoming weekend plans using the future tense. Students usually loved talking about their plans!
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