Most English teachers have the bulk of their new classes at the start of the academic year – in September or October, or around January in many Asian countries. What sets teaching at summer school apart from this is finding that you have new students every week or two! Here are a few ‘getting to know you’ activities to make things a little easier, and to prevent you from racking your brains to remember what you did last September!
Some team-building activities can also be good ice-breakers with a new class – see my post about them here.
Time: 15 mins Level: Beginner +
Materials: Paper plates – 1 per student, slips of paper, felt tip pens/coloured pencils
If you don’t have paper plates, an alternative would be simply to use paper or card, and ask students to draw a circle after handing out the paper and pens. This activity also helps to revise parts of the face, colours, and simple adjectives such as big/small, long/short.
- Give each student a slip of paper, and ask them to write their name.
- Collect all the strips back in. Randomly distribute them to the students/ask them to draw the names out of a hat – but if they get their own name they must put it back and take another. They must not show the other students the name they have.
- Hand out the paper plates – 1 per student. Tell the students that this is a face, and they are going to draw the person whose name they have.
- Tell the students that they have 30 seconds to draw this person’s eyes. Draw their attention to the different aspects of the feature by asking them to think about what colour the person’s eyes are, are they big/small, etc.
- Now give the students 30 seconds to draw the person’s mouth. Is it big or small? Do they look happy or sad?
- Repeat the process asking the students to draw the nose, ears, hair, and then giving a final minute or two for students to add any other features (eg. glasses, eyebrows) and to colour.
- Collect the plates in and either blu-tak them to the board, or place them around the room. Ask the students to run to the one they think is (student’s name). Repeat until all the students have been correctly guessed. This can be done as a team activity, in which the students who reach the correct plate first get a point.
To extend the task: Students discuss whether they think the plate is a good picture of them – why or why not? Students vote for the best drawing (the one which looks most like the person) or the most imaginative drawing. Students write a short description of their/another ss’ plate; then match the descriptions with the people.
Find Someone Who…
We’ve all done them – but honestly, that’s because Find Someone Who activities work. You can easily find one appropriate for your students’ age group and level online, such as this example, or you can simply make your own in a few minutes.
Time: 5-10 mins Level: Beginner +
Materials: Find Someone Who worksheets – 1 per student, make sure all the students have a pen/pencil!
1. Hand out the worksheets. Allow a minute or two for students to read all the sentences and make sure they understand. For lower levels this would be a good time to check students know how to correctly form the appropriate types of questions.
2. Model the activity using one or two students. Make it clear that they need to speak to individual students, not simply call out and ask the whole class (they will try!) and emphasise that they need to speak English throughout the activity.
3. Allow around 5 mins for students to mingle and speak to as many people as possible.
To extend the task: Students find the person in the class who is the most similar to/most different from them. Students write a short description of one person in the class based on the information they have found out. They the read this description out and the rest of the class guesses who it is. Students answer teachers’ questions about their classmates – either as a whole group or as a team activity.
Time: 10 mins Level: High elementary +
Materials: paper for each student, music
- Give each student one piece of paper. Ask them to write down 5 facts about themselves (eg. I can play the piano, I like eating pizza, I am 10 years old…). Tell them that they must keep the facts they are writing secret – they mustn’t show anyone else! Teacher can model/provide ideas if necessary.
- When everyone has finished, ask all the students to screw up their paper. Modelling is needed for this one – normally they all stare at you blankly when you ask them to screw up their work!
- Explain the rules: You will play music. When the students hear music, they must throw their balls of paper. They should keep throwing the paper until the music stops (pick up any that come near them/go and find them and keep throwing!). When the music stops, they must stop throwing, find the ball nearest to them and pick it up.
- On the count of 3, everyone must unfold their paper, and try to guess which class member it belongs to.
- Repeat the activity several times.
To extend the activity: Students can write questions instead of facts, mingle and ask and answer when the music stops.
2 Truths and a Lie
Another common one, but adults and young learners seem to love it alike.
Time: 10-15 mins Materials: Paper and pens only
- Explain to the students that you are going to tell them three facts about you. However, while two of the facts are true, one of them is a lie. They can ask you 5 (or more if you desire – alternatively you can set a time limit) questions about the facts, but then they must decide together which things they think are true and which is false.
- Tell the students the facts (and write them on the board as a reminder/model).
- Students ask you the questions – you can choose whether or not you lie in your answers or whether you tell the truth, but I find that attempting to keep up the illusion that the ‘lie’ fact is true makes for a better game! After they have reached their limit, they must explain which fact they believe is the lie and why.
- Students then repeat the activity, writing their own facts and guessing about their partner.
Quiz the Teacher
Time: 15-20 mins Level: Pre-intermediate +
This is my favourite ‘getting to know you’ type activity with teens and older children. It really gives them an opportunity to satisfy their curiosity about their new teacher, and is also a great practice of question forms, giving opinions, and justifying ideas.
1. Ask the students what information they want to know when they meet a new person – eg. name, age, hobbies, where they live, etc. Write their suggestions on the board (in one/two word note form).
2. Elicit what questions you would need to ask about these topics in order to find out the answer: eg. age = how old are you?
3. Put the students in pairs/small groups. Tell them that you are going to give them 5 mins (or more if you have lots of ideas on the board!) to guess your answers to the questions. They must also say why they have chosen each answer (eg. We think your favourite colour is yellow, because you’re wearing a yellow t-shirt). Tell them that after 5 mins they can ask you the questions and find out if their guesses are correct or not.
4. Monitor while the students are discussing/writing their answers. Then ask each group at a time for their guesses and reasons, before confirming the right answer. Students can then work in pairs and complete the same guessing/asking/answering activity with their partner.
To extend the activity: Students discuss what they thought was the most surprising/interesting fact they found out about their teacher/about someone else in the class. Students write a mini-profile of themselves or a classmate using the information discussed.
Have you tried any of these getting-to-know you activities in your classroom?
What are your favourite getting-to-know you activities?
If you enjoyed this post please check out my series on Surviving Summer School – you can find them all here.