Monday, January 20, 2014

Icebreaker - "Find Someone Who…."

On the first day back to teaching after nearly a month-long winter break, ESL teachers are usually faced with classes filled with students who are unfamiliar with each other.  To give them an opportunity to to learn each other's names and to test their speaking and listening abilities, many instructors set aside time in the first class for an icebreaking activity.  What happens if the previous class already played "Two Truths and a Lie" (a popular icebreaker) with the same group of students?

Some years ago, I created a sheet of "Find Someone Who…" sentences to avoid that outcome. Because I have 30 different strips, even if students did exactly the same activity, they never receive the same set of sentences. This activity gets everyone up and out of their seats - reading, speaking, listening, and writing in English, and they don't think of it as an English lesson. I also have a strip and try to "Find someone who…."  It helps me to begin learning the names of my students.

Below is a photograph of my strips. I print the questions on sheets of colored paper (24 lb. paper) and add small sticky notes to each one. That way I can remove the notes and reuse the strips many times. The idea for "Finding someone who…" came from an old ESL game book (British publisher, I believe), but I adapted the sentences to suit the context for Southern California ESL students. (You can also see which students were listening to your directions! There are always a few students who write in ink on my strips.)

This activity works best with low intermediate to advanced level students. The instructor should demonstrate how to change, "Find someone who can surf" to the question, "Can you surf?" Sometimes lower level students do not know a word, such as whistle ("Find someone who can whistle.").  The teacher can move around the room, giving definitions when needed and making sure the students are not just passing the slip to another student to read silently and answer. Give the class about 10 minutes for the question-and-answer phase.  Then spend another 10 minutes going around the room, having students share their findings: "Abdullah is afraid of snakes," or "Amirah likes to cook."

As a follow up at the next class meeting, you can ask students if they recall any names and associate people with any activities. Hope that you find this fun and useful to use as an icebreaker - or at any time during a course when you need to break up a routine.  Here is a link to the document so that you can print out your own sets of strips.

*** You can also use this activity to reinforce the use of adjective/relative clauses using who.

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