Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Ice Breakers & the Defence of an Old Classic

We do a lot of teacher training here at Anglolang (mainly teachers from the EU on Erasmus+ programmes) and I often start my first methodology session with a look at ice-breakers. 

These activities, of course, help the students to relax and allow them to find out a little about one another by communicating in English. When we brainstorm what methods the teachers use, the most popular activity by far is the ‘stand in a circle and throw the ball’ (not the catchiest of titles, I know!!) activity. 

Just in case you teach on Mars (!!) and are not familiar with it, here’s a quick summary.

On day 1 of a new class, the teacher asks the students to stand up and form a circle. Desks and chairs may need to be shifted or the class could always temporarily decamp. The ball is then thrown and (sometimes!) caught between students. The language element involved is, of course, up to the teacher and will depend on the perceived level of the class, but it normally includes some form of basic personal information. For example;

The teacher says their name and throws the ball to Student A. Student A says, ‘Hello teacher, I'm Amy. Nice to meet you!’ and throws the ball to student B. Student B catches (!) the ball and says ‘Hi Amy. It’s nice to meet you. I'm Abdullah’. And so on.
The possibilities for communicating are endless and could involve students’ ages, favourite things … anything!

What a great activity! The students are up and out of their seats and communicating together right from the start. Throwing and catching is endless fun (Even President Obama likes it!) and the students will barely even notice that they are using English – perfect!

I think that as we gain more classroom experience and find out about different ice-breakers, classics such as the example above can end up being left on the shelf. We perhaps see them as boring and ‘old hat’ and prefer a new idea we have learned about. But it’s important to remember that the students probably haven’t done this activity before and we shouldn't drop it just because we’re bored of it! The ‘stand in a circle and throw the ball’ game is great – cheap, cheerful & perfect for getting the students working together in English right from the start, so why not give the old classic a go next time you have a new class.

‘My name is Dan and I'm a teacher – catch!’

p.s. Choose a soft ‘friendly’ ball as you don’t want students leaving their first class looking as though they've been involved in a rugby match!



  1. A very good tip for us English teachers. Thank you!

  2. Hello Isac and thank you for commenting! How do you get your students warmed up and ready for English?