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5 excellent English icebreakers

Updated: Jan 4, 2020

Never underestimate the power of a good icebreaker. A good icebreaker can make nervous students courageous, dispel tension, awkwardness or shyness and unite a group through a shared goal or theme.

Here are five of Bulldogz no-prep picks to get the room ‘limbered up’ and ready to get their English on. Make them as long or short as you like, or maybe even add grammar and vocabulary points and build the whole lesson around them, it’s your show.

Human guess who

I usually use this as a lead in to classes containing character adjectives, clothing or other descriptive vocabulary or structures. However, you can use it any time to get a fun bit of chitter and indeed chatter going.

Have the group divide into two, down the centre of the room and turn their chairs to face each other.

In pairs, A and B, the A’s must choose a person from the other side of the divide but not say who it is. The B’s must ask questions and slowly eliminate their options until they can ‘guess who.’ Then they swap, they can have as many turns as they like inside the time frame provided.

Zombie attack survival

The real-life zombie apocalypse has finally arrived and in pairs or groups, students must use their training from the documentary series ‘The Walking Dead’ to survive.

Answer these questions:

What 10 essential items will you take and why?

Where will you go? The mountains, the desert, an underground bunker?

How will you get there?

Will you fight or hide?

Feedback to the group afterwards. OR this exercise always works well with a slideshow like this one which you can adapt for your own use.

Never-ending story

If you have a screen put a stopwatch up, like this. First, ask ‘boy or girl’ or ask for a letter and choose a name beginning with a letter. If you like you can add a job title, place of origin or other details. This is your protagonist. You start the story outlining the scenario, for example:

The day before his 31st birthday Johnny the chartered accountant was eating crisps on his sofa when…

It was first the day of Spring and Sally had spent the day thinking about…

Michael the mouse sat in his hole, waiting for the…

Each student must speak for 15 seconds each, using phrases that allow the next person to continue, for example

...he picked up a…

...she walked into the…

...and then he found a…

...she was surprised to see…

Do as many rounds as you like, shout END and let the last student bring the story to a close.

If a story goes well, you may want to revisit it and let the character or their environment grow with the class.


This really is ‘managed’ chaos and should only be attempted with the right class. Have students tear three small pieces of paper and write a question on each. They should be varied, try and think of something different or unusual, this is a good way to reinforce ‘have you ever’ questions, for example ‘have you ever ridden a camel?’

Screw each question up into a ball, after you shout GO they have 15 seconds to have a ‘snowfight’ with the questions, when you shout STOP they must pick one up and find a person to speak to for another 15 seconds, this time when you shout STOP they must bring the questions they have used to the front and put them in the bin. When everybody is ready you shout GO and repeat this cycle until the room is clean and all tensions are a distant memory.

20 questions

El clasico. A well used icebreaker but never fails to get the lips loose. In pairs students think of a thing, person, animal, literally anything and their partner has 20 well placed questions to find out what it is. A good revision of grammar, put supporting structures on the board or screen if desired. You may want to provide some frequently asked questions, for example Are you an animal…?

Do you live in…? Are you used in the home? All questions should only illicit yes/no answers.

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