An icebreaker is not a ship moving through icy seas or a master martial artist exercising his skills. Rather, an icebreaker is an activity that helps people mingle and get to know each other. A warm-up helps us switch channels from whatever we were doing before we got together to what we plan to do while we are together. And a filler is an activity that can be used in isolation when there is more time to fill in the class.

I assembled this collection in the late summer of 2012. Since then it has been used again and again by myself and many others. I have published it and shared it countless times. Although, an increasing amount of my English teaching work is online one-on-one instruction, in early 2014, I have elected to seek in person teaching opportunities. So, once again, when dealing with groups of various sizes, this list will be useful for me and hopefully others.

A Collection of Such Activities for Teenagers and Adults (Thanks, Lourdes!)

Crossword Puzzles (Group 1) (Group 2) (Group 3) This last group even offers "kanji" as a font style. Interesting! Today (September 14, 2012) I made three crossword puzzles for my three groups using three separate websites. The words used for the crossword puzzle were the vocabulary that we had collected in class since the beginning of the semester. This is a great way to review concepts/vocabulary already covered in the class. Ss can work on these individually or in teams of two. I will use these puzzles for warm ups next week and I will offer a prize to help speed things up. There are tons of such free programs out there but some require membership, money or just don't look right when printed. Beware. :)


Find Somebody Who

This is for getting up and mingling and talking to as many people as needed to find somebody who blah blah blah. Select known facts about the participants and/or random facts about somebody somewhere. Preparation requires cards that have one or more Find somebody who blah blah blah statements. You should have enough so that every participant has one card.

Five Pointed Star

You can give your students each a paper with a large five pointed star or simply have them draw their own stars on their own paper. Each student is given the following instructions: On the firs point, write the name of a person who is important to you. On the second point write the name of a place that is significant for you. On the third point write a number that is meaningful for you. On the fourth point write a date that is special for you. On the fifth point draw a symbol or a logo that you like. Then in pairs or small groups students show their stars and answer questions about what they have written and ask questions about what other people have written.

Guided Meditation/Plato's Cave

This is a lovely warm up/transition to whatever comes next. It is a way for participants to use their own imaginations, relax and take themselves, with the help of the facilitators words, to a place in their minds eye and to experience that place, that activity, those people. All senses can be engaged, no just vision but touch/tactile, smell, emotion, taste. This activity can be very relaxing and surprising. You can take participants back to their childhood to recall favorite toys, amusements, foods, games, etc. It can also be used to recall specific smells (which are associate with particular events or times).

Geometric Puzzle

Give each team 4 straws and ask them to take turns forming 4 (simultaneous) triangles with those straws. (Answer is a three sided pyramid with a triangular base.)

Hot Potato

This is also a good way to review previously acquired/learned material. This works well with students standing in a circle with one soft object tossed from one to another across the circle. With each toss, the tossing student asks the receiving student a question. This works well if all students have questions to ask beforehand. The questions can be provided by the facilitator or not, depending on the ease of question invention by the participants. This is a warm-up, not a test! ( I tried this recently using vocabulary words, students selected two words and then we tossed a small teddy bear across the circle. The tosser asked, "Spell "stopped." and the receiver spelled the word. If successfully spelled the receiver became the tosser, asking the next receiver one of the spelling words in hand. People that were not successful in spellers sat down and watched the rest of the game. This brought home the importance of clear pronunciation. This can easily be done with word meanings too. And also language points like change direct speech to reported speech or whatever.)

How Many Words Can You Make?

Choose a word and ask the class, individually, in pairs or in larger groups, to create words from these letters: b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. Of course you can choose any word to start with. Try the exercise yourself to see approximately how many words can be generated. For "beautiful" I generated 61 words so I would expect my students to generate 10, 20 30, 40, 50 or more. (One day, I needed a kind of quiet warm up because my class was meeting in a public place today to do some online work.)

Last weekend

Everyone think of what you did last weekend. In pairs, find out as much as you can about what your partner did last weekend by asking only yes/no questions. Afterwards asks students to report what their partner did last weekend. This is a timed activity--5 or 10 minutes. Students can alternate in asking each other questions or ask at random or use half the time for one person and half for the other. It is up to them.


Project a map or otherwise show a map to the entire class. Designate "North" on the map and on a wall of the classroom. Designate/elicit the other cardinal directions on the map and correspondingly in the physical classroom. Label the walls "north", "south", "east" and "west" accordingly. With Mexico as the center make sure students are clear about what direction Korea is in, what direction Australia is in etc. Then ask students to stand in a place along the classroom wall that corresponds to the direction they would need to travel to reach somewhere in the world that they would like to travel. Students are asked to talk to others who are near them about where they are and why they have chose that part part of the world to visit. This activity requires a flat world map or a projected image of a world map. It also requires four simple cardinal direction labels and a way to affix them to the walls of the classroom.

Mind Reader

Let each letter of the alphabet represent a letter: A=1 B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5 etc. Ask participants to select a number between 1 and 10. Then ask each to multiply the number that they selected by "9." If their answer is a two digit number, then add the two digits together. Now everyone should have one resulting digit. Now subtract the number 5 from the result. Write the answer. Now think of a country that begins with the letter that your result begins with. Remember our code. Write down the answer. Now think of an animal that begins with the second number of that country. Writing is not required but if students are not comfortable in English, writing may help them.

Music How nice to close one's eyes and hear gentle upbeat music with clear lyrics and simple words and concepts. Listening once in this way and then perhaps listening again--open-eyed--with the lyrics displayed karaoke style or otherwise can be an effective way to transition from one situation into another.

My Word, Your Word.

In small groups sitting in a circle.Each person is asked to think of an information or open-ended question. Then two people sitting side by side are "it." Another person in the circle asks his/her question and the pair give ONE answer by alternating words, neither one of them knowing exactly what the other will actually say. For example, the question might be. "What is your favorite color? The answer from the pair: "My," says one. "Favorite," says the other. "Color," says the first. "Is," says the second. "Yellow," says the first.

My Name is ...and I Like ...

This is a game of memory and requires no special equipment r preparation. Create a simple sequence of participants based on how they are seated or standing or whatever. One by one everyone will use the formula to state his/her name and what he/she likes. Everyone, but the first person will also state what the previous participants have said. "My name is Nia and I like fruit." The next person might say, "My name is Sofia and I like to swim. Her name is Nia and she likes fruit." The NEXT person might say, "My name is Hector and I like traveling. Her name is Sofia and she likes to swim. Her name is Nia and she likes fruit" And so on and so forth.This was not used during the CLIL training but it is a good warm-up/ice breaker nonetheless.


Add a single line to "IX" to create a six (6). Two solutions;: Add an "s" (SIX) or draw a line through the middle of both, fold it in half and turn it upside down to create VI or add add a 6 at the end to create IX6 (one times 6)

Running Dictation

This requires some prep work and two or more teams of three. There are a dozen questions that participants should know the answers to. (So this is good for reviewing previously acquired/learned/taught information.). Each team has a "runner", a "recorder" and a "receiver." The runner goes to the place the questions are, memorizes one of them and crosses it out. (Each team has a separate list of questions affixed to a classroom wall distant from that group.) The runner returns to the group and whispers the question to the receiver. The receiver whispers the question to the recorder. The recorder writes down the question. Then roles are switched in rotation and the process is repeated. To set up label each "place" and determine the direction of rotation of the people (with the labels remaining fixed.)

Show a Short Video--Twice

The video can have speaking or no speaking. The idea is that you relax the participants and engage them. After the second showing start with prepared questions of different types: Knowledge questions (basic knowledge) are information questions that were answered directly by what the participants have just seen. Comprehension questions are implied by what the participants have just seen, exploratory questions ask for prediction, what if scenarios and/or what other explanation might there be for blah blah blah. Application questions are those that involve using what was learned from what was seen to another situation. Call on participants at random so that participants do not zone out until it is their turn. Use a ponderous tone of voice, not one of interrogation.

Speed Dating

This can actually be done for any "question" or topic, not just for date questions. Basically there are two parallel rows of people facing each other. You will need an even number of participants.So you may also join in the fun if you have an odd number of students in attendance. One row will move to the left every minute. The other row will remain seated. Show students a short video demonstrating "speed dating" if participants are not familiar with the activity.Also use a timer. Here is an interval alarm timer:

The Doughnut

This is a talking exercise that uses the technique of an inner and an outer circle where the outer circle rotates clockwise one person at a time and at each "station" (each point in the circle). Each person has a different question to ask. Here is what Rocio (RIP) sent to me...with questions included! These are the details of one doughnut activity which focuses on everyday popular consumer technology.

Participants in the inner circle (Participant As) stay put and interact with the participant in front of them. Participants in the outer circle (Participant Bs) interact once with the participant in front of them and for the next question, they need to take a step to the left (clockwise) and interact with a different person from the inner circle until all of their questions have been answered.

Participant A (inner circle, each person has ONE question to ask)

  1. Do you normally listen to music using an I-pod instead of a stereo system? Why?

  2. Do you enjoy learning to use new technology gadgets? Why?

  3. Have you upgraded a technology gadget recently like your lap-top, video game console, cell phone? Why?

  4. Have you bought a blue-ray DVD system? Why?

  5. Do you buy or do you allow your family members to buy “piracy goods”? Why?

Participants in the inner circle stay put and interact with the participant in front of them. Participants in the outer circle interact once with the participant in front of them and for the next question, they need to take a step to the left (clockwise) and interact with a different person from the inner circle until all of their questions have been answered. (All participants have a different individual question that they ask repeatedly to the various people that appear in front of them, one by one.) This exercise has been set up for 10 people. If you have a class of 20 you can do this with two "double circles" for example. Rocio notes "when you have a larger group for example 20 or 24 then form two doughnuts so that your monitoring is manageable and the level of noise is controllable, with a large group I use the patio/garden area outside my classroom even in the winter (jackets and all)."

Participant B (outer circle, each person has ONE question to ask)

  1. Do you normally take photos with your digital camera or your cell phone? Why?

  2. Have you printed your own photos? Why?

  3. How do you normally save your electronic files to make sure you have a back up? Why?

  4. Do you enroll and use a Moodle page for the courses you take or do you ask someone to help you? Why?

  5. Do you like to be given feedback electronically and do you check your grades on Moodle?

Twenty Questions (source:

One person thinks of an object (person, place, or thing). Everyone takes turns asking yes/no questions until someone can guess correctly (or until 20 questions are asked). The difficult part is that you cannot ask "wh" questions! It is a good idea for the person who is "it" to write down the object that they are thinking of prior to the round of questions.

Vocabulary Quiz

This can be done in teams or individually. Think of five things that are green. Think of three things that are thinner than a pencil. Think of six things that you could keep money in. Afterwards students are asked to put their answers on the board and any new vocabulary is explained by the students to each other.

What Word?

Teacher distributes words and students singly or in teams do a mime or skit which demonstrates the word that they have been given. The rest of the class is asked to guess what word is being represented.

Who Am I? (Version 1)

One person select from an assortment of famous people. The other class members must guess which famous person was selected. by asking a series of yes/no questions.

Who Am I? (Version 2)

Each participant has the name of a famous person stuck to his/her forehead (or back). Students must guess who they are by asking other yes/no questions such as, "Am I American?" "Am I a woman?" You will need post-it notes with one name of a famous person on each post-it.

Word Games

How many words can each team find that contain the letter "e" at least three times?

How many words can each team find that contains the sequence "our?"

Y Generation Questionnaire

This can be used just prior to having students discuss in pairs or small groups the similarities and differences that they expressed in the questionnaire. It can also serve to warm students up to the topic of another activity on the same topic. Thank you, Rocio! :) Here goes!

Dear student,

This is a perception poll on students’ behavioral tendencies in the classroom. Would you kindly read the statements below and mark the best option according to your knowledge and beliefs?

Instructions: For each sentence below, please mark an “X” in the box that best describes your classroom experience.

Strongly agree



Strongly disagree

Students know more about technology than teachers do (Internet, MP3, etc).

Students need a variety of learning activities to feel motivated in class.

Students prefer to create something on their own rather that be told what to do.

Students like to receive feedback from their classmates about their work.

Students today are able to concentrate on class work better than students in the past.

Students today are more dependent on the teacher than they were in the past.

Students like to read more than students did years ago.

Students learn better from visuals than from texts.

Here are a couple of sites for word games that I recently found on the net.

For crosswords, jumbled sentences and more:

More word games:

Many thanks to my instructor, Rocio (RIP), and to my classmates Ani, Tere, Terry, Nacho, Patricia, Marcel, Ari, Guillermo, Sofia, and Francisco who shared several of these icebreakers during our CLIL training course together during the summer of 2012 at ITESO.

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