- Keywords: Icebreaker, student reflection, sentence transformation
- Learner English level: False beginners, Intermediate, Advanced
- Learner maturity: Junior High School, High School, University
- Preparation time: 5 minutes
- Activity time: 30-40 minutes, depending on class size
- Materials: Whiteboard, blank A4 paper, scissors, pens
This popular activity is a perfect introductory warmer for getting to know new classes. It’s very easy to prepare and can be used in many different contexts with various levels. In addition, it’s also an opportunity to build rapport with the students and set a comfortable learning environment while at the same time evaluating the level and needs of the students. It’s a combination of secret introductory sentences and casual mingling, while at the same time allowing students to practice simple sentence transformation.
Step 1: Cut A4 paper into strips of equal size — three strips for each student. If need be, prepare pens as well.
Step 1: On the first day of a new class, handout three strips of paper to each student. Take 3 strips of paper for yourself as well. Set the goal of Introducing myself to my classmates at a party.
Step 2: Have students write one full sentence about themselves on each strip of paper. Demonstrate by writing three example sentences on the board. In addition, write example topics on the board: hobbies, family, travel, food, and so on. Students should not write their name on the paper. Give the students 5-10 minutes to write their sentences.
Step 3: Once they have written their sentences instruct students to fold each strip of paper in half, so their sentences are hidden. Demonstrate with your own strips of paper.
Step 4: Designate a space, like a central desk, and have all the students put their folded strips of paper in a pile. Include your own strips as well. Then, mix up the secret papers.
Step 5: Instruct everyone to stand up and make a circle around the pile of folded paper. Ask each student to take one strip, open it and read it to themselves. Wait until everyone has a sentence, which is not their own. Instruct them to transform their sentence into a question. Then go and ask another student this question. If the answer is no they put the sentence back in the pile and try again, but if the sentence is yes they write the other students name on it and keep it. In the case of larger classes students can ask a few students before they put the paper back. Continue the activity until all, or almost all, of the sentences are claimed. As an added incentive, the student with the most sentences at the end is the winner.
Once all the sentences have been matched to their writer have the students sit down in groups of 3 or 4. Each student takes a turn to report on whose sentences they have. For example, Jun likes to play tennis. For further practice, other students can ask follow-up questions.
This icebreaker allows students to introduce themselves and get to know each other, while at the same time practicing simple language transformation. It is also a way for shier students to introduce themselves without being the center of attention. In addition, the goal setting can help motivate students to view class activities in relation to their language learning goals. Finally, it allows teachers to get an immediate sense of a student’s personality, language level and what areas they need to improve.