First-day Ideas: Icebreakers and More

In a group setting, building a sense of community is key from the get-go. Whether you start working with a new group of students next week or six months from now, I hope you will take the time to consider some of the following activities. They are designed to help students become acquainted with one another.

A to Z Teacher Stuff allows you to easily make a word search. Why not make one using the first names of a high beginner group? Include your name as well. Bring copies of the puzzle to your first class and distribute them. Have students walk around introducing themselves. As they learn a new name, they must find it in the puzzle. Put a review of the basics on the board: What is your name? My name is… How do you spell that? Model a self-introduction and help students find your name first. Tip: When you make the word search, keep it simple by selecting options such as forward words only and no diagonal words.

Puzzle Maker can help you build a crossword on the spot. If you have the capability of projecting your screen, this could be a fun way to get intermediate students to introduce themselves and interact.

  1. Ask each student to state their name, their home country, and one or two facts about themselves. You can model: My name is Jennifer. I’m from the U.S. I like to play the piano.
  2. As each student speaks, you need to enter their first name as an answer and the other personal information as the clue in the proper format to create the crossword. (Jennifer/ From the U.S. Likes to play the piano.)
  3. Once you press “Create the Puzzle,” your crossword will be formatted in seconds. You can even customize your background design. Now you’re ready to share your screen. Have students recall who is who by completing the puzzle as a class.
  4. VARIATION: Use the crossword on Day 2. Find out personal information on Day 1. Don’t tell them what you have in store. Just take notes and create the puzzle after class. Bring printed copies to the next class and have them remember who is who by working in small groups. Groups can break up and form new groups until each student has completed the crossword.

Looking for more ideas to get new groups of students interacting?

5 Comments Add yours

  1. surielcortes says:


    You have saved my life! I’ve got some teaching experience (being modest ‘winks’), but this will be my first year as the principal of an Institute of English as a second language in southern México… I’ve got a great teamwork helping me along the way and although we have many ideas for the whole lesson planning for the rest of the course; we have been struggling while planning the very first lesson. For many of our students it will be the first time they come in contact with a foreign language and we all know how important it is to motivate them from the beginning. We love your idea of the “web” exercise, since it is very interactive and it will help the students to get to know each other. Will be also using our projector for the first time with your terrific idea of making a word puzzle using their names.

    Your biggest fan… Teacher Suriel

    1. Hello Suriel.

      I am very happy to learn that this post has come in handy — just at the right time! As for the web idea, I wrote in my post that the real credit goes to Melissa Walker on I simply modified it for the ESL classroom. I hope both the web and the word search work out well. Enjoy!

      Kind regards,

  2. Hailey says:

    Thank you so much for these ideas! As a person who is just getting into teaching ESL I can use any bit of information that I can get my hands on! I have to thank the internet!

    1. My colleague Walton Burns has a lot of ideas for the traditional classroom setting. Learn about him and his work here:

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