Serengeti

Supplement: Warm-Ups.


You need some good ice-breakers at the start of your course and warm-ups at the beginning of each session. You need to remind your course participants that they are not going to be sitting quietly listening to you give a lecture. All these activities are designed to get people active and communicating with each other. They are also examples of short, communicative activities that your course participants can use with their own students at the beginning of a session, as a relaxation between other more intense activities, or to wind-down at the end of a lesson. The activities listed here are not original. They come from a wide range of sources, mostly unknown and, therefore, impossible to acknowledge. So let me thank all those unknown colleagues who have contributed to this stock of ice-breakers, warm-ups, enders and fillers and who have, thereby, helped to enhance our students' enjoyment of our lessons and made life so much easier for us in the classroom.

Shake up the Groups

Course participants, like any other group of students, get set in their ways. They tend to sit in the same place every day and, therefore, interact with the same people sitting around them. So before we get to the ice-breakers and warm-ups, I want to look at ways of shifting the course participants out of their set ways and getting them to interact with different people.

It's easier to move people around if they don't have coats and bags with them at their working tables, so get them to deposit everything except their notebook and pen on side tables.

All these ways of shaking up groups can give rise to various amounts of confusion, but that's part of the fun. They also assume that the room is set out for group work.

  1. After you have had everybody on their feet mixing together (a melee activity) tell them they have to sit at the table that's nearest to them.

  2. This is a way of randomizing groups as your course participants come into the room in the morning, after a break, or after lunch. Make up a set of cards with letters of the alphabet on them. If you want four groups, make up a set of cards running A, B, C, D, A, B, C, D, A, B, etc. If you want three groups just use the first three letters of the alphabet. If you want six groups use the first six letters of the alphabet. Give each participant a card as they come in. Then tell them to form groups with people who have the same letter on their card.

  3. Cut out pieces of card of the same colour. Do the same with as many different colours as you expect to have groups. You need to have as many pieces of each colour as you want to have participants in each group. Shuffle the pieces of card and give them out randomly as participants come into the room. Then tell all the blues, reds, greens etc to sit together. Make sure you have a few spare cards if you have odd numbers.

  4. Other forms of grouping:

    * by age - sit with people you think are the same age as you;

    * by the season of the year when you were born;

    * according to answers to questions, e.g. Which do you prefer, cats or dogs?;

    * by position in their family - eldest, youngest, middle, only child.


Short List of Ice-Breakers, Warm-Ups, Enders and Fillers.

1. Find someone who.... - See the example in Unit One.

2. Team Brainstorming - Call out a category and teams have to write down as many examples as they can think of; e.g. things that are round, things that are red, things you take on holiday etc. They only have 30 seconds for each category.

3. What could you use this for? - The whole group sits in a circle. Pass an object round. Each person must take it and suggest something different they could use it for. Have a mixture of everyday and more unusual objects, e.g. a coke bottle, a comb, a sink plunger, a wire coat hanger.

4. Category consequences - In groups of 4 - 6. Each player has a piece of paper. Each player thinks of a category (such as: cooking, bicycles, driving) and writes down five words in that category. Papers are passed to the left. The next player looks at the words and folds the paper over to hide the words then writes what he/she thinks is the category of the words. The papers are passed to the left. The next player looks at the category the previous player wrote and writes five words in that category. Continue until the papers have gone round the group.

5. Dictate a drawing - The teacher selects (or draws) a simple picture and describes it to the class who have to draw it.

6. Jazz Chants - For how to use Jazz Chants with several examples click on this link: Jazz Chants

7. Buzz - Course participants count out loud round the group. Each time there is a seven in their number, or their number is a multiple of seven, they must say BUZZ. If they fail to say buzz at the right time they drop out. Keep going until only one person is left.

8. Simon Says - Course participants can take turns leading this game. The leader calls out a series of commands. If he or she begins the command with the words "Simon says", the class does what they are told. If the leader gives a command without the words "Simon says" they ignore it. If they follow a command without the words "Simon says" they drop out.

9. Songs - Teachers in most parts of the world are very happy to learn new English songs and you will find it extremely useful to build up a small repertoire of songs that you can sing yourself and teach to your course participants. So prepare some sets of words before you go and practise in private.

10. Back-to-back descriptions - The participants form two concentric circles with the same number of people in each. If there is an odd number, you will have to take part. The two circles walk round in opposite directions. When you shout stop, each person stands back-to-back with the nearest person in the other circle. They then take it in turns to describe what the other is wearing (without looking, of course.).

11. Towns, countries - Make groups of four and give out a piece of paper to each group. One person in each group writes down the left-hand side of the page a list of categories that you give them (or that they suggest) including Town, Country, Animal, Plant, Famous Person, Food etc. Then call out a letter of the alphabet and the groups must write down something beginning with that letter for each category. The first team to write something down for every category shouts "Ready!" and everybody stops. Do the same thing for two or three more letters. At the end check the words and score:

  • only one team has a word - 4 points
  • two teams have a word - 3 points
  • three teams have a word - 2 points
  • four teams have a word - 1 point

12. Who am I - This is the old party game. Write the names of famous people on sticky labels and stick one on the back of each participant. The participants mill around and have to ask questions to find out who they are. They can only answer questions that can be answered with YES or NO and they can only ask another person three questions before moving on to someone else. Make sure you choose people who are likely to be known to your particular group of teachers. You can do the same thing with the names of countries.

13. Board crossword race - Divide the class into two teams. Each team lines up facing the board. For each team draw on the board a six by six grid. When you tell them to start, the team members come up one at a time and write a letter in the grid trying to make words across or down. The first team to fill their grid receives a bonus of three points. When both teams have finished (or you call time) work out the scores for each team. They score a point for each letter in a word in their grid counting across or down. So a team that had INTO in their grid would score 2 for IN, 2 for TO and 4 for INTO.

14. Chinese whispers - If you have a lot of participants divide them into two or more groups of not more than twelve. Go to one end of each group and whisper a sentence into the ear of the first person. He or she then whispers the sentence into the ear of the next person in the group and so on. The last person in the group comes to the board and writes up what he or she heard. Slightly strange sentences work best. E.g. Don?t forget to wash the elephant before you go to bed.




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