Start your English as a Second Language (ESL) class for adults off with an icebreaker to give students a chance to get to know their peers while also practicing English in a relaxed setting. Icebreakers will help you as a teacher learn how comfortable your students are with the language as well as with interactions in a social situation. Use the icebreakers to guide your teaching methods in the classroom.

Who Has

Write down several questions on sheets of paper that begin with “Who has” such as “Who has the farthest commute to work?” Give one question to each student and have them locate the student who matches the question. After every student has found their respondent, have each student read their question, announce the respondent they found and offer any additional information they learned. For example, the student may say, “Sarah has the longest commute to work; she drives 35 miles both ways to her job.”


Create a survey of easy questions such as favorite color, television show, movie and book. Hand out the survey to each student in the classroom. After they fill it out, have each student find any other students with the same interests. Gather the class together and allow each student to share who has their same interests with the classroom.

Deserted Island

Go around the classroom and ask each of the students to list three items they would need to have with them on a deserted island and why. Encourage other students in the class to ask follow-up questions. For example, if a student says he must have his MP3 player, ask what songs he listens to or if he uses it for podcasts.


Gather together a list of issues currently being publicized in the media. For example, the list may include global warming, education, health care and taxes. Bring up each topic and ask if the student is for or against the issue. Encourage further discussion to familiarize the student with expressing her opinions. Bring in other students with similar or opposing viewpoints. This will create an open discussion where students can begin to feel comfortable talking with one another.

Famous People

If you are teaching an ESL class to students from multiple countries, use an ice breaker known as “Famous People.” Have each student write one famous figure from their country of origin on the board. Go around and have each person discuss why that person is important. This will create a diverse environment where students are aware of their heritage when learning English.

Daily English

Go around the room and ask each student when and how often each day he uses English. Have students work in groups to brainstorm situations where they could practice English such as at a restaurant or with friends. Allow each group to make a poster with their ideas and hang them around the classroom. This gives students a chance to work in teams while also beginning their education in ESL.

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