Classroom ice breakers

How to start your lesson off the right way

Summer classes begin soon and many of us will be working during our vacation. One of the problems we face is how to maintain student interest

Harry, an ajarn blog reader, mentioned "starters" - and they are very relevant. "A good beginning yields a good ending." So, Harry is right to ask for ideas for "starters" which I call "ice breakers", warm-up" , "motivation", "tone setter "or introduction". Whatever you call them, they serve the same objective - "to set the tone of the lesson".

Starters help in establishing connection with the class. When students are not motivated, it's hard to get their attention. But once their interest is captured through meaningful starters, the rest of the activities will turn out well.

In my observation, once a class is given a preliminary activity before "the real McCoy," the battle is already half- won. From the starter, the well-planned lesson will go smoothly.

But, at times, it is not desirable to start a lesson right away when students have just come from their physical education class, recess, or lunch. Many good teachers, who, as soon as their students come to class, tell their students first; go to the toilet, comb their hair, fix their blouse or shirt, powder their face, or fan themselves for a while, then begin the day's lesson.

Similarly, we can prepare the students psychologically by providing meaningful activities that will entice students forget discomfort, overcome temptation to do other things, and be mesmerized by what's going on in the classroom.

I have a number of starters to "hypnotize" students which I have found effective in my classes:

1. Free Conversation - This is one of my favorite class starters for higher level classes especially those classes that have students who can express their thoughts and ideas already. It is simply done by starting a question that will lead to more questions that are relevant or somewhat relevant to the topic and require opinion or just anything a student can say. It may last from 5-10 minutes depending on how interesting the topic is.

2. Costume Gimmick - Here the teacher may come into the class in a certain costume say, a clown, a chef, a patient, or whatever and the ball starts rolling.

3. Lost Voice - This time, the teacher doesn't speak. He /she may speak with difficulty without a voice. Students may ask questions but the teacher just do gestures or write on the board. This is to encourage students to ask questions .

4. Song and Dance - Using Genki English and Scholar songs your students will surely enjoy them.

5. Telepathy Game - Here the students are challenged to read the teacher's mind. In groups, the students try to think of what the teacher thinks. For instance, the teacher thinks of a fruit. The group discusses and at a signal each leader of the group one at a time calls out what the teacher thinks. It is amazing. One or two groups can guess the right answer. To make the game easier, give five choices for student to think of.

6. Mystery Bag - Objects related to the lesson are placed in an opaque bag. The student puts his/her hand inside and touch the object. Without seeing it, the student tries to guess its name. The student who can identify the object may get a sticker from the teacher.

7.WH Time -Here the students ask either who, what, when, where, why, or how questions which can be answered by fellow student and so on and so forth.

6. Freire Code - Inspired by a Brazilian educator, Paolo Freire. This a thematic illustration of a situation composed of a lot of scenarios, people, objects, and details. This is shown to the students. The students say what they see, identify the problem, and come up with solutions. This is a thought provoking activity I like and will generate a lot of language from the students.

7. Psychological Tests -Like What's wrong with the picture? What is missing in the picure? How many faces can you see in the picture, etc.

8. Puppet Talk -Using stuffed toys and dolls, toys, etc. Students invent dialogues of any kind and share them in class.

9. Show and Tell - Students may take turn in bringing things of their choice - a collection, a gift, a valued object, etc. Two or three students share in front of the class each day.

You can try some of these starters. If they fail the first time, don't be discouraged. Give it another try and the second time you do it I'm sure it will turn out better. Tell you what, one reason why an activity sometimes plops is because the inst ruction isn't very clear, thus they couldn't grasp the mechanics well. Remember, our students are foreign or second language learners. Once they understand it they will surely enjoy it and they will clamor to have similar activity for the succeeding days.
You can also replicate your own starters and have them patronized by your students.

Would you like to try these starters in your own classes? Tell me later if it worked or not. Have fun!

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