It is a good idea to start groups with a warm-up activity. They break the ice, make people feel relaxed and so interested and open to learning, and are often educational and good for developing all sorts of skills!

Here are some examples of games you can play:

Word Olympics

Everyone stands up. One person says a word, eg flower. The next person has to say a word that starts with the last letter of the word – flower ends in r, so they may say – road. The next person says a word that begins with a d. And so on.
If people take too long they sit down. See how many are left standing after a round or two!

This develops quick thinking, and can develop vocabulary as well.

20 questions

Think of something – anything eg computer, lion, umbrella
Your learners need to find out what you have thought of. You can only answer YES or NO.
Using lion for example:
Is it man-made? – NO
Is it alive? – YES
Do we keep them as pets? – NO
Does it have four legs? – YES

They can play one or two rounds of this in small groups.

The most successful players are those that classify and use categories – such as the questions above – rather than just guessing ‘Is it a horse’ ‘Is it a whale’…

It is a very useful game to develop thinking skills.

Pictionary

You can adapt the game Pictionary for your group. Have a whole lot of words on slips of paper. They can be simple nouns such as horse, or car, or rain, or you could have more
challenging ones such as love, anger. Use a dictionary to get ideas!

Divide learners into two teams.

A person from each team comes to the board (or flipchart) and you give them each a word. They have to draw that word for their group, who will call out their guesses. They cannot write words or symbols.

When the team guesses correctly, they get a point and another person takes the next word and draws it. The winning team is the one who gets the most points in the 10 minutes or so of play.

This game develops creativity and lateral thinking.

What is it?

Get learners to stand in a circle. Bring in an object, such as a pen. Mime using it as a microphone. People guess what you are using it as, and once they have it right, you pass it on. It is amazing to see how creative they can be: a simple pen can be a microphone, a comb, a toothbrush, a stick, a cigarette…
You can use more challenging objects such as a box, or a bottle, once your learners get used to the game.

This really develops creativity.

Acting out

Prepare some slips of paper with various instructions:
– Pretend you’re riding a horse
– Pretend you’re directing traffic
– Pretend you’re a chicken
– Pretend you’re stealing something
– Pretend you’re a politician giving a speech
– Riding a motorbike
– Making a cake
– Washing a car
– Buying something at a shop
– Hanging out washing

Give an instruction to one of your more outgoing students to act out, with the other learners guessing what they are doing.

Get four or five more, and then keep the rest to do at a later stage with other learners.

This is a fun game that develops drama skills and creativity.

Making words

Find a long word in the dictionary eg EXPLANATION. Mix up the letters and write them on the board or on a piece of paper for everyone to see:
P N T O X A N I L E A
Give learner 5 minutes to write as many words as they can with these letters. Each word must have 3 letters or more
Eg pan
Tax
Tail
Lean
Ail
(notice there are two Ns and two As – so one word can also have two Ns eg non. However there is only one P so you can’t have the word POP)

Then ask learners to work out their points that they get for each word they thought of.
3 letter words: 1 point
4 letter words: 2 points
5 letter words: 3 points
6 letter words: 4 points
7 letter words: 5 points
8 letter words: 6 points
9 letter words: 7 points
10 letter words: 8 points
11 letter word: 9 points plus bonus 10!

This game helps with spelling and vocabulary development.

Throwing a ball

Choose a theme such as vegetables, or things you find at school, or categories such as nouns, adjectives or verbs. Then stand in a circle and throw a ball at a learner. As they catch it they need to shout out a word that fits into the category. If they take too long they sit down. See how many are let standing after a few minutes!

This game develops vocabulary and quick thinking!

Hangman

Play Hangman with the word STEREOTYPE (or any nice long word)

How to play: put the following on the board: S _ _ _ _ _ _ _ P _

Ask learners to suggest letters.

If any of them guess the letters that are correct, fill them in eg if someone says ‘E’ then fill in all the E’s.
S _ E _ E _ _ _ P E

But if they say a letter NOT in the word, then you start drawing a hangman’s noose, one line at a time..

This game can develop vocabulary and spelling.

Group stories

See if your learners can make up a story with each learner contributing a word. Get them to all stand up in a circle. Each person says one word (eg you can contribute the first word ‘once’.) If a learner takes too long then they sit down and the story continues without them…(You can also do this with each learner contributing a sentence.)

This develops creativity.

30 seconds

Make your own 30 second cards with simple words and divide your class into two teams.

One member from one team comes to the front and gets a card. They have 30 seconds to describe the words without using pieces of them (eg if a word is motorbike they can’t say ‘it’s a bike with a motor’) or using any other language but English. They can act out, however.

The rest of their team guesses the words.

Then a member from the other group comes up to do the same.

Give each group 2 points for each correct word guessed in the time limit (subtract a point for other lang or any other transgressions!)

You can do a couple of rounds in one session and a couple of rounds another session, as long as you record which learners have had a turn.

(You can also make your own cards and use vocab words that you have covered with your group in the past.)

These are just a few examples of warm-up games. Google ‘warm-up games’ or ‘ice-breakers’ to find more…