In my last blog post, I discussed some of my favorite first week ice breakers for Intermediate/advanced students. I do however, think that it is equally as important to get students who are just beginning the language to speak and feel comfortable in class. Again, I must stress that I think it is especially important that the teacher participates with the student to set the correct tone. Here are some of the activities that I use in the first week of school.
Circle/action Name game: I have my students sit in a circle. Then I model a few times for them, Me llamo _____ , como te llamas, and se llama ____. Then I say my name is ______ and do an action for something that I like to do. The next student will say my name is _____, and her name is ______. and will his/her name with an action for himself, and then say my name with my action. This ice breaker allows each student to say everyone's name, and allows students to move! Another added benefit is that by the end of the activity, most students have a decent grasp on mine name is___ , his/her name is___ I try to finish the game, which is a good way for me to test whether or not I have learned each student's name. I do insert gentle recasts if a student is struggling with the pronunciation.
Trainwreck or fruteria: I have heard this ice breaker called many names. It is basically like a verbal musical chairs. Remove a chair from the circle of desks (or chairs are even better). One student stands in the middle of the circle and says a mi y todos mis amigos nos gusta(n) ______. Every student who likes said object has to get up and switch chairs. Students may not just move over a chair. The student who does not get a chair, is the next person in the middle. With very beginning students, I usually write the first part of the sentence on the board "a mi y todos mis amigos nos gusta(n) _____. I will allow the very beginners to say what they like in English, but I supply the Spanish word for them. Students are often surprised (and relieved) to hear how many cognates there are in Spanish. An added benefit includes students getting early exposure to gustar.
Quien tiene?: With Middle School or upper elementary students, I will often play a game, I simply call quien tiene. This activity requires a coin or other small object. All of the students stand in a circle. One student leaves the room, and the rest of the students pass the coin around in a circle until I call para! The student who has the coin then hides it in their hand or, if the students are sitting in desks, every student places their palms flat on the desk. The student who left the room is called back into the classroom, and everyone asks in chorus Quien tiene la moneda? The student has three chances to guess. For each guess the student should say ________ tiene la moneda. If a student doesn't know another students' name, he or she is encouraged to use como te llamas?
I will sometimes also have students make lists of cognates or words that they already know if Spanish. For example, I may challenge them to make a list of US states that have Spanish or Spanish derrived names. Or, city street names (depending on where you live). Once again, the purpose is to make the foreign language not seem quite so foreign and to activate connections in students' brains.
What are your favorite ice breakers for beginning and early intermediate students?