Learning English through Drama Ice-breakers, Warmers and Team-building Activities

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Ice-breakers, Warmers and Team-building Activities

Ideas for Teachers

Drama provides wonderful opportunities for students to:

  • practise and extend their language skills

  • build confidence

  • exercise their creativity

  • work together

In order to create the most productive atmosphere, it is useful to start every lesson with activities that make the students feel both relaxed and energised.

Here are some activities that can be done with no preparation or materials, and with any class size and any level beyond beginner.

Learning Activity 1

Team Counting
Skills developed: listening, teamwork
10 minutes

There is no “best” time for this activity. It is most useful as a way of encouraging students to work together as a group.

  1. Ask students to stand in a circle.

  1. Explain that they will count to a specified number. (21 is an achievable but challenging goal.)

  1. The twist is that only one student may speak at any time. If two students speak at once, the count begins again from 1.

  1. Students are also not allowed simply to speak round the circle. Whoever feels that the moment is right should say the next number.

This activity is more difficult than it seems – it is not uncommon for the class to have to return to the number “1” many times. When they finally reach the target number, there is usually a strong feeling of achievement and group cohesion.

Learning Activity 2

Emotional Numbers
Skills developed: intonation, vocal projection
10 minutes

This activity could be used before moving on to “Expressing Emotion with Your Voice” in this resource package.

  1. Ask students to stand in a circle.

  1. Explain that they will be counting upwards from 1, and that each student must build on what the previous student has said.

  1. Name an emotion (e.g. excited, sad, angry).

  1. The teacher begins the activity by saying “1” while making eye contact with the student to his/her left. The teacher should inject the given emotion (at a low level of intensity) into his/her voice.

  1. The first student then makes eye contact with the next student to the left, and says “2” with a bit more emotional colour.

  1. This process carries on around the circle. The teacher can side-coach, saying “Build it!”, “More!” or “Angrier!”

  1. As the numbers grow higher, each student must use his/her voice to make the emotion stronger. Students can also be encouraged to use facial expressions and body language.

  1. After everyone has spoken, the teacher starts a new circle, expressing a different emotion.

  1. For feedback after the activity, the teacher asks “What happened to your voices?” Students usually notice that they have used more volume and intonation than they usually do when speaking English. The teacher can point out that this shows that they are capable of more expressiveness than they might think.

  1. As a variation, the teacher can start two circles at the same time – one going clockwise, and the other going counter-clockwise. This makes the activity more energetic.

Learning Activity 3

Circular Story
Skills developed: listening, cooperation, creativity
10 minutes

This activity could be used before moving on to “From Story to Script” in this resource package.

  1. Ask students to stand in a circle.

  1. Elicit three details (e.g. a type of animal, an occupation and a type of building). There is no need for these three to have any connection; indeed the activity works better if the elements are not obviously related.

  1. Explain that the students must create a story that involves all three elements, and that each student around the circle will contribute one word to build up the story (e.g. Student 1: “Yesterday”/Student 2: “I”/Student 3: “was”/Student 4: “walking”).

  1. Each student’s contribution must follow from the previous words, but it is not necessary for the content of the story to be completely logical.

Because each new word moves the story in a new direction, students must listen attentively to what their classmates are saying, and must be willing to accept surprises. It is helpful if the teacher provides side-coaching, saying things like “Don’t worry, just say the first thing you think of”. The stories often become very inventive and funny, and students are surprised at how creative the group effort becomes.

Learning Activity 4

Four-word Conversation
Skills developed: listening, grammatical accuracy
10 minutes

This activity could be used before moving on to “From Story to Script” in this resource package.

  1. Divide the students into groups of three, four or five.

  1. Explain that they are to have a conversation, but each contribution must be exactly four words. (e.g. “How are you today?”/“I’m very well, thanks.”/“I’m a bit tired.”)

  1. Each contribution must follow naturally from the previous one, and must be grammatical.

  1. Other group members may challenge a contribution if they think it is illogical or incorrect.

  1. To add an element of competition, the teacher can give each group a stack of poker chips, playing cards or other small objects. Each student can take one of these objects each time s/he adds something to the conversation. The object is to win the maximum number of objects.

Learning Activity 5

Skills developed: vocal projection and intonation
10 minutes

This activity could be used before moving on to “Creating Drama through Conflict” in this resource package.
It is probably more suitable for the average or more advanced students because of the vocabulary demands it makes.

  1. Divide the students into groups of three, four or five.

  1. Nominate one student as the “victim”.

  1. Give each of the other students an urgent message to deliver (e.g. “Student 2, you want to know where the hospital is. Student 3, you want to know what time it is. Student 4, you can’t find the nearest MTR station.”).

  1. All speaking at the same time, students in each group demand the attention of the “victim”. They can be encouraged to express their messages in different ways (e.g. “Excuse me, what time is it? Can you tell me the time? I’ve lost my watch – what’s the time?”).

  1. The “victim” should act indifferent. This will force the other students to become more expressive vocally.

The following websites explain how to conduct hundreds of easy and enjoyable drama games:





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