Teaching Crisis – Could TV Shows be Partly to Blame?

Teaching Crisis – Could TV Shows be Partly to Blame?

Teaching Crisis  – could TV shows be a contributing factor?

Whether we like it or not, television plays a huge part in all of our lives. Its influence over popular culture, despite the emergence of the internet, is still unrivalled after 80 years, and with the average UK household still spending nearly four hours in front of their screens each day, its reign shows no signs of stopping.

Television shows and teaching crisis connection

With a new report released this week highlighting the links between the portrayal of jobs in television and recruitment, there is a growing concern in the teaching industry that television could be having a greater effect on its teaching crisis than first thought.

CV Library’s survey of over 2,000 working professionals found that nearly six in ten (59%) felt that reality TV programmes, such as Educating Yorkshire, gave a realistic insight into an industry, while over half (53%) said that they would watch a reality show to gain a better understanding of a profession.

Those figures are particularly worrying for leading figures in the teaching industry, which feel that the portrayal of a teacher’s day-to-day life on the silver screen in reality shows is often over-dramatised, or worse, scripted to create exciting television.

Is it the media’s fault?

Speaking last year at the Wellington College Festival of Education, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools in England and head of Ofsted, claimed that the media’s portrayal of the state education system was hampering efforts to attract would-be teachers to the profession.

“Of course, we’ve got to have reality TV and show what teaching can be like in some of our schools, warts and all,” he said, “but surely we’ve also got to get a better balance and show what goes on in the vast majority of our state schools – good leadership, good teaching and good learning.  This often doesn’t get a look in.” He added.

As part of the survey, CV Library asked its correspondents to rank how damaging or beneficial different shows have been to their professions. Nearly a quarter (22%) felt that Educating Yorkshire / Essex, the Channel 4 shows which attracted over four million viewers, had the most damaging impact to an industry.

The programmes featured 64 cameras that were rigged up around a set school, which recorded incidents that took place between 7am and 5pm on a daily basis for seven weeks.

Crew working on the two shows gave microphones to those that they felt would make the most entertaining television based on their six months of research prior to filming.

Difficult topics, such as teenage pregnancy and bullying, were featured heavily in the shows that were broadcasted, highlighting some of the most challenging and infrequent aspects of a teacher’s job.

Lee Biggins, the founder and managing director of CV-Library, said: “Many organisations in the education sector are already struggling to attract professionals, so discovering that some shows can have a negative impact on hiring in their sectors is another potential set-back for employers. Businesses must combat the negative stigma associated with certain industry-focused TV shows to help candidates see the real profession…and ensure their pipeline of skilled talent is not harmed.”

Figures unearthed by the Labour Party this week suggest that employers are failing to do just that. Secondary schools spent a reported £56 million advertising open vacancies last year, up 61% from 2010, yet 13 out of every 16 secondary subjects had unfilled training places in 2015-16.

One further theory is that the spate of negative headlines around the teaching industry is also partly to blame. The murder of Spanish teacher Ann Maguire by one of her own pupils at Corpus Christi Catholic College in 2014 received huge publicity, as did the alleged plot to replace the head teachers of four schools in Birmingham in an attempt to make them adhere to more Islamic principles.

In Conclusion

How much these type of headlines are are contributing to the teaching crisis  and damaging teacher recruitment is difficult to judge, but with television’s new 24-hour news services and the ability to access information on the internet like never before, there is no doubt that negative publicity reaches a far greater audience than just ten years ago.

Shortage of Maths Teachers – Is this a new problem?

Shortage of Maths Teachers – Is this a new problem?

The  shortage of Maths teachers in the UK at the moment is  undeniable.

So much so, that there are companies who specialise in recruiting teachers from abroad and encouraging them to relocate to the UK by promising them job opportunities, competitive rates of pay and financial assistance with the costs associated with moving to a new country.

This shortage hasn’t appeared overnight. On the contrary, it has been a rather drawn out and inexorable process. It started, as many problems do, with compromise. The requirement for a mathematics graduate to teach mathematics was relaxed meaning that teachers qualified in other science subjects were now seen a viable targets to plug the gaps left by the lack of mathematics teachers. To an outsider, it may not seem unreasonable to have a Chemistry or Physics teacher take on the role of Mathematics teacher because after all they’re all science subjects right?

In the author’s opinion, this sentiment could not be more incorrect! Perhaps, the debate about what constitutes a science is a diversion to the main issue here, so I’ll resist the temptation for now. The basic premise is that there is no such thing as an ‘exact science’. By definition, a Science is inaccurate, contains errors ad is subject to constant revision. Believe it or not, these qualities are exactly what makes Science worthwhile: the ever changing nature of the field. Nothing stays stationary for very long in Science. Mathematics however, is not so malleable.

Getting back to the point, it is important to have mathematicians teach Mathematics. There are certain insights and qualities inherent amongst mathematicians that simply are not processed by those who study Mathematics as a tool: a means to an end. Yet for a considerable amount of time now, it has been commonplace to see schools with no Mathematicians on staff.

So what is it that detracts Maths graduates from teaching? There are a few ways to think about it. Firstly, in the modern world professions like Actuary, Banking, Insurance Brokerage and Financial Trading are not only regarded as prestigious but are also very well paid. So it’s money that is luring all the mathematical talent away. Well, this is probably a little simplistic.

Undoubtedly, there are many graduates who make career choices based on the potential for earnings. Who wouldn’t at least consider it when one’s life lays directly ahead of oneself as a twenty-something year old. However, Teaching always seems like more of a vocation. Teachers do what they do for personal reasons rather than financial ones, similar to Nurses. It is almost like a calling.

So why and how has this call to the teaching profession been eroded over time? As mentioned above, while money plays a major part, it’s not quite as simple as money-grabbers grabbing money. The problem with labelling something a ‘vocation’ is the accompanying implication that sacrifices must be made in order for this vocation to be moulded into a career.

Earlier I drew a comparison with Nursing and this was my deliberate intention. Nurses are undervalued and, for the most part, underpaid despite the amazing work they do caring for other people. I do not wish to suggest that Mathematicians are as important as nurses but let’s consider how the two situations differ.

For a graduate Mathematician who is tempted by the bright lights of high-paid, high octane financial work there is a tangible sacrifice to be made in order to consider a career in teaching. Indeed, there comes a point where it is unreasonable to expect a person to mortgage their financial future in order to pursue their dream job. The disparity in prestige, remuneration and perceived societal value is almost insurmountable. Indeed, it may be quite incredible that any Mathematician chooses to teach simply because of what might have been. It’s almost like settling for less to appease your own sense of comfort and that’s not what most graduates are about.

The ‘go-getters’ abound in great numbers to pastures greener drawn by the excitement. Luckily for them, on many of these pastures they reap the financial rewards aspired to by those wishing to set a firm financial groundwork for their lives.

The problem now is exacerbated by the fact that the financial chasm between teaching and industry is widening and broadening into other subject areas. Now, the science teachers are in short supply. Research institutions and global companies gobble them up and provide them with the nourishment they crave: a workplace that constantly challenges them to do more and do better as well as providing financial security.

The cold facts are these: If we truly value teachers we need to pay them as valued professionals. At the very least, we need to make it so that the wage gap between teaching and industry is not insurmountable for those who really see teaching as a vocation. We need to level the playing field, so that the choice to teach once again becomes a reality for Science and Mathematics graduates instead of compromising and settling for less qualified applicants to teach Maths in our schools.

Education Funding Cuts Turn Headteachers into Entrepreneurs

Education Funding Cuts Turn Headteachers into Entrepreneurs

By Rachel Andersson

The introduction of free school meals in September 2014 for all infants created a dilemma for many primary schools in England.  The issue wasn’t the reasoning behind the policy, but the practical implications of implementing it, particularly for small schools.  Many small schools had stopped on-site catering some years before and the equipment had long since been removed.  Now, suddenly, they were required by law to provide meals for a much larger number of children and had to find a cost-effective way to do so.

“Transitional” funding for small schools (defined at having fewer than 150 pupils) was available initially, amounting to just £3,000 per school in 2014­–15. It is unclear whether it was ever intended that this funding would continue indefinitely.  According to the original government guidance, the grant was for “one year only” and could “be spent as schools [chose] in support of their implementation of the policy, including for the purpose of improving kitchen or dining equipment.”  However, additional funding was, in fact, made available in 2015–16 as well, this time to the tune of £2,300 per small school, though it was described as “a small schools allocation” given in addition to the basic funding allocated to all schools.

This additional funding was vital for small schools, which face considerably higher costs per meal than do their larger counterparts because they don’t benefit from any of the economies of scale — hence the furor when in February 2016 it became apparent that the additional funding had been withdrawn.

“The Food Programme”, first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on July 11, 2016, gives a fascinating insight into the realities small schools faced when implementing this legislation.  In some cases, the “transitional” funding enabled schools to bridge the gap between the real cost of producing each meal and the notional cost of £2.30 per meal covered by the Government’s “basic” funding allocation. While some small schools probably did use the additional funding to update their facilities, for many the production of meals on site was simply unfeasible.  Therefore, more imaginative solutions to the “problem” of feeding their pupils were required.  Those solutions not infrequently involve ongoing costs, so the withdrawal of the small schools’ allocation is hugely problematic.

Free school meals for primary years 1–3 were introduced in Scotland in January 2015, but as the local authorities still oversee the schools’ catering service there, schools are automatically able to benefit from the economies of scale and don’t have to shop around for the most cost-effective deal. In England, however, where such provision has been devolved, head teachers have been left to devise individualised solutions for their own schools.

For small schools that are part of a larger academy group, it may be possible to buy in meals from one of the other larger member schools.  This may allow the small school to share in the economies of scale in terms of the costs of ingredients and of preparing the food, but the small school will still face additional costs to transport the meals to the school and also to handle the washing-up.

Some head teachers in small rural schools have been forced to adopt a more entrepreneurial approach.  In one small school near Lostwithiel in Cornwall, a cook is shared with other schools in the academy group.  Some meals are prepared on site using ingredients obtained locally, and the school is just starting to provide a take-away service to locals in order to bring in extra income.

Another small school in Cumbria has taken this approach a stage further.  They are not part of an academy group, so they can’t take advantage of shared resources.  The additional funding allows them to buy in their meals from Monday to Thursday, but on Fridays they have had to find an alternative, more economical solution. On a Friday morning, all the children in Key Stage 2 work with a governor, who is a trained cook, to prepare a two-course meal for the rest of the school.  They then also invite members of the local community to join them, and are, in fact, set up as a registered restaurant.

Apart from the fact that selling lunches provides much-needed income, there are additional benefits to the schools and their local communities as the links between the two are strengthened. Of course, the children also benefit from learning about how to grow and prepare their own food.

In striving to balance budgets, head teachers are finding themselves in a position where they must imagine increasingly-creative solutions to the problem of meeting their legal – and moral – obligations.  The importance of ensuring that children eat healthily is indisputable given its impact not just on their ability to learn but on their lifelong health.

But should head teachers have to focus their energies on pursuing entrepreneurial activities that are, frankly, beyond their remit? Of course, it could be argued that these activities are a by-product of the need to meet an obligation that has a direct impact on children’s education.  And there may be unexpected tangential benefits to the children arising from their involvement in these activities.  For example, the Key Stage 2 children at the school in Cumbria are gaining invaluable first-hand experience rarely available to children their age as they learn about running a restaurant. But surely it would be better for the head teachers to be able to focus directly on their core areas of concern and for such enrichment to arise because of choice, rather than necessity.

Cultivating a Talent-Based Approach to Classroom Teamwork

Cultivating a Talent-Based Approach to Classroom Teamwork

Basic Principles of the Talent-Based Approach to Classroom Teamwork

The basic principle of the Talent-Based Approach to teamwork that is used by most successful companies is grouping the right people together so that they can combine their talents and use their unique sets of skills to find the best ways to solve a problem or achieve a goal. The rationale behind this is simple: if you want a problem solved, find people who are passionate about the nature of the problem. They will most likely know a lot about it, have the right set of skills to solve it, and be fascinated by it, which helps them to work creatively — yet effortlessly — to have the problem solved in no time.

Such an approach to teamwork means that the whole working environment becomes pleasant and exciting because people are doing the things that excite them; they can mobilise all the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitudes and put their hearts into the task. Eventually, the employer can be sure that the project will be approached and completed by a dedicated team, the quality will not be compromised, and the outcome will be more than satisfactory.

This approach is also cost- and time-effective, as it helps to avoid problems related to missing deadlines and restructuring the team. The same approach can be easily adopted by teachers and used in a classroom environment by following the principles of the Talent-Based Approach.

Know Your Students’ Talents

This is the most important principle of the Talent-Based approach. As the name suggests, the Talent-Based Approach to teamwork means that you need to know your students well and be aware of the unique sets of skills they possess, the things they are good at, and the topics and themes they are passionate about. Knowing this will help you group your students in teams effectively, match their skills with the nature of your projects, and most importantly, plan the right projects that suit your students’ skills and talents.

The Talent-Based approach seems to be a natural continuation of the EYFS Unique Child theme and helps students realise their full potential, become more confident as individuals, and be more aware of their own assets. And the best part is that since observing students is already part of teachers’ assessment work anyway, you won’t need to do any additional prep work to get ready for the Talent-Based Approach to teamwork. 

Plan the Right Projects

Matching your students’ talents with the right topic, project, or theme might seem challenging at first, and you may even think that it will be impossible to find projects that match all your students’ skills and interests. You might also be afraid that the Talent-Based Approach to teamwork may prevent you from covering your curriculum. If your assumption is that you need to team your students according to their assets, it might turn out that not all of your students are actually “matchable” with the project you came up with. What if you proposed a project about knights and castles and only a few students are interested in the topic? What will you do with the ones who are not interested?

It seems like a challenge, but it might help you deliver more tailor-made lessons while still covering your curriculum. The key to success is planning the right kind of teamwork projects that also will appeal to students’ different talents and interests while covering most of the curriculum you are supposed to deliver. What you need to do is break down your main project into stages or aspects that appeal to different skills and interests.

There are several effective approaches to Talent-Based Teamwork projects:

Topic/Theme-Based

For example, while covering the Knights and Castles, theme you may break it down into the following aspects: battling and main historical events, construction and technology, everyday life in the castle including food, clothing, games, etc. Then, you group your teams according to the aspects that you think should appeal to them the most. This way you will have all the students who like one specific aspect working together, who will be more than happy to explore it further.

Skill-Based

You may also break down your projects according to the skill sets that your students will necessarily need to complete them. For example, to organise a charity event, your students will need the following skills: public speaking, active listening, drawing and sketching, visual design, computer skills, etc. You may have one team design an invitation poster to a charity event, another prepare an opening welcome speech for the event, while the third will create a plan of the entire event. This way you will have each team working on a slightly different task and all their members will be happy to volunteer their talents. At the same time, you will have the whole theme/topic covered from different perspectives.

Mixing Skills

This scenario is the closest to everyday reality and should be adopted as often as possible. However, teachers might feel more comfortable trying out the two above scenarios first as this one is the most challenging. To mix skills, you will come up with a project in which extensive use of various specific talents and skills is needed. For the project to be successful, the team will need to comprise of the members who can volunteer these unique talents and skills.

For example, the team might need one person who feels confident about public speaking, another who has some coding skills, one with painting or drawing talent, etc. All of them will need to work together and each of them will have something else to do, but when put together they will all bring their talents to life. While planning these kind of projects, the teacher will first need to break the project down to individual tasks or steps to be taken, and then decide which skills are required to complete those tasks or steps — and finally, which students are best suited to do so.

All of the above are promising ways to begin the Talent-Based Approach to teamwork, and each of them will help your students realise that they possess unique talents, skills, and attitudes that are needed in real life. When volunteered to the right project, they can make a huge difference.

This approach may boost your students’ confidence and raise awareness of their own assets and of the contexts, projects, and situations in which they can make best use of these assets. Most importantly, it will invite them to believe that work can be fun and that they do not need to give up on their talents to do the things they are not passionate about, as there is always a place where their skills can and will make a difference.

For a further examination of the strategy’s foundation, read “A Talent-Based Approach to Classroom Teamwork.”

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Vito Matt and Magdalena Matt are Curriculum Developers and Instructional Designers for e-learning courses, interactive workshops and conferences, and educational mobile app games.

Teaching English Abroad Can Boost Your Career

Teaching English Abroad Can Boost Your Career

By Ina Krasteva

Miriam Adeney, the author of “Kingdom Without Borders,” once said of travel experiences that, “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere.” Many TEFL teachers who landed back at Heathrow airport after years teaching English abroad can surely second that. The idea of going back home is crosses your mind at some point no matter where on the world TEFL map you are, and one of the main concerns teachers have is what they are going to do when they return and what their new future will look like.

Booking your ticket back to the United Kingdom is the first step to your long journey back to your roots. Meeting the reverse culture shock is the second.

The life as you knew it is simply not the same. While you were teaching at a primary school in the suburbs of Johannesburg, your sister married a Scottish guy you’ve never met. Two years later when she had twins, you were teaching in a small mountain village in Southern Chile and you had decent Internet access once per month if you were lucky. On your return, the little toddlers look at you suspiciously.

Catching up with friends and family is the funniest and the most rewarding part of going back home, but entering the labor market is the toughest and the most challenging aspect. After teaching English abroad for a period of years, many people choose to pursue a career in the same field and become teacher trainers when they come back to the UK. The English as a Second Language qualification is a popular option. Qualified and experienced English teachers may obtain the DELTA diploma and gain valuable advanced skills as teacher trainers. It is an excellent choice for those who prefer working with adults and mature students.

If you plan to stay in education but you would rather prefer teaching in the public school system, you may need to go back to university and acquire additional qualification. Working at private and international schools is another option worth considering, especially for those who have an eye for teaching in a multi-cultural environment. In case you are an entrepreneur by heart, you may even open your own language school.

If you do want to stay in education and like to working with youth but do not see yourself as a teacher in a long-run, you may become a student advisor or a study abroad coordinator. As a coordinator or advisor, you will be able to motivate young people to get out of their comfort zone and explore the world.

There are also rich prospects in entering the publishing world. Many English teachers have a strong background in linguistics or the humanities, which makes them an excellent fit as textbook writers and course curriculum creators. One of the advantages of this type of work is that it often offers flexible hours or even freelance options.

At this point you may think that your career path will be related to the education industry, but there’s no need to limit yourself to teaching. Many people who spent years abroad and felt like foreigners themselves take jobs in immigration services. If you learned an additional language while on the road or advanced your prior study of language, it is an asset even if you are not fluent. The cross-cultural communication skills and the cultural sensitivity you acquire overseas will come in handy in a host of government agencies and non-profit organizations. You can serve as a resettlement advisor or an immigration officer, for example; newcomers in a foreign country often feel more comfortable talking to someone who can actually understand them.

If you prefer to stay away from the government sector in the uncertain times of Brexit, you may want to consider a career in consultancy. Depending on your prior experience and academic background, you may consider joining an international advisory firm working with clients from all over the globe. Businesses depend on moving and selling goods and services across the world, and all major corporations are looking for talent with proven international experience who are willing to travel and adapt easily to new people and environments. You gained all these valuable skills during your time abroad, and now you can use them to the fullest.

And there’s always the option of more academic study. Your experience overseas will boost your chances to get admitted to the grad school you have dreamed about since your freshman year at university. Foreign experience will set you apart from other applicants and you will have a broader range of topics to discuss in admissions interviews or in personal essays.

Teaching English as a foreign language is a non-traditional career path that is often seen not as a long-term career, but as a temporary job. In truth, it can be either — it is anything but a well-defined route. If you’re committed to a career in education, it provides an excellent entry point into a lifetime of teaching or related work, but it can also be a stepping stone on virtually any other career path.

How to Identify Early Developmental Delays with Speech

How to Identify Early Developmental Delays with Speech

Children usually start producing words and phrases independently and intentionally around the age of two, but this may differ for individual children. Around this age, any speech and communication delays should not cause too much of an alarm if the child develops well in other areas, although it is possible at this early stage to identify emotional issues that might start affecting a child’s speech. The development of speech might be delayed or impaired due to reasons not directly related to child’s overall physical health, but rather to their emotional well-being.

Early Years practitioners are required by the EYFS to support the development of their children’s speech, language, and communication skills, and there are many effective ways to do so. It is also important that as an Early Years practitioner you are able to promptly identify any issues of concern related to your children’s speech and language development and consult them with the parents and other professionals. Understanding the relationship between speech development and a children’s emotional well-being is crucial to be able to decide on the best ways of supporting each child.

The connection between speech and self-expression

Speech is one of the most exquisite and advanced forms of self-expression. Very young children are masters of self expression, as they are not yet inhibited by external factors such as guilt, shame, or low self-confidence. From very early days they make sounds, cry, laugh, and play creatively without any fear of being judged or ridiculed. They will use variety of available tools such as their vocal cords, their lips and tongue, their fingers, their body, and they will imaginatively turn any everyday object into a toy that will help them express themselves and explore the world.

At this stage they do not need speech to be able to express themselves more than well using other means. However, if the child’s emotional development is negatively affected, they will most likely have self-expression problems in all areas including speech and vocal expression. Therefore, the key to noticing if a child’s speech is delayed due to emotional factors might be observing if they are able to express themselves freely and creatively in ways other than speech.

Emotional tensions and speech delays

Children’s speech and language development might be delayed due to emotional tensions they experience either at home, from their closest relatives, or at their nursery or place of care. The emotional disturbances need to be continuous or frequent enough for the child to develop problems with speech and communication. We are talking here about a situation where a child around or beyond the age of two predominantly produces simple sounds or syllables only, or their vocabulary is limited to a few words or phrases and there is no or minimal progress observed throughout weeks.

What usually triggers the delay is the kind of relationship the parents or carers have with their child. Too much discipline and a lack of partnership-type communication might cause speech delays from very early days. Although the child is still very young, they observe and respond to our communication, and it is the quality that is crucial.

If we speak to the child even while they are still babies, offer the right kind of intimacy, ask them what they prefer the most, and allow them to choose what they want or to demonstrate their preferences to us freely, then they will feel they are loved, that we respect their choices, and that we allow them to decide about themselves. Such a relationship encourages children to demonstrate their personality, explore the world the way they feel is best for them, and own their experiences having adults as guides or facilitators.

On the other hand, when there are too many “no” words around, or too many boundaries limiting the child’s possibilities to explore the world and take their risks safely, the child may become emotionally withdrawn and develop low self-confidence. They might develop an understanding that no matter what they do and say, no one will take them seriously, so they prefer to stay silent.

As adults we tend to give children a clear sign that they are “just kids” and that they should know their place in the adults’ world. Unfortunately, such attitudes are still prevalent and many adults adopt them without even knowing it (they might be just repeating the pattern from their own childhoods).

How to identify if a delay is related to emotional issues

Here is a few questions a professional might ask themselves while observing a child to understand the nature of their speech delay. If the answer to most of them is “no” then it might mean there are emotional issues causing the delay:

  • Does the child play creatively using a range of toys and resources including their own body?
  • Does the child engage in any sort of activities that might help them express themselves?
  • Does the child like to experiment creatively with tools, objects and the environment in general?
  • Is the child afraid of making mistakes, damaging equipment or making a mess?
  • How vocal is the child? Does the child play with sounds and syllables, like to experiment with their own speech organs, and enjoy discovering new sounds and ways of making sounds using their body?
  • Does the child interact with other children and adults and builds positive relationships, or is the child rather withdrawn and prefers to play alone?

The questions above are only guidelines and should not be treated as finite and indicative of speech development. They should not be used in separation either, but rather holistically. Only then may they help you see the bigger picture and get a meaningful insight into your children’s emotional world and their speech development.

There are many effective ways to support children’s speech and language development that all Early Years practitioners should include in their everyday practice — you can read more in “How to Support Speech Development in Children.”

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Vito Matt & Magdalena Matt are Curriculum Developers and Instructional Designers for e-learning courses, interactive workshops and conferences, and educational mobile app games.

10 Tried and Tested Classroom Icebreakers for Teachers

10 Tried and Tested Classroom Icebreakers for Teachers

By Adam Pritchard

Icebreakers are a great way for people to get to know each other, to prepare students for other activities, or simply to have some fun.  Below are 10 tried and tested ice breaker activities for teachers that can be used with all ages, from children to adults. 

  1. 2 Truths and 1 Lie

This is very quick and simple to set up, and it’s also a great “getting to know you” activity for a group of students who don’t know each other very well.  Each student in the class writes three sentences about themselves, one of which is false.  They then tell a partner the three sentences, and the partner must guess which one is the lie.  Encourage the students to be creative to avoid obvious and overly easy lies. 

  1. Toilet Paper

Fun for all ages, for this activity the teacher hands round a roll of toilet paper, telling the students to take as much as they want but without explaining why.  This game works especially well in a class of children or teenagers, as one student always takes a lot.  When all the students have some paper, explain that for each piece they have taken they must tell the group one thing about themselves or ask someone in the class one question.  This is great for sharing some basic personal information in a relaxed environment. 

  1. Speed Dating

An old classic that is suitable for older teenagers and adults, this activity gives students a short time to get to know each other.  Students have 2-3 minutes to talk to a partner before moving onto another person.  They can either be themselves or, to make it even more fun, can invent a character.  It may be a good idea to ask one or two students to report on what their partner said after each round since it helps to focus them and ensures that they actually listen to their partner.

  1. 20 Questions/Who Am I?

A good way to get students mingling more freely, this activity will require the use of Post-It notes.  Each student writes the name of a famous person on a Post-It note and then sticks the note onto another student’s back.  The second student does not know the identity of their famous person, so they must find out by asking other people in the class questions.  These questions can either be free or restricted to yes/no answers.  The activity ends when all of the students have found out the identity of their famous person.  It’s a good idea to keep the students moving by limiting how many questions they can ask each person in the class.  This will encourage them to speak to different people, which is, after all, the purpose of the exercise. 

  1. Find Someone Who/Have You Ever?

This is another good activity to get everyone moving around the class and talking to different people while sharing some basic information about experiences.  The students are given a list of questions, or can write their own, about different activities.  They must then talk to different people in the class in order to find someone who has done each activity.  For example, “Have you ever been to Alaska?”  The winner is the first person to get a “yes” to each question, or the person who has the most after an allotted time.  You may need to monitor some students carefully if they are writing their own in order to prevent particularly outlandish and impractical questions.

  1. S and P

This is a great activity for getting students to think quickly, as well as to revise vocabulary across a range of topics.  It’s also very fast and requires no preparation.  All you need is a ball and a topic — for example, countries.  Everyone in the class stands in a circle.   The student who has the ball says the name of any country, then throws the ball to another student, who says a different country and throws the ball to someone else, and so on.  Students cannot say any country starting with the letters S or P and cannot repeat a country that has already been said.  If they do, they are out.  Topics can be changed to keep the game going and a time limit can be imposed to challenge the students and keep it exciting.

  1. Word Association

This is another game that’s useful for getting students to think on their feet.  Again, everyone stands in a circle and the first student says a word, any word.  The next student must say a word that is connected with the first.  This continues around the class.  For example, if the first student says “sun,” the second may say “sky,” as the sun is in the sky.   To this, the third might say “blue,” as the sky is blue.  To make it more difficult a time element can be introduced to force the students to think quickly.

  1. Word Disassociation

This is a deviation of the game above.  Essentially very similar, students must think of words that are not connected in any way.  For example, if one student says “blue,” the next may say “aardvark,” as there is no obvious connection.  Encourage students to challenge if they think there is a connection, and in ambiguous circumstances to vote on whether an answer should be allowed or not.  This has the benefit of keeping them focused and also gets students more involved as they have the power to referee the game rather than simply being told whether they are right or wrong by a teacher.

  1. Hotseat

In addition to getting students to work together in groups, this activity also acts as good revision for important vocabulary.  For Hotseat, students are divided into small groups who sit together in a circle.  One student in each group sits with their back to the whiteboard and cannot look at it.  This is the Hotseat.  The teacher writes a word on the board, which the students who can see the board must describe without using the word itself.  The first person in the Hotseat to guess the word wins one point for their group, with the team with the most points after an allotted time being declared the overall winner.

  1. Memory Game

Also known as the supermarket game, as the name suggests this tests the students’ memories.  The class stands in circle.  One person starts by saying “Yesterday I went to the supermarket and I bought…” and chooses something that they purchased.  The next person then repeats what the first person said, including their food, and adds something else.  This continues with the list growing each time.  In order to make sure that students are paying attention, keep it random as to who goes next such as by tossing a ball.  If a student can’t remember or makes a mistake, they are out.  This game is great for practicing new vocabulary as you can easily change the starting sentence and context.  The students also tend to run the game themselves, as they either help or hinder their classmates by prompting or distracting them.

More Activities

Of course, there are many more ice-breaker activities in existence; this is just a small list of those that have been tried and tested.  For more, please follow the links below:

Icebreakers for teenagers.

Icebreakers for adults.

Icebreakers for all ages