Warm-up Activities for an English Club
One person thinks of an object (person, place, or thing). Everyone takes turns asking yes/no questions until someone can guess correctly (or until 20 questions are asked). The difficult part is that you cannot ask "wh" questions!
Example: PINEAPPLE. Does it talk? No. Does it make life easier? No. Do you eat it? Yes. Is it something you would eat for dinner? No. Etc...
If someone makes a mistake in forming the question, other club members can help turn it into a proper question.
Can't Say Yes or No
In this game everyone is given a certain number of coins or squares of paper (about 10). Everyone moves around the room starting conversations and asking each other questions. The only rule is that you cannot say the words YES or NO. If you accidentally say one of these words, you have to give a coin or square to the person who you said it to. Try to trick each other by asking questions that you would almost always answer with a yes or no. Think of other ways to trick your friends. Sometimes asking two quick questions in a row works well. (Especially tag questions: Are you new here? This is your first time in America, isn't it?). This game is a great way to practise using small talk and to add variety to your vocabulary. It also makes everyone laugh.
Fact or Fiction
In this game, one person tells a short story about themselves or someone they know or heard about. Usually it is something funny or crazy. It can be a true story, or something made up.
Example: Josh tells a story about his Uncle Leo who sleeps in the nude. One day Uncle Leo was sleepwalking and he went outside and took his dog for a walk. The next door neighbour was coming home late from work and saw him! She called the police and he got arrested for being naked in public.
Everyone around the room has to say whether they think Josh's story is fact (true) or fiction (made up). Josh reveals the truth when everyone has guessed. Members can take turns telling a story.
This is a fun writing warm-up. Everyone has a piece of paper and writes the first sentence or two to start a fairytale (not one that already exists).
Example: Once upon a time there was a frog that had no legs. He wanted to get married, but there were no female legless frogs in the land.
After one minute the leader will say "SWITCH". At this time the writers have to put down their pens and pass the papers. They cannot finish their sentences. Then, the next writers will continue the story. After about ten minutes you will have as many silly stories to read as you have club members. The leader should warn the writers that they will soon have to wrap-up the story during the last two minutes so that each story has a conclusion. Read all of the stories out loud for a good laugh. You can extend this activity by trying to edit each other's writing and spelling errors.
Draw the Picture
In this activity members split up into pairs or small groups. One person looks at a scene from a magazine or book (the leader should cut out enough pictures, or bring in enough magazines for the club). The other person has a pencil and a blank piece of paper. The person with the picture will try to describe everything he sees to the drawer. This is good practice for using prepositions of place. When the describer is finished, compare the drawings to the real thing! Whose is the closest to the original?
For this game, one person thinks of a category, such as MOVIES. In a circle, everyone must take a turn thinking of a Movie title (in English of course). If someone takes too long to give an answer (the leader should count to five) then that person is out and a new category begins. If someone gives an answer that doesn't make sense or is incorrect, he is also out of the game. For example, if the category is VEGETABLES and someone says "banana" that person is out. The game continues until only one person is left!
Who am I?
In this game, the leader prepares cards with famous people's names on them. The leader tapes one card on the back of each member. Then everyone pretends they are at a party and asks each other questions to find out their own identities. When someone guesses their own name correctly, the name-tag gets taped to their front and they continue to chat with the party guests until everyone is wearing the nametag on the front.
In this game, which is based on the famous gameshow Jeopardy, everyone writes down ten answers to questions about themselves. After writing down the answers, people have to form pairs or small groups and try to find out what the questions are.
Example: (answer = purple) "What is your favorite colour?" "Blue." "What colour do you hate?" "Green." "What colour is your underwear?" "Purple!" You can stop at three guesses if you want, or keep going until someone in the club can guess the question.
In this game, the club is split up into two teams. One member from each team sits facing the group. The leader holds up a word (or writes it on the board if you are in a classroom) for all of the team members to see except for the two players in the hot seats. The teams must try to get the person in the hot seat to guess the word or phrase. The first person to guess correctly gets to stand up and a new member from their team takes the hot seat. The person on the other team has to remain in the hot seat until she gets an answer first. You can keep score or just play for fun. This game can also be played in pairs. One pair member closes their eyes while the leader shows the word to the other pair members. The first pair to get the word right gets a point. Warning! This is a loud game because people tend to get excited and yell!
This is a listening and pronunciation activity that always gets people laughing. The leader first must think of a sentence or phrase and whisper it to the person beside her. That person will then whisper what she heard to the next person. Each person can only say, "Can you please repeat that?" one time. When the message reaches the end of the chain that person must speak out loud. Oftentimes the message will be completely different when it reaches the end. Try to find out where the chain broke! In a big group you can send the message two ways and find out which team comes closest to the real message. (A famous example is the army message that started as "Send reinforcements, we're going to advance" and ended as "Send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance.")
Here are some more ESL activities.