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ESL Icebreaker Games “Show and Tell”

“Show and Tell” is a classic activity that has been a staple in educational settings for decades, and for good reason.

In the context of language learning, it takes on a new dimension, becoming an invaluable tool for enhancing speaking and narrative skills.

This activity involves students bringing an item of personal significance to class and speaking about it, offering a blend of personal expression and language practice.

esl icebreaker games show and tell

ESL Icebreaker – Show and Tell

We have loads of icebreaker games here on the site for all ages, you can check out the full list for adults and others on the link directly below but we also have icebreakers for adults, primary and high school here which you can check out as well.

How to Play Show and Tell

Each student selects an item that holds personal value or interest – this could be a photograph, a souvenir, a book, or any object with a story behind it.

During the session, each participant takes a turn to present their item to the class and talk about its significance.

This storytelling aspect is where the language learning comes into play, as students describe, narrate, and answer questions about their chosen item.

Educational Benefits

  1. Encourages Personalized Learning: By talking about something personal and familiar, students feel more comfortable and engaged, which facilitates better language learning.
  2. Develops Narrative Skills: The activity requires students to organize their thoughts and convey a story or description, enhancing their ability to construct coherent narratives in the target language.
  3. Expands Descriptive Vocabulary: Describing an item challenges students to use a range of adjectives and descriptive phrases, broadening their vocabulary.
  4. Improves Public Speaking Skills: Presenting in front of the class boosts confidence in public speaking and aids in overcoming language anxiety.
  5. Promotes Cultural Exchange: In multicultural classrooms, items brought for Show and Tell often reflect diverse cultural backgrounds, leading to a richer, more inclusive learning experience.
  6. Enhances Listening and Engagement: As students listen to their peers’ stories, they practice their listening skills and learn to engage with different types of narratives.
  7. Adaptable to Various Language Levels: The activity can be simplified or made more complex depending on the students’ language proficiency.

Resources and Preparation

“Show and Tell” is a low-resource activity:

  • Personal items brought by students for presentation.
  • A schedule or sign-up sheet to organize who will present each day.
  • Optional: A projector or a camera to display or show the items more clearly to the entire class.

Tailoring to Different Language Levels

“Show and Tell” can be adapted for students of various language levels:

  • Beginner Level: Encourage students to bring simple items and prepare a basic description, focusing on simple sentence structures and basic vocabulary.
  • Intermediate Level: Challenge students to provide more detailed descriptions and narratives about their items, using a broader range of vocabulary and more complex sentences.
  • Advanced Level: For advanced students, encourage in-depth storytelling or explanations, including the use of idiomatic expressions, nuanced vocabulary, and complex grammatical structures.


“Show and Tell” is a timeless educational activity that effectively bridges personal expression with language learning.

It provides a unique platform for students to share a part of their world while honing their language skills in a supportive and engaging environment.

This activity exemplifies how language learning can be deeply personal, culturally enriching, and thoroughly enjoyable.

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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