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Great ESL Icebreaker Games for Adults

The first day of a second language class can be daunting for adult learners. Icebreaker games are an excellent tool to reduce anxiety, foster a sense of community, and make learning more enjoyable.

These activities not only warm up the class but also build a foundation for effective language learning.

Let’s explore some of the best icebreaker games that can transform the dynamics of adult language classrooms.

Great ESL Icebreaker Games for Adults

ESL Icebreaker Games for Adults

We have 12 great icebreaker games for adults in the list below, though of course they can be used for any classroom with a little adaptation.

We have a link to a page for each game so you can copy/paste or download the full instructions and description just click the image on each one to get there.

We hope these icebreaker games are useful to you don’t forget to check out our other icebreakers for adults, primary and secondary school as well. You can see them in the list right below.

1. Two Truths and a Lie: A Classic with a Linguistic Twist

  • Duration: 10-15 minutes.
  • Description: In this engaging game, each participant thinks of two truths and one lie about themselves. The statements should be challenging yet plausible to make the game interesting. Once everyone has shared, the rest of the group votes or discusses to guess the lie.
  • Benefits: This activity is particularly effective in language classes as it encourages students to practice their descriptive skills, boosts their confidence in speaking, and provides a fun way for the class to learn about each other. It’s a versatile game that can be adapted for any language level, and it helps in building a sense of community among students.

2. Cultural Exchange Bingo

  • Duration: 15-20 minutes.
  • Description: Similar to traditional bingo, but instead of numbers, the cards are filled with cultural experiences, common phrases, or habits. Participants walk around the room, talking to their classmates to find someone who matches a square on their card.
  • Benefits: This game encourages students to engage in conversations about cultural nuances, which can lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of different cultures. It’s an excellent way to encourage students to share their experiences and to practice listening and speaking skills in a new language.

3. Picture Storytelling

  • Duration: 15-20 minutes.
  • Description: In this activity, students are given a picture and asked to describe what they see or create a story around it. The pictures can range from simple everyday scenes to more abstract images, depending on the class’s language level.
  • Benefits: Picture storytelling helps in enhancing vocabulary, especially adjectives and verbs. It also aids in developing narrative skills and encourages creative use of language. This activity can be particularly beneficial in helping students practice different verb tenses and descriptive language.

4. Role-play Scenarios

  • Duration: 20-30 minutes.
  • Description: Students are given roles and scenarios to act out. These can be everyday situations like ordering food at a restaurant, asking for directions, or more complex scenarios based on their language proficiency.
  • Benefits: Role-playing is a dynamic way to practice conversational language. It helps students to think on their feet, use language contextually, and understand conversational nuances. It also reduces the fear of making mistakes in a real-world setting, as students practice in a safe and supportive environment.

5. The Name Game

  • Duration: 10-15 minutes.
  • Description: This game involves each participant saying their name along with an adjective that starts with the same letter (e.g., “Cheerful Charlotte” or “Brave Bob”). The next person repeats the previous names and adjectives before adding their own.
  • Benefits: The Name Game is excellent for memory enhancement and helps students become more comfortable with each other. It also encourages the use of new adjectives, expanding vocabulary. This activity can create a light-hearted atmosphere, making it easier for students to remember names and details about their classmates.

6. The Yes/No Game

  • Duration: 10-15 minutes.
  • Description: Participants are asked a series of questions but must respond without using ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ This requires quick thinking and often leads to humorous situations.
  • Benefits: This game sharpens students’ listening and speaking skills and encourages them to use a wider range of vocabulary. It’s particularly good for practicing question and negative sentence structures in the target language.

7. Find Someone Who

  • Duration: 15-20 minutes.
  • Description: Each student receives a worksheet with various criteria (e.g., “Find someone who has visited Paris”). Students must then mingle and find classmates who satisfy these criteria, often leading to further conversation.
  • Benefits: This activity is a fantastic icebreaker for new classes. It encourages students to move around, ask questions, and engage in conversations. It’s a practical way to practice forming questions and can be tailored to practice specific grammatical structures or vocabulary.

8. Word Association

  • Duration: 5-10 minutes.
  • Description: This fast-paced game starts with one word, and each subsequent person says the first word that comes to their mind related to the previous word. The chain continues, creating a string of associated words.
  • Benefits: Word Association is excellent for language learners to practice thinking in the target language and expand their vocabulary. It also helps in building associative thinking skills and can be a fun way to start a class and energize students.

9. Show and Tell

  • Duration: 20-30 minutes.
  • Description: Each student brings an item of personal significance and speaks about it. This could be a photograph, a souvenir, or any object that has a story.
  • Benefits: Show and Tell allows students to practice speaking about something familiar and personal, which can be less intimidating than abstract topics. It helps in developing narrative skills and using descriptive language, and it also offers a glimpse into the lives of classmates, fostering a deeper connection within the class.

10. Interview Time

  • Duration: 20-30 minutes.
  • Description: Students pair up and interview each other using a set of predetermined or improvised questions. Afterwards, each student introduces their partner to the rest of the class.
  • Benefits: This game is great for practicing a wide range of language skills, including question formation, listening, and speaking. It also helps students learn about each other, building rapport and a sense of community in the classroom.

11. The Story Continues

  • Duration: 15-20 minutes.
  • Description: Starting with a simple sentence, each student adds a sentence to continue the story. This can lead to unexpected and often amusing narratives.
  • Benefits: This exercise is excellent for practicing a range of language skills, including creative thinking, sentence structure, and various tenses. It encourages collaboration and helps students to think quickly in the target language. It’s also a great way to demonstrate the power of collective storytelling.

12. Language Exchange

  • Duration: 15-20 minutes.
  • Description: Students are paired with partners who speak different languages. Each teaches the other some basic phrases or words in their native language.
  • Benefits: This game promotes cultural exchange and understanding. It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to practice teaching, which can reinforce their own language learning. It also helps students appreciate the challenges and joys of learning another language, fostering empathy and collaboration.


Icebreaker games are more than just fun activities; they are essential tools that foster a positive learning environment in second language adult classes.

These games help in breaking down barriers, building confidence, and enhancing language skills in a relaxed and supportive setting.

They encourage students to step out of their comfort zones, engage with their peers, and most importantly, enjoy the process of learning a new language.

Educators are encouraged to adapt these games to their class’s specific needs and language levels, ensuring that every student benefits from these interactive learning experiences.

By incorporating these activities, teachers can set the stage for a more dynamic, inclusive, and effective language learning journey.


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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