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Name games for teachers and students

I will be the first to admit that I am terrible with learning people's names and find it difficult to find strategies that are effective.  Give these three simple games a go with your students and you'll all be on  a first name basis in no time.  Once again thanks to Michael Ramiko for submitting these three games in to make this process a little easier.

The small difference

On the board draw a seating plan of the room and get the class to copy it. Each learner round the room then says their name and everyone else writes it down at the correct place on their plan. Ask the class to study the names for 2 minutes, then put their plans away. Ask your first volunteer to leave the room - and while they're out, two other learners change places. When the volunteer comes back he /she must notice and name both students that have moved. Repeat the game a few times with different volunteers. After a few turns, make the game more difficult by changing two pairs at a time.   

Put up a mixed-up spelling of your own first name on the board - e.g. I might put up "Mij". Now, ask them to write an anagram of their own name. Collect these in and write them all up on the board. Every student now tries to write down all the original names. When finished they can check by walking round the room, meeting people and finding out if they have each person's name correctly.

People bingo

Each learner draws a large 3 by 3 grid (i.e. 9 squares). Slowly read through all the names on the register (spelling difficult names). Learners must randomly select 9 of these names (of people they don't already know) to write into spaces on their grid. When everyone has a full grid the learners walk around the room, find their nine people, chat a little and make some notes about each person. Afterwards, play "bingo" by calling out names randomly - students tick a name if they have it on their own grid. For each name ask the class to indicate who the person is and tell you some things about the person. When someone completes their grid with nine ticks - they win. (But you could always play it again!)


Prepare a set of small cards - one for each learner. On three quarters write "true"; on the others write "false". Distribute them; students must not let others see their card. Learners then stand up and mingle, meeting people and talking. When asked questions, anyone with a "true" card must give true answers; anyone with a "false" card must lie (except about their name), inventing false life stories. Afterwards, form small groups of 4 - 6 people. Each group should try to work out who was "true" and who "false", writing a list identifying all suspected "false" people. Finish up with a whole-class stage when the lists are read out and the truth is revealed. Groups get 3 points for each "false" person correctly spotted - but minus 3 for anyone incorrectly identified.

Simple but effective icebreakers to start the school year.

Although you may be a new teacher to a group of students, most of them have already worked together for years and know each other all too well. The new teacher may be the only one who needs to learn names. And, even if the teacher and class have all worked together before, there may still be a need for some activities to welcome everyone back and mark the start of the new year.  Here are a few that might be useful. 

Be sure to check out our list of ten great activities to break the ice for more ideas

Fibbing to the teacher
When a teacher is new to a class that already know each other, try this game. In groups of 5 or 6, the students should carefully prepare to introduce members of their group to the teacher. Everyone should introduce another person (not themselves). They should say names and something about their interests, home area, personality etc. All the information must be true except for one person in each group – for whom every single thing must be untrue. Allow plenty of time for careful preparation, after which the teacher should listen to all a group’s introductions (while learning useful names etc) and decide which is the untrue one. Warn all students that they must be careful not to give away the fib by laughing, sniggering etc.

The virtual party
Arrange an imaginary “welcome back” party. Ask everyone to stand in one part of the room. Designate another section of the room as the party room and show them where the front door is. Appoint a host / hostess or two and brief them on how to welcome guests. Be a host yourself too. Then encourage students to “arrive” at the party one by one, or in small groups, (ringing the imaginary door bell) and once there, mingle, chatting in English, catching up on news. Serve imaginary drinks and snacks. Students initially tend to react to this simulation with some suspicion (feeling it is a bit silly to hold imaginary drinks etc) but it usually takes off very well once they get into it.

Setting year goals
It is all too easy to simply launch into teaching from a new coursebook assuming that the class is automatically with you. However it is worth taking time to make sure that students are really clear about why they are learning and about what they want to get out of it. A simple way to do this is to ask them to make brief notes in answer to questions you ask. Make sure you allow enough thinking time. Students can then meet up in pairs or threes and compare thoughts. Possible questions: Why do you think English will be useful to you in the future? What is the most important area you want to improve on this year? What types of activities do you enjoy most in English classes? What advice would you give to your English teacher? What do you want to be able to do by the end of the year that you can’t do now?

Thanks for Michael Ramiko for submitting these ideas.  We'd love to hear some of yours.

Teach, Tech Play has some great ideas for innovative educators

Teach, Tech, Play is a monthly web-show challenge.   Educators are invited to share ideas, lessons & tools they are using within a three minute time frame.   The winner is crowned the Play King/Queen of the month.

I was really impressed by the quality of the presenters, and the innovative ideas during the first show which aired earlier this week.

Check out their first show below and make sure you become a regular subscriber to keep up with some great ideas around education and technology.