Puzzle Finder ESL Ice Breaker
Materials Required: puzzle pieces (from an actual puzzle or a cut and laminated image)
I love to use ESL ice breakers in my classes. They’re a fun way for students to get to know each other, as well as you. I find that by using icebreakers, the rest of the course goes more smoothly. The atmosphere is friendlier, and students feel like they are part of a cohesive group. Try out this Puzzle Finder ESL ice breaker in your classes.
The objects of this ESL ice breaker activity are both teamwork (to create the puzzle) and a review of common vocabulary. For example, colours, shapes, and common objects. This activity can be adapted for total beginners up to intermediate students. The good news is that your puzzle pieces can be recycled again and again. If you spend time making pieces for different levels of students, you haven’t wasted your time.
Before class, you should either prepare a puzzle with enough pieces for each student to have one or two, or print an image which you cut into the correct number of pieces and laminate. The former is easier, but the latter gives you much more flexibility and you can cut the pieces as large as you like.
In order for students to put the puzzle together correctly, they will need to be able to describe their piece to others. They do this while mingling and looking for adjacent pieces, as well as listen to others’ descriptions. It’s an excellent way to get students talking to all their classmates.
Teaching Tips for this ESL Ice Breaker:
If you are using a ready-made puzzle, a child’s puzzle will have the right combination of large size and a low number of pieces. If you choose your own image, you can print the pieces even larger, making it easier to work together.
To make the task more challenging, have students describe their pieces to one another, rather than show them. To make the task less challenging, have two puzzles (fewer edgeless pieces) or use an image with obvious elements, for example, a picture of a park, rather than a Picasso.
Procedure for Puzzle Finder:
- In advance, get a puzzle with enough pieces for each student to have one or two (so, no 500 piece monster puzzles). You can also print an image (A3 or larger), cut it into the right number of pieces, and laminate it.
Give each student a puzzle piece or two. Then instruct them to work together to complete the puzzle. Emphasize that the goals are to talk to everybody in the class, as well as speak only English.
According to the level of the students, allow them to show each other the pieces as they work or require them to describe the shape of their piece and the image fragment.
Here’s a Statue of Liberty puzzle that you can use in your classes. Click the link below to get the PDF file:
Like this ESL Ice Breaker Activity?
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