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Ice-breakers, Warm-Up Activities, and Other Ways to Engage Your Class

To help you kick off your school year, we have gathered a series of ice-breaker games and activities that are very common in Italy and can be incorporated into your classroom right at the beginning of the year. Some of them are similar, or maybe the same, to the ones common in the United States, but you might not be familiar with some others, so keep reading for some inspiration!



Ice-breakers (rompighiaccio) are as common in Italy as in the U.S., and probably everywhere else in the world. Kicking off your class with an easy, fun, yet meaningful question or quick activity can be crucial, but it’s not always easy, as I am sure you know! Here come some ideas:

            1.  If it’s your students’ first Italian class *ever*: To have everyone introduce themselves, bring a lightweight ball —if you don’t have one, make one with some paper. You start by stating your name (Mi chiamo…), and then you ask E tu? while passing your ball to a random student. That student will do the same and pass the ball to another student, and so on. You might want to write Mi chiamo … E tu? on the board beforehand, so your students will have a safety net. For more advanced classes, this can be expanded to include age, place of origin, field of study, and so on.

            2.  Simili o diversi? For this ice-breaker, you just need a list of questions and pairs of volunteers to answer each of them aloud. Finding similarities and differences can help forge a community, even from day 1. Questions can vary according to age and proficiency; just be mindful to avoid sensitive topics. Examples might be: Mare o montagna? Doccia o vasca? or favorite TV shows, celebrities, food, sports, or pet peeves.

            3.  Gira la ruota! With your students in a circle, place a spinning wheel in the middle. Each slice of the wheel contains a question to be answered or information to be provided. The wheel can be printed (or you can use a virtual one), but you can also build your own so you can adapt prompts to suit your students’ level and age.


Warming-up, or just having fun

Here are a few ideas to warm up your class, transition to a new topic, or simply engage students:

            1.  Due verità e una bugia … This works well in small groups (three to four people). Everyone writes two true things and one false thing about themselves, then reads them aloud. The others guess which one is the bugia, and tell why they think so.

            2.  A Fatima piace… With your students in a circle, ask someone to state something they like (to do). The student sitting next to them repeats what they just heard and adds something they like, and so on …

            3.  Trova qualcuno che… Give each student a piece of paper with a series of requirements, each with a different score. Have students circulate their paper in class to find people who meet those requirements. The goal is to find as many people as possible who meet them.

And then, there are the classics, from charades to hangman. Anything that gets students engaged and *talking* is good!


Songs, (short) movies, videos, social media

Songs are a very easy tool to use in your classroom: they kill two—well, multiple, actually—birds with one stone. They can indeed be used to practice vocabulary, grammar structures, pronunciation, and accents, and they are also great for investigating culture, history, trends, and fads. After all, who doesn’t like music? It’s the easiest win, guaranteed! Films can have a similar array of uses, although they normally require more time and effort. Short movies can often save you. Also, videos, sketches, memorable TV moments, excerpts from American movies dubbed in Italian; all of these are effective ways to get your students’ attention, engagement, and often, they’re a way to have some fun.

As for social media, you can suggest popular accounts to be followed, according to students’ interests, or as extra help for practicing their Italian skills. Nothing like social media talk and suggestions to perk up their ears!

Finally—and this can also work as ice-breaker at any point in your course—you can play with stereotypes. Italy and Italians are not shy of stereotypes to talk about: food, la dolce vita, the loudness, the allergy to rules, the gestures, etc. Talking about these stereotypes, laughing about them, and trying to analyze why and where they originated over time can be useful for engaging students in meaningful discussions about others— and maybe even themselves. Buona lezione!


By Claudia Quesito


Also read:
Increasing Student Engagement and Intercultural Awareness
Teaching about sporting events in the Italian Language Class to Increase Student Engagement and Intercultural Awareness


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