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Teaching groups online: breaking the ice

The first lesson of any course always stands out from the others because of its inimitable freshness. The teacher is a bit nervous, as are the students, with everyone trying to be at their best. It is also the moment when first impressions are made, creating an initial group dynamic whilst influencing the tone of communication.

I don’t know about you, but I had situations when, just after having said “hello” to my new class, and after having heard their answers and seen their faces, I would usually have an inkling about whether it would either be good fun working with this group, or whether it might be a little tricky. And I was often right.

We routinely encounter very different people; some confident in the target language whilst others need bringing out of their shell. You too have your own personality and no matter how professional you are, the group will end up knowing some of your strengths and weaknesses.

Breaking the ice between you and your students during the first lesson is therefore crucial. Encourage your students to work in pairs or in teams, to express their point of view, to debate, to talk about their hobbies, their home, their holidays, their job, etc. In short, get them to talk about life. This provides an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other, helping to build relations and providing an early opportunity for familiarisation with the new technology.

When teaching a group online, conversation doesn’t flow quite as easily as in a real class, due to lack of eye contact, body language, and classroom togetherness. Starting the course with an ‘ice-breaking’ activity will ease things.

Find below an example of an online activity suitable for A2/B1 levels. 


  • Send your students the two tables below. Make sure to translate them first into the target language.
  • Each student chooses one topic (first table) and prepares an answer.
  • Then, the students work in pairs. This is possible by using the Zoom breakout room feature (click here for more information on how to use this feature)
  • One student speaks about his/her topic for two minutes (ask them to time their answer). During this time, the other student is making notes and recording (second table) what they have in common.
  • Then, it’s the turn of the second student to talk about his/her topic while the other one makes some notes.
  • After, they change partner, repeat the same, and so on.
  • After 4 or 5 turns, each student must report back to the class in a few sentences who they have the most in common with and why.

 My favourite genre of book...

 The worst movie I have seen...

 An internet website I use often...

 My dream holiday...

 A meal that I like cooking for my friends...

 If I had one million pounds...

 The place where I would take my sweetheart...

 The style of my flat/home...

 My morning routine...

 At the weekend…

 If I had a blog, it would be about…

 The app I couldn't live without...

 My dream job...

 If I could be a celebrity, I would be…

 Me in five adjectives...

 Glass half empty or half full?


First name

What we have got in common
















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