First Day TEFL Activities To Get Students Talking!

The start of another year has come around, which means new faces, new materials and maybe some new colleagues! It’s an exciting time for a TEFL teacher, but can be daunting for a new one. It can feel a little intimidating to have all of those new faces staring at you on the first day, and it’s always handy to have a few activities up your sleeve in case your lesson plan doesn’t quite stretch to the full hour.

Here are my favourite activities for the first day/week of class, let me know if you have any favourites to add to the list!

They don’t require many (if any!) materials, so you can crack them out with almost no planning.

1. Vocabulary Tennis

This is fantastic to play with children and teenagers. It’s fun, and it also gives you a rough idea of their vocabulary level.

How To Play – 

You can use a ball if you like, make sure it’s a soft one to avoid injuries, but if you don’t have one don’t worry!

Act like you’re holding a tennis ball in your hand, and pretend to bounce it like players do before they serve. Then give your best impression of Rafael Nadal hitting it to another champ, and shout a word in English. For example; Bakery!

The student you serve it to should then respond with throwing the ball back and saying the same word in their own language.

Variation – 

If you don’t speak your students’ language, or you would prefer to speak only in English, students should respond with a word related to the one you served. For example; Bread!

2. Know Me By Numbers

Again, this activity requires no materials apart from perhaps a whiteboard and a board pen, and is fun for all ages! It also practises questioning skills.

Method –

On the whiteboard, write 3 or 4 numbers that are in some way significant to you. I usually use these;

19 – The street number of my house

1 – The number of siblings I have

38 – My shoe size!

1995 – My birth year. I usually use this as the example, as it’s pretty obvious.

Students should then try to guess what the other numbers refer to using questions in English. For example; Do you have 19 close friends? or; Are you 38 years old? Etc.

When they have correctly guessed the significance of all of your numbers, you can get one of them to write some on the board and the game starts again.

Variation – 

To avoid the activity dragging out too much, you could give each student a certain number of guesses. Depending on class size, around 3-5 each.

3. AA Meeting Chat

You know how at a meeting of AA, they go round the circle to introduce themselves? Usually in this format; “Hi, my name is Caroline and I’m ______”.

Well that’s the structure we’re practising with this game.

Again, you can use a ball to pass around the circle to make it a little more interactive, but it’s not necessary.

Method – 

Get your students to stand in a circle, better than sitting down!

You start by saying your name, and something that you like which begins with the same letter. For example; My name is Caroline and I like Chocolate.

Pass the ball to the student next to you and they do the same with their name. This time, they must also repeat what you said; “My name is Fred and I like Football, Her name is Caroline and she likes Chocolate“.

Go around the circle until everybody has had a turn, it can get quite funny when people mess up!

Variations – 

  • Get students to use not only the same letter, but the same syllable.
  • If you don’t have many students, add another round after this one!
  • Instead of going round in a circle, throw the ball randomly around to students.

4. I Word I Learnt Today

This one is more for filling up those 5 minutes between the end of your lesson plan and the end of class, and doesn’t necessarily have to be played on the first day.

Method –

Either point to a student, or throw them the ball, and ask them to tell you a word that they have learned that day. It could be a word thy have learned in class, or from watching a programme or something. In the event that other students don’t know the word, they should also try to explain it.

Variations –

  • One student says a word, another explains it to the class
  • Choose a part of speech before you choose a student. For example; Tell me an adjective that you learnt today. This is perhaps for a higher level class.


Have you played any of these games in your classes? Did you have fun? Let us know in the comments below!

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