Introductory activities

Words From Your Names

This icebreaker activity can be used when meeting students for the first time.
Alphabet letters on a blue background
Educator prep: None
Student prep: None
Video conferencing, Breakout rooms, Shared online space
Duration: Variable

Activity purpose

This activity can be used in the first lesson of a new term or course when students meet with the teacher for the first time for an online or face-to-face class. The purpose of this activity is to break the ice and help students get to know each other.

Useful for

Introductions, bonding, and rapport establishing with students. It also helps in recalling vocabulary learnt from previous levels.


In face-to-face classes, no preparation is required. In an online session, the teacher needs to create 3-4 Google documents (according to the class size) that students can write and edit.


  1. Tell students that they will be broken out into rooms, and that each room will receive a link to an editable Google document;
  2. Students write all the letters of their names in the Google document, even if the letters are repeated;
  3. Then, tell students that they have 5 minutes to write as many words as possible by mixing those letters in any order; words can be nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and prepositions, but no names of people, countries, cities, or brands;
  4. Make it very clear for students that they cannot borrow letters other than the ones they have from their names;
  5. Instruct students to help each other, and that all group members need to write (if possible);
  6. After 5 minutes, close the breakout rooms, and share the document of each group on your screen to review the words. Give 1 mark for every correct word; and
  7. Tally the correct words, write the total on the group document, and announce the winner group.


The activity time depends on the students' level. The teacher might want to give more time to lower proficiency levels. However, a minimum of 5 levels should be suitable for all levels.

Adaptations and examples

Several versions can be developed from this activity. Four adaptations are introduced here:

  1. With beginners, they may be allowed to borrow a letter from the alphabet to continue a word they have for example;
  2. To raise the difficulty level, you may specify only one word class, i.e., only verbs, or only nouns;
  3. Depending on the level, challenge students by not allowing them to double any letter, so they are limited by only using the letters they have from their names;
  4. Change the time allotment by decreasing it, for example, for higher levels;
  5. For higher levels of challenge, the teacher can limit the words to only 3-letter, 4-letter, or 5-letter words.

Technical requirements

A number of blank Google documents depending on the number of students, with only a title showing the group number; and video conference software with breakout rooms.

Useful resources

Click here to view an example Google document.

More 'Introductory activities' activities:
Equity Unbound Activity
Language Portrait
Reflect on language experiences with your students and share biographical information.
Francesca Helm
Equity Unbound Activity
What kind of animal are you?
Fun introductory or warm-up activity.
Irene Maweu
Equity Unbound Activity
Tour of Where You Are
The purpose here is to build community through students sharing where they are studying from.
Patrice Prusko

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