Beyond: What’s your lucky number? Icebreakers that help!

I often feel that  with most get to know each other activities, the learners end up sharing information that’s not particularly interesting or useful to develop a sense of community in the classroom. Their age, their parents’ names, their favourite food or lucky number and where they live does not provide the class with enough information to sympathise and get to know somebody, so I’d like to share this very simple activity with you all and see what you think.

My life in Cuisenaire rods

Objective:         To get to know interesting facts about your learners’ lives. To develop group dynamics, sympathy and empathy.

Materials: Cuisenaire rods (if you don’t have them: Legos or just drawing, but I’d certainly recommend Legos or Cuisenaire rods to somehow materialise someone’s life).

Level: This lesson was designed for B1+ but teachers can grade the input and do it with pretty much all levels.


  • Teacher shows a timeline of their life in Cuisenaire rods and elicits what learners think it’s about. By referring to the shape and what it looks like (hints: it’s a line…. It’s in order), the learners will eventually guess it’s a timeline (from now on we’ll use my timeline as an example)


  • T now helps learners guess one or two facts about their timeline as a whole class. E.g. “So, what do you think these blue rods mean?” (hint: all these things (point at vertical rods) happened there?) learners should guess it’s the country where I was born and raised.
  • T divides the class into groups and gets groups to guess what each rod refers to. Each group is allowed three –wh questions to help them guess.
  • Ss share ideas as a WC
  • T provides the learners with his/her biography. As a purpose for reading, the students have to match the events which appear in the text with the rods. (see appendix 1 for my own model)
  • Check if learners understood what each rod refers to.
  • Learners are now given time to create  their own timelines using Cuisenaire rods. (You’ll probably see that some have many ideas and immediately get on with the task. Others may be more hesitant, so get ready to monitor unobtrusively and help them on an individual basis (some back up questions: Can you think about the first time you travelled somewhere you really liked? Can you think about an important person you’ve met? Etc).
  • Finally get learners to share their timelines in groups.
  • As a follow up, teachers can ask students to write their own biography.

Here’s a picture of my own students conducting this activity, they really enjoyed it last year, and I’m certainly going to do it again. I’d like to thank Hannah Pinkham for inspiring me to try this out.


Please comment below and share more icebreakers that help!

Appendix 1:

I was born in Uruguay. I did both primary and secondary school there and during this time I met at least three very important people that have become my best friends and whom I still talk to and see. I cannot imagine my life without them.

While I was in secondary school my two nieces were born. Their birth was one of the happiest moments of my life.

I started University in Uruguay and soon moved to the United Kingdom, where I spent some months in Cambridge. I absolutely love this city. I won’t ever forget the times I spent studying at cozy café’s with a view of the river or outstanding buildings like King’s College. I also met fantastic people and went to pubs and night clubs. Besides, I was able to visit wonderful museums and I tried mouthwatering dishes. My personal favourite? Curry, especially chicken tikka masala!

When I came back from the UK, I went through a difficult time. I lost a very important relative and had some family issues. I did eventually get over these things and after finishing my studies, I decided to move to Buenos Aires to study for the DELTA, which is a post-graduate English teaching qualification. I went back to Uruguay, found out that my little cousin had been born in the USA and I was offered a job as teacher and Younger Learner Coordinator at IH Buenos Aires so I decided to accept it and move to this vibrant city.

Before moving to Buenos Aires, I went to my first international teaching conference: Braztesol. This was a life-turning point because it helped me to realise that I love my profession and I generated a wonderful network of good colleagues and friends who are passionate about teaching.

I’ve lived in Buenos Aires for the past four years, and I’ve been lucky enough to make really good  friends. I also saw two of my very close friends get married last year, which was absolutely amazing!



Blue – Uruguay

Purple – UK

Green – Buenos Aires


Purple: Primary and secondary, university (teacher training) & DELTA

Orange: friends and important people.

Pink: nieces’ birth, cousin birth, friends’ wedding.

Black: tough moment.

Yellow: first international conference

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