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ESL Icebreaker: What's in a Name?

Level: ESL High-Intermediate
 
Objectives: help students introduce themselves to each other; establish relaxed group atmosphere; ease conversation in a newly-formed culturally-diverse group; review common North American names and their origins
 
Teacher Notes:
 
Mention that first names come from many sources. While some first names are traditional (Peter, Mary, Paul), children are often chosen their names for different reasons: months of the year or seasons in which they were born, heroes, historical figures, famous people, characters from movies etc. or after their family members.
 
In pairs or small groups ask students to think of names that are inspired by people, places or things:
 
Names inspired by:
 
flowers: Iris, Rose, Jasmine
precious stones: Pearl, Jade, Ruby
birds: Robin, Avis, Wren
musicians: Bob (for Bob Dylan), Elton (for Elton John), Elvis (for Elvis Presley)
colors: Scarlett, Hazel, Emerald
character trait: Joyce (cheerful), Justin (just), Victoria (victorious)
 
Tell your class a few facts about your first name: how common/popular it is (or it was when you were born), its origin, meaning, etc. - anything that you’re comfortable with or might spark student interest.
 
Put students in pairs. Distribute the handout. Students answer questions 1-10 related to their first name. They then interview their partner and take brief notes about his or her name. Partners introduce each other to the rest of the class telling 1-2 most interesting facts along with the name.
 
Student Handout:

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