Number one for English language teachers

Energizers: Stand in line

Level: Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Extra

You can use this activity as an icebreaker at the start of a new course when the learners do not know each other or simply as a warmer at the start of the day.


  • Ask all the students to stand up and form a large semi-circle at the front of the class. 
  • Then ask them to rearrange the semi-circle as quickly as possible from left to right depending on their birthday, with the left end of the semi-circle representing January 1st and the right end December 31st. There will be quite a lot of discussion as they get into the right order. Sometimes a student will find that they have a birthday on the same day as another member of the group. 
  • You can then go on to get them to rearrange the circle depending on the first letter of the place where they were born, with the left end of the semi-circle representing ‘a’ and the right end ‘z’. 
  • The exercise can be repeated several times with different criteria, for example: surnames, middle names, first letter of your street and so on.

Tip: You can pre-teach some language before the activity. For example, 'When’s your birthday?' and check the accuracy of the responses when the re-ordering is complete. 'February 26th', for example, is quite difficult to pronounce!

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This is a great activity and I use it to practise lots of different language, not just the alphabet.

    You can ask students to stand in line in order of distance they live from the school (question: how far away do you live? or how far have you travelled today?). Or, depending on the age, social mix, level and needs of the group, the question to prompt students to find their right place in the line could be 'how long have you been learning English?', 'how many times have you been to England?', 'how long did you spend doing your homework last night?' or 'how many brothers and sisters have you got?'.

    For more advanced groups you can make the questions more subjective, which will lead to discussion and negotiation. You could ask students to stand in line after finding the answer to the question 'who had the most exciting weekend?' or 'who had the most unusual holiday last year?'

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