Balloons aren't just for kids, all ages can warm up and ice cold scared ESL students can soon forget their inhibitions just by adding some balloons into the mix.
Balloon Volleyball can be played in the same way as real volleyball allowing 3 touches per team before getting the ball over a line/net/desks to the team on the other side. To add the essential learning aspect into the game, call a category from which students must loudly call out a word every time they hit the balloon. For example you could say to your students for the first point you must all call an ANIMAL in English every time you hit the balloon. Categories chosen should obviously depend somewhat on your students language capabilities but some obvious ideas might be
- Girls Names
- Boys Names
- Food and Drink (Fruit/Vegetables/Junk Food)
- Capital Cities
- Class Subjects
- Words associated with...Winter, Summer, Autumn, Spring, Beach, holidays etc
I think you get the idea...and remember this is an icebreaker or warm up so don't get too caught up on thinking it's too easy for more advanced students. It's a heap of fun and a great way to get students relaxed.
Alternative Ways To Play And Ideas
Keep It Off The Floor
If you are stretched for space in your class, check if you can take your students outside OR forget about the line and just keep students seated at their desks turning it into a game of "keep the balloon off the floor" with no teams, just each student calling a correct answer as they hit the balloon if it comes to them.
Colours Mix and Smash
This one is particularly good for kids learning colours but also super fun to throw in at the end of a "Balloon Volleyball" or "Keep It Of The Floor Game". Blow up a whole heap of different coloured balloons and as an extension of the other two balloon games, slowly keep introducing one balloon at a time into the game play, until you have many different coloured balloons all flying around all at once.. As a specific coloured balloon comes to a student, they must say that colour as they hit the balloon (depending on your students level, you may prefer to make each colour a specific group for example RED- Animals, BLUE- Countries, PINK- Girls names etc). Depending on how many balloons you want to add and probably also the size of your class, this is a huge smash and call game that see's balloons pinging all over the room and students gleefully using English without the stress sometimes involved.
The Final Word
There must be a plethora of ways to introduce balloons into the ESL classroom but the few variations I have just mentioned, for myself, always result in successful class icebreakers, warm-ups and even vocabulary reviews for all ages and levels of ESL classes that I teach.
If you have any other cool Balloon ideas that you have successfully integrated in to your classroom, feel free to add it in to the comments below.