A simple activity: ask each person to think of her/his favorite and least favorite [word, person, place, object, action, body part(?), letter, number...whatever] and share them with a partner, explaining her choice.
The sharing can be with just one person (quick), with several people in a round-robin format, with the whole group.
The sharing could be done in spoken or written form, could be drawn or pantomimed.
I learned this from Minami Yoshitaka, Yasuhara Kouhei, and Yamazaki Ryouta in an English class they taught at Meiji University. In this game people compete to create collaborative drawings that illustrate some thing or idea. It could lead very nicely into discussion, especially if the theme is one of relevance to people's lives.
Adapted from "Ten Second Objects" on the Drama Resource website (http://dramaresource.com/games/warm-ups/ten-second-objects) The original activity is great as is:
"Divide everyone into small groups (4-6). Call out the name of an object and all the groups have to make the shape of that object out of their own bodies, joining together in different ways while you count down slowly from ten to zero. Usually every group will find a different way of forming the object. Examples could be: a car, a fried breakfast, a clock, a washing machine, a fire."
Shiho Ide, a participant in my Tokyo English for Activists class, came up with this nice way to do introductions.
Standing in a circle.
The first participant introduces herself, saying her name and what she would like others to call her. She then chooses another person who must ask her a question, any question. After the first person answers the question, the second person repeats the process.
I learned this game at Kani Club, the theater improvisation group in Tokyo, Japan. The game asks participants to filter their free association through their sense of what others might say. The object is to avoid "idiocy" -- in the sense of being isolated in one's thinking. At the same time, the "idiotic" answers are often reasonable or creative.
Adapted from "Busca tu cancion" in 101 juegos musicales. See also I second that (e)motion.
The joker writes down three to 10 emotions on index cards, two cards per emotion. (One set of three if you have an odd number of participants.) There should be as many cards as participants.
Shuffle the cards, keeping them face down, and have people pick a card, keeping it hidden from others.
Slightly adapted from "Busca tu cancion" in 101 juegos musicales.
Choose three or four songs that are probably known to everyone in the group and write each song's title on two index cards. You should have as many cards as participants. (For odd numbered groups, add an extra card for one song.)
Shuffle the cards and have participants each choose one card, being careful not to show it to others.
Learned this at Kani Club.
In pairs, one person (The Giver) mimes giving the other a gift. Her mime should show some quality of the gift -- size, weight, temperature, value, etc.
The Receiver receives the gift in kind (showing its weight, etc) and identifies it. E.g., "Oh what a beautiful lobster! Thank you so much!"
The Giver, in the spirit of "Yes, and...", follows the Receiver's lead, adding some detail about the Gift. E.g., "I pulled it up in the trap this morning and thought of you."
This is a spiel that I give when beginning work with a new group.
In this course there is one rule: feel free. To me this means three things:
A simple approach to emancipated teaching. As my friend Charley once said of a different activity, "This is a double black diamond!" To use this activity well you need to know what you are doing, and not doing, and why.