Teachers - are you feeling excited and anxious about the first days of school? Ice breakers give everyone an opportunity to settle into new surroundings, put names to faces, and grow more familiar with one another. These activities should be fun, cooperative, and low pressure. The goal is to bring a group of individuals closer together by helping them feel comfortable with sharing personal details, while also learning about and interacting with their classmates. Also, you’ll be establishing your classroom culture and creating your classroom community in the process.
Some ice breakers work best with a specific age group, but many activities listed below could work with students in any grade level. Here, in no particular order, are some teacher-tested ice breakers to try in your own classrooms:
Two Truths and a Lie
Give students some time to write down two truths and lie about what they did over the summer. Then, ask each student to stand up and share his or her three statements. Once the student has shared, let the class vote for which of the three statements is a lie by a show of hands.
Pass out paper to everyone in the class and ask students to write down the best thing they did over the summer, along with their name. Once all students have finished writing, instruct them to crumple up their papers and chuck their “snowball” across the room. Each student then collects one “snowball,” opens the paper and reads what is written on it, then crumples it up again. Give the students multiple opportunities to throw the “snowballs,” then have some time at the end of the activity for students to share what they learned about each other.
Challenge your students to arrange themselves in a line by order of birthday, but without speaking or writing. This activity provides an early opportunity to see how students will work together, who can follow directions, and who will be a leader in a group activity.
The teacher starts the game by choosing an item in the room and having the students guess what it is. The only questions allowed are those that have either “yes” or “no” as an answer. The person who first discovers the item correctly gets to select the next item for the class to guess. This activity helps students practice speaking in the group, as well as feel comfortable with “getting it wrong” in a low-pressure activity.
The Great Wind Blows
Arrange chairs in a large circle and ask students to each take a seat. Make sure that all seats are occupied, then stand in the center of the circle and say “My name is… and the great wind blows for everybody who…” followed by a phrase that you think will apply to most of the class. If you said that “...the great wind blows for everybody who likes pepperoni pizza,” then everybody who likes pepperoni pizza gets out of their seat and runs to another empty chair (not the one they previously occupied). You take one of the empty seats, and the one student left standing then becomes the new leader of the game.
This activity requires materials and preparation beforehand. Tape a sheet of 11 x 17 inch white paper to the wall. Sit a student between the paper and a projector or other bright light source. You or another student then traces the silhouette of the student’s profile. Repeat this process for every student in the class. Once students have their traced silhouettes, ask students to fill them with descriptive words and pictures they cut out from old magazines (these could come from home, friends and colleagues, or the free box at your local library). After everyone in class has filled their silhouette with magazine clippings that express their identity, give each student the opportunity to share his or her silhouette collage with the class.
Food for Thought
With the class arranged in a circle, give one student a ball and the instruction to say his or her name along with a favorite food that begins with the same first letter as his or her name. For example: “Hi, my name is Jerome and I like jelly beans.” Then, ask the student to toss the ball to another person in the circle, who must introduce him or herself as well as repeat the names and favorite foods of the student(s) who came before. Depending on the size of the class, you may want to break into two or more groups for this activity.
Have you tried any of these ice breakers with your students?
What other activities have you found successful in helping students get to know one another and adjust to being back in school?
Share your thoughts as replies to this discussion.