Ice breakers are an invaluable tool that can help you and your students relax and get off on the right foot. Here's a couple of suggestions that will help you get to know your new class.
Dealing with a New Class
The first day of school can be nerve-wracking for both students and teachers. An unfamiliar schedule, new faces, and a whole host of other changes can taint the excitement of a new school year with stress and anxiety.
Enter ice breakers. These quick and entertaining activities are a great way to introduce yourself to your students, energize your students, and make learning fun. A successful ice breaker calms nerves and reassures your students that this year will be fun and productive.
Ice breakers come in all shapes and sizes, so let's look at a few of the more common activities that are sure to get your school year off on the right foot.
Blobs & Lines
The ideal ice breaker is a simple and relevant activity that can help your students get to know one another. You're welcome to introduce more complex and challenging activities when you feel that your students are ready, but it's generally a good idea to start with basic games that encourage teamwork and don't require too much opening up or thinking.
One such activity involves forming groups with students who share character traits and interests. Examples include:
- Lining up in alphabetical order by first or last names
- Lining up in order of birthdays, with January 1 in first place
- Forming a group (or 'blob') with students who have the same hair color
- Forming blobs based on students' favorite seasons
When choosing topics and categories, focus on those that do not require extensive thinking. The goal is to encourage team building by showing your students that they have many things in common.
In this game, have your students imagine that they're being exiled to a desert island and can take only one item along. Encourage items that have more personal than practical value. A book of matches or a warm jacket are probably more valuable than a stuffed animal, but the purpose of this exercise is to get to know your students, not teach them survival skills.
If your students are having a hard time thinking of just one item, give them some guidance by providing categories. For example, they can bring their three favorite books, or two of their favorite movies, etc.
To promote team building, divide your students into groups and have them think of ways to combine their items in an attempt to improve their chances of survival. The ideal group size is around four or five students, large enough to allow for creative combinations but small enough to encourage participation.
Have your students sit in a circle and pass around a bag of candy. Tell students to take as many pieces as they want, but be clear that the candy may not be eaten. You may also want to set a limit to prevent students from getting overeager.
Once everyone has candy, inform your students that they'll need to share one fact about themselves for every piece of candy they took. As in 'Desert Island', suggest some categories if your students are struggling. For example, for every piece of candy, students must name one of their favorite books.
In addition to helping you learn more about your students, this game offers a teaching moment: sometimes restraint is a valuable tool. Students who take less candy have to share less information, while students who take as much as they can have to share more information.
The Mingle Game
Begin this activity by giving each student an index card. Instruct them to write a question for other students in the class. Questions should be simple and easy to answer, like ''What is your favorite movie?'' or ''What is your favorite animal?''
Next, have your students walk around the room; after a few seconds, call out ''stop!'' Tell your students to form pairs based on the person closest to them, then have your students ask each other the questions on their cards.
Resume mingling and repeat several times so that your students can interact with as many classmates as possible. This is a good gateway activity as it encourages sharing personal information but does not require students to open up about especially complex topics. The use of topics like sports and movies increases the chances of your students finding things in common.
Once your students have started warming up and lost their initial fear of sharing information with new people, you can begin introducing more personal games. While this is a great activity, you may want to save this one until your students are a little more familiar with one another.
This activity begins with students writing three distinct things about themselves on a piece of paper. Encourage the sharing of facts that are unique to students, something more personal than just their favorite color. Have your students crumple their papers and then have a 'snowball fight' for about a minute. At the conclusion of the 'fight', tell each student to grab one of the crumpled pieces of paper.
Students must then read the facts on the paper and try to guess which student wrote them.
Two Truths and a Lie
Ideal for older students (grade 6 and up), this game encourages team building, critical thinking, and just a little bit of deception.
Each student shares three facts about themselves, with one small twist: one of these ''facts'' is actually not true. After each student shares their statements, the rest of the class can try to guess which one they think is the lie.
For added fun, offer your own statements and see if your students can figure out which one is untrue.
Ice breakers are an excellent way to familiarize yourself with your students and nullify the stress associated with a new class. Feel free to tweak these activities (or come up with your own!) as you see fit.