Are you still looking for the perfect activity to help you get to know your students -- and to help them get to know one another? Take a look at these icebreaker activities contributed by teachers from around the globe! Included: Thirteen getting-to-know-you activities for the first days of school.
If you missed Icebreakers: Volume 7 -- which included more than a dozen new icebreaker activities -- click here to see it!
An Education World reader contributed each activity below. The contributor is identified with the activity.
LIKE PIECES OF A PUZZLE!
Our Class Puzzle
Use tagboard to create a large jigsaw puzzle. Put each child's name on a different puzzle piece. When kids arrive on the first day of school, instruct them to find the pieces of the puzzle with their names on them and to draw pictures on of their favorite things to do. Later in the day, instruct students to find one classmate with whom their puzzle piece connects; kids should do this activity without talking. When they "connect" with a classmate, they sit down and talk quietly about themselves until everybody has "connected." Kids can use the pictures they drew as prompts as they talk about themselves. If there are an uneven number of students, one group might have three students in it. As students introduce themselves to their partners, go around the room and tape the pairs of pieces together. Next, instruct each pair of students to find another pair with whom their puzzle pieces connect. Those groups of four students introduce themselves as you go around the room and tape together the groups' puzzle pieces. Eventually, you will have one big puzzle with all of the children's names on it. You might talk about how a puzzle is incomplete if one piece of the puzzle is missing, how all the students fit together as a team like pieces of a puzzle, and how you will be the tape that holds the pieces together all year long. Laminate the puzzle and display it all year.
Ellen Gleitman, Brooke Elementary School, Limerick, Pennsylvania
Working Together in Room 103
Hang a large sheet of butcher paper on a chalkboard or bulletin board. Write your name on the paper in a fun way; for example, you might use bubble letters, write your name in a circle, or use star shapes to form the letters. As students enter the classroom, have them select a marker and sign their names on the paper "in a fun way." When everyone has signed the paper, remove it from the wall and start ripping it into sections around each name. Toss the sections on the floor. The number of sections should equal the number of students and teacher. Students will probably look at you as if you are nuts! Then instruct students to choose one of the ripped sections. Gather in an open area where you have arranged plenty of scotch tape dispensers. Tell students it is their job to put the pieces back together. Hang the taped-together wall chart under the heading Working Together in Room 103. Start a discussion about how each student is an important part of the class and how the class is like a team that won't function if everybody does not do their part. The wall hanging will serve as a year-long reminder of that lesson!
This is a simple activity for pairing kids for any activity on the first day of school. Give each student a puzzle piece that matches the piece of one other student in the class. On your signal, the students must find each other. You might use this activity to pair students to interview one another. The class might brainstorm some interview questions to get kids started. Those questions could be posted on an overhead transparency or a chart for all students to see.
Gianna Tringali, W. E. Cottle Elementary School, Tuckahoe, New York
TEN MORE GREAT ICEBREAKERS!
Ask students to take out a sheet of paper and write down the month and day of their birth. After they have done this, tell them to put away the paper and not let anyone see it. Then direct students to line up themselves in perfect order of birth. However, they must follow two rules as they do that: They cannot talk and they cannot show anyone what they wrote. After several quiet minutes of scurrying around, they will be in order. Instruct students to check with the person on their right and left to see whether they are in the correct place. Then it's time to check the human birthday timeline. Start with the first person and have each student say his or her birthday and display the paper with the month and date written on it. Did students do it correctly?
Michael M. Yell, Hudson (Wisconsin) Middle School
Special Memories Book
If you write a letter of introduction before the school year starts, include a request that students bring to school on the first day something that has a special memory attached to it. If you do not send a before-school letter, you can make this activity the homework assignment for the first day. Start the day by reading Mem Fox's popular book Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge. The story is about a little boy who befriends an older woman and gives her back memories that she has forgotten. After reading the story, discuss what a memory is and list students' ideas. Then give each child an opportunity to share his or her special item and tell about the memories it carries. You might also use this as the first writing assignment of the year; have students write about the memories their objects sparks take pictures of the objects, and create a class book of memories.
Cindy Kramer, West Side Elementary School, Cold Spring Harbor, New York
Apply for the Job
Your classroom is your students' home away from home, so have children generate a list of classroom jobs that will be needed to keep the classroom running smoothly. Post the list and be sure there are plenty of jobs, such as pencil sharpener; monitors for windows, closets, supplies, plants, library, and chalkboard; messengers, etc. Have children fill out a job application. The application might provide a space where students could check their job preferences; it might also include a space where they can share their work experience (at home and other places). Students might even create resumes that detail that work experience.
Lynda Commer, P.S. 21, Staten Island, New York
Note: Before preparing or distributing any food in the classroom, make sure you are aware of children's allergies or dietary restrictions, and caution children about choking hazards.
You have probably heard of the activity in which students grab a handful of M&Ms; during introduction time, they must share a fact about themselves for each M&M they took. This activity offers a slight twist on that one. In this case, the students might take the M&Ms, or the teacher might hand them out. But the M&Ms are color coded! Each M&M refers to a special topic that the students will need to talk about as they introduce themselves to their classmates. For example, for each M&M that is red students might have to share a hobby they enjoy; for each brown M&M, students might tell about a favorite book; for each green M&M students might tell about a quality they would like in a friend. Other possible topics might include favorite places students have visited or would love to visit, foods they like, favorite school subjects, goals in life, etc. You might even involve students in creating the list of topics. You might be the first to model the introduction process so students know what is expected of them. After the introductions, students might write a brief introduction to themselves that could be included in a book about the students in the class. Of course, you can end the activity by eating the M&Ms!
Gary Dorobiala, Maryvale Intermediate School, Cheektowaga, New York
Four Corners of Me
Provide an adhesive-backed label for each student. Ask students to write their names in the middle of the labels. Then ask them to write the following information on their labels:
Note: If you are working with students who know one another, you might use some different questions. One good one is to have them complete the statement "Right now I'd rather be. ..." When students have written the information on their labels, have them peel off the backing and stick the labels to their shirts. You might model the rest of the activity by using the information in the four corners of your label to introduce yourself to students. Then arrange students into pairs and have them introduce themselves to each other. When the introductions are complete, have each pair of students label themselves A or B. Ask A's to form a circle facing out. Their partners, the B's, should stand in a circle facing in toward their partners. Have the A's rotate three people to their right. Then the A's introduce themselves to the new B's that stand opposite them; when the A's finish their introductions, the B's do the same. Rotate the groups about four times.
Susan Hallworth, Newmarket High School, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
This activity helps students get to know one another while they review parts of speech and symbolism. Organize students into pairs, and have each student trace both of his or her partner's hands onto a sheet of construction paper. Then the students cut out the outlines of their hands. Instruct students to write on each finger of the right hand a different noun that tells something about them. They might write the name of someone special to them, a favorite sport or TV program, a favorite place or book, etc. Then each student should write on the left-hand cutout a different adjective to describe himself or herself. Finally, the students might connect the two hands with a paper-chain bracelet of five links; the students should draw on each link a symbol that represent something about themselves.
Katherine Butcher, Berkeley High School, Moncks Corner, South Carolina
Catching Up on Summer
In this activity, students share the most interesting thing about their summer vacations. To start, you hold onto a tennis ball. Younger students might use a larger ball. Share your name and the most interesting thing about your summer. When you finish, throw the ball to a student in the class. That student will share his or her name and most interesting or fondest summer memory, then pass the ball to somebody else. Continue the activity until all students have shared. Then challenge students to throw the ball back around the group in the opposite direction. (Students will have to remember who threw the ball to them.) Finally, you might challenge students to toss the ball in alphabetical order; if they make an error, the ball goes back to the starting point! Adapt the activity: Instead of sharing the most interesting summer memory, students might share a favorite sports star, food, book, etc.
Lucy Phipps, Pinehurst College, Auckland, New Zealand
Drawing on Experience
Organize students in pairs. (The ideal pair consists of two students who do not know each other. Provide each student with a blank sheet of paper and a colored marker. Instruct the students to interview each other. Each student must come up with five facts to share with his or her partner -- but the "trick" to the activity is that the students can't record those facts in words; they can use only pictures! The students will have a good laugh at some of the caricatures they draw; they might even help each other figure out how to draw certain things. When the pairs have finished interviewing, students share their pictures as they introduce their partners.
Teri Hofferd, St. Joseph's Collegiate School, Brooks, Alberta, Canada
Have students number two sheets of paper from 1 to 10. On the first sheet, students must write ten unique things about themselves. When that is completed, have each student pair up with another student in the class. On the other sheet of paper, each student must write his or her partner's name next to the number 1. Then students share one of the ten unique things on their lists as their partners record the unique fact next to the student's name. As students share a fact about themselves, they cross off that fact on their lists. Then the students pair up with somebody new. They repeat the activity by sharing one of the remaining nine facts. After they have paired with ten of their classmates, they should have crossed off all ten of the unique things on their personal lists and have another sheet with the names of ten of their classmates and a fact about each of them. Then give each student an opportunity to sit in a large chair at the head of the class as ten of their classmates share a different unique fact about the student.
Deborah Hercsek, Lee Eaton School, Northfield, Ohio
My Year in ___th Grade
You will need to collect a variety of activity materials to help students get to know one another. The activities might include an All About Me questionnaire or collage, writing activities, pre-tests in different subject areas, and so on. At the start of the activity, provide each student with a large yellow envelope with a clasp on it. Hand out the envelopes to students, and instruct them to label the envelope flaps with their names and the date. On the front of the envelopes, students should write My ___th Grade Year and then decorate the envelopes with pictures of themselves doing something they love to do. As the first day goes on, introduce one at a time the activities you have gathered. As each activity is completed, students stuff them into their envelopes. A digital photo might be taken and included in the envelope too. When students complete all activities, have them clasp the envelopes shut. Then collect them, and put them in a safe place. During the school year, you might gather selected writings, art activities, photos, post-tests, and so on and add them to the envelopes without students' knowledge. On the very last day of school, return all envelopes to students. They will be delighted to open and review the envelope's contents. Talk about how the students have grown physically and academically. Now they have a keepsake of their ___th grade year to share with families and revisit from time to time! Note: Keep a few extra envelopes stuffed with activity materials in case new students join the class during the year.
Lisa Links, Bayou L'Ourse Primary School, Morgan City, Louisiana
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