With this "best of" collection, Education World takes a look back and spotlights some of the best of the more than 150 ideas that teachers have shared over the years. Included: Ten creative, teacher-tested ideas.
The ten icebreakers that appear below are some of the most original and powerful ideas we've seen through the years. Maybe you'll find the perfect idea here for your first day of school. If not, be sure to check out more than 100 additional ideas that have been submitted over the years to our Icebreaker Activities Archive.
Many icebreaker activities are focused on helping teachers get to know their students and helping students get to know one another. These activities are fun ways to learn about students' backgrounds and personalities and to start to form bonds that will last all school year long.
Recipe Card Mix-Up
Provide each student with a recipe or index card. Ahead of time choose about five questions that you might ask of students. Be as creative as you want with the questions. Possible questions might include the following:
Getting-to-Know-You Venn Diagram
Gather groups of three students. Supply a prepared three-circle Venn diagram (see an editable sample) for each group. Students talk in their groups about themselves and the things they like to do. After a brief discussion, students must
Write five questions on the board. Questions might include the following:
Reynolds, Kim. proper noun. 1. Born in Riverside, California. 2. No brothers or sisters. 3.
Have students bring in small pictures of themselves to paste next to their entries in the Student Dictionary. Bind the definitions into a book, and display it at your back-to-school open house for parents.
Kim Reynolds, Warwick Elementary School, Fremont, California
Create a large chart titled Getting to Know You. Include on the chart sections for students' names and interesting facts, such as how many people are in their families, how many pets they have, their favorite colors, favorite school subjects, favorite sports, and so on Laminate the chart and hang it on the wall. On the first day of school, have each student "sign in." Leave the chart up for several weeks. The kids love to wander over to it when they have free time. They keep learning new things about one another. The chart can be a good source of "data" for a lesson in graph-making too.
Charilyn Damigo, Liberty Baptist School, San Jose, California
MANY GREAT ACTIVITIES START WITH A GOOD BOOK
Lots of great books offer fitting segues to getting-to-know-you activities. If you're a teacher who likes to read aloud to students, why not start the year with a read aloud that leads to a fun activity that will get students talking and interacting? Here are just a few possibilities
Special Memories Book
If you write a letter of introduction to students 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 long 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 spark, take pictures of the objects, and create a class book of memories.
Cindy Kramer, West Side Elementary School, Cold Spring Harbor, New York
The Giving Tree
Read aloud Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree and involve students in a discussion of the types of gifts the tree gave the boy; none of those gifts cost a thing. Then talk about the types of cost-free "gifts" the students can contribute to the class. Prepare a bulletin board that has the silhouette of a tree trunk and branches. Give each student a cutout apple. Have students write on their apples the things they can "give" to the class. Put the apples on the tree. This bulletin board makes a nice display for open house.
Goal Setting With Booker T.
I like to share at least one read-aloud book on the opening day of school. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes and First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg are favorites. Most essential though, is More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby. The biographical story of Booker T. Washington's youth uses beautiful language and illustrations to show how he learned to read as a young boy. After reading the book, we talk about his goals and how his determination to achieve them made them a reality. More Than Anything Else is an excellent tool for starting a discussion about students' goals for the school year.
Heather Migdon, Dogwood Elementary School, Fairfax County, Virginia
SETTING THE TONE
The last two activities above are perfect ones for setting the tone for a productive and respectful school year. When the going gets rough -- when students are not respecting their classmates or when they are losing sight of their goals -- you could always refer back to the lessons learned from the "giving tree" or Booker T.
Following are a few more activities that can help you set a tone on the first day of school that will carry over thoughout the year.
Begin by asking students "Who can do something really well?" After a brief discussion about some of the students' talents, pass out paper and ask students to write down five things they do well. Then provide each student with five different-colored paper strips. Have each student write a different talent on each paper strip. Then create a mini paper chain by linking the five talent strips together. As students complete their mini chains, use extra strips of paper to link the mini chains together to create one long class chain. Have students stand and hold the growing chain as you link the pieces together. Once the entire chain is constructed and linked, lead a discussion about what the chain demonstrates. For example, it might illustrate that
Puzzling It Out
This activity is especially valuable if you have in your class students who are new to your school. Those students probably will be experiencing a range of emotions -- including fear, shyness, and uncertainty. Before the activity, create a word processing document containing many different messages -- preferably in different type sizes and fonts -- that convey such messages as
Ugly Words Are Out!
As you discuss classroom expectations, introduce the idea that "ugly words" have no place in your classroom. Ask students what they think you mean by "ugly words." Then have the class generate a list of words that might be found on an ugly-word list, and write the words on a piece of chart paper. (Explain to students that any word that is considered a swear word would definitely be on the ugly-word list, so there is no need to mention them. Point out that the same is true for such words as dummy, jerk, dork, geek, hate, or ugly.) You might start the list with the word "can't." What about the word quit? Go around the room and give each student an opportunity to add an ugly word to the list. When you are satisfied that the students' supply of ugly words has run dry, dramatically rip the chart paper off the pad, let it fall to the floor, and stomp all over it. Next, rip it up and crush it into a ball. Finally, get a shovel, take students outside, and ceremoniously bury the list of ugly words. This activity will have quite an impact: students will always remember the "ugly words" that will not be accepted in class.
Becci Motes, Kelley-Smith Elementary School, Palatka, Florida
Article by Gary Hopkins
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