The first day of school is packed with anticipation, excitement, and first day jitters for teachers and students alike! From new students, classrooms, and schedules, it’s important to help students make connections starting on Day 1. To help you ease some of the stress involved with that first week of school and to help you and your students get to know one another, ice breaker activities can be a key strategy. Plus they also can be fun.
We asked some of our PLS Classes Instructors for their favorite activities to help students and teachers get to know one another a little better. We’ve broken them down by grade level. We hope you enjoy these ideas!
Elementary & Middle School
My favorite activity is called, Saving Fred the Worm. Don’t worry, it’s a gummy worm! Using a cup, paperclip, gummy worm, and gummy lifesaver, students work to put the lifesaver around Fred, flip over his cup a.k.a. boat, get him in the boat, and save him. The key is working with a buddy and NOT touching Fred or his life saver with your hands. It’s a GREAT first day activity to bring us together as a classroom.
We have a drum circle where I drum and ask a question in a two beat rhythm: “How was your summer?” The students then each have two beats to respond. This works well for all of my classes at the elementary level grades K-5.
We typically share “Me Bags” during the first week of school. Students fill their bags with items that help their classmates learn about their likes and interests. I always start with my own “Me Bag” to model!
In my middle school World Language classroom, we use the activity, “Find someone who…”. The activity is easily modified with visual cues to support receptive language skills, and anticipates students’ needs to socialize and move around the room. Some ideas include, find someone who:
- Has more than three siblings
- Plays a sport
- Can speak more than one language fluently
- Has lived abroad
- Is new to our school
- Has been in a play or musical
- Has been on TV
- Can play an instrument
- Has been in the newspaper
- Has a hidden talent
- Went to a concert this summer
High School Students in my Social Studies classes enjoy the ‘Brown Bag’ activity. I provide each student with a lunch sized brown bag. They are instructed to go home and place five items in the bag that represent their personal lives and interests. (I also ask students not to include identifying information like names or pictures.) The entire class has fun guessing who’s bag belongs to whom.
This past year I allowed the students to do a scavenger hunt in my classroom. I teach grades 10 and 12. They were given 20 minutes to find as many items as possible. They could look in my desk, my closet, in the drawers to my art cart, etc. I really liked that I did that, as they learned where I store so many things (e.g. extra pencils, staplers for student use, markers, etc.).
I teach college freshmen and we play Would you Rather? By the end of the class everyone seems more relaxed and there is a lot of laughter and discussion. Here is a great list of 100 ideas provided by SignUpGenius, 100 Would You Rather Questions for Teens.
It’s Your Turn!
What are your favorite ice breaker activities? Our blog is read by hundreds of K-12 teachers each month. Please share your ideas with our community in the comments section below.