These simple and fun icebreakers can help students get to know one another and build a sense of community in your classroom to start the new school year!
As a teacher, we all know what the “Sunday scaries” are, but there is nothing quite like the “night before the first day of school scaries.” It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been teaching or how prepared you are, the anxiety and nerves are real.
Just as teachers feel the first-day jitters, students do, too. New teachers, new classmates, schoolwork, being away from home and family—this is enough to make any child nervous.
The first day(s) of school are vital. They set the vibe for the entire year. Establishing a sense of community, a second home and school family, can make all the difference in your classroom and with your students.
1. Learn each other’s names and faces. This activity is fun way to learn each other’s names at the beginning of the year. During the first week of school, have students bring in a photo of themselves or take them yourself (the photos should be large headshots, if possible). Use a photocopier to copy the photos of each student. Have students color the background of their pictures with a Sharpie highlighter and then find complimentary colors to make their images “pop.” Once complete, have each student glue their image to construction paper to be hung on a bulletin board with their names under each one.
Source: Classroom Canvas
2. Make a puzzle mural. During the first week of school, everyone feels a bit unsure of where they fit in. This class puzzle is a great way to create a sense of unity. Simply give each student a large card stock puzzle piece, then hand out Flair pens and highlighters and have them draw pictures of things they like to do or qualities that make them unique. Once each puzzle piece is complete, fit the pieces together and place them on a bulletin board to show how every student’s unique qualities fit together to make the classroom whole.
Source: MPM School Supplies
3. Post photos around the classroom. Candid photos give the classroom a warm, relaxed, and welcoming atmosphere. At appropriate times during the day, ask a volunteer to take pictures of students doing various activities (students will be lining up for this job!). Hang a picture or poster frame on your door or in another classroom location and display different pictures throughout the year, using dry erase markers to write fun messages and inspirational quotes on the glass. No need to use expensive photo paper, just print the pictures on regular letter paper and cut them out to frame!
Source: Secondary English Coffee Shop
4. Create a classroom constitution. The beginning of the school year is all about setting ground rules. Start a class discussion about what is needed to create a safe, happy, and fun classroom environment. You can go around the room asking each student to contribute a thought, then create a poster of your final “classroom constitution” for all the students to sign. Hang it up on a bulletin board next to a class photo or hand-drawn pictures of each student (or the pop-art pictures described above!) You can even have students recite their constitution after the pledge of allegiance each day.
Source: The Classroom Connection
5. Hang up a birthday board. Kids love celebrating their birthdays and checking out which classmates share their birthday month! Simply print a copy of our 11-inch by 17-inch poster and put it in a glass frame for a birthday board you can use year after year. It’s a great way to make each student feel like valued members of the class.
Source: Got To Teach
6. Introduce a partner. Pair two students together and have them interview one another. They get to pick the questions, but they only have three minutes each (set a timer). After they each ask their questions and gather their information, they will then introduce each other to the class. This takes the pressure off of them to talk about themselves, helps them learn about a fellow classmate, teaches them how to interview and ask questions or gather information, remember and regurgitate information, and speak in front of others.
7. Create a class roster word search. Using a free word search generator (Discovery Education’s puzzle maker), create a word search using your class roster. Print copies and place one each student’s desk. Allow students time to complete the word search, and after a few minutes, allow them to work together. They naturally will want to help one another find the names to finish the search! This gets them talking and working together effortlessly, all the while learning the names of their classmates.
8. Play “Would You Rather?” Create a set of fun “Would You Rather?” flash cards. (Example questions to use: Would you rather go to space or go in the ocean in a submarine? Would you rather fly or be invisible? Would you rather go camping or go to the beach? Would you rather play inside or play outside?) Cut them out and place one on each student’s desk. Have them read their question out loud and start debating! This gets the class talking and learning about each other.
9. Scavenger hunt the room. Create a list of items to find around your room and set the students free to find them. This helps them get to know each other while scavenging the room and learning about their new classroom.
10. Guess the lie. Passing out index cards, have students write two true statements about themselves and one false statement. After giving students a few minutes to write their sentences down, have them read them out loud one by one, and enjoy the entertainment as fellow students try to guess which of the statements is a lie.
Not only do students get to learn about one another, but you get to learn what your students’ skill sets are in written and verbal communication.
11. Create a web. Gather students in a large circle. Take a ball of yarn and, holding tight to one end, toss the ball to one student. Once they catch the ball, as them a question, such as what their favorite color is. After they answer, they will hold onto a piece of yarn and toss the ball to another student. They will ask them a different question, and they will then hold a piece of yarn and pass the ball again. Once the ball has been tossed to every student, a web should transpire in the center of your circle. Take a moment to admire it and remind students that everyone had to contribute to create the web!
12. Find out what your students wish you knew about them. Find out exactly what your students wish you knew about them by allowing them time to complete the handout. While this may not seem like much between the students, this forms a bond, sense of trust, and care between you and your students as they are given the chance to open up and share things with you in a fun but private way.
13. Let students guess things about you. Let students answer questions about you, without your answers! Students always get asked about themselves during icebreakers, but teachers never get hounded with these questions. Reverse the role and let students complete the “Take a Guess: Teacher Edition” worksheet. After completing the handout, have students volunteer to share their guesses. This is sure to create many laughs and memories while establishing a bond with you.
14. Lastly, show students that you value each and every one of them. Calm those first day jitters by writing messages of encouragement right on your students’ desks! Use Expo dry erase markers for messages that wipe right off.