The start of a new school year stirs up many emotions within teachers and students often including excitement, anticipation and nervousness. My number one goal on that first day (and weeks) is to melt away my students' fears. By the end of each day, I want them confident that they are going to have a great school year filled with lots of new friendships. I find the best way to dissipate those feelings of nervousness and begin to foster those new relationships is with a few fun icebreakers.
BENEFITS OF USING ICEBREAKERS
There are many benefits to starting the school year off with icebreakers, which include
Easing nervous tension
Getting to know classmates
Promoting team building
Creating an atmosphere of positivity
Starting the year in a fun way
OBJECTIVES OF USING ICEBREAKERS
Merriam-Webster defines an icebreaker as something that is done or said to get through the first difficulties in starting a conversation or discussion. I want my students to feel comfortable, safe, and happy in their new learning environment. My goal is to develop what will become a close-knit community of learners, and icebreakers help build a foundation for friendships that will last through the school year and beyond.
MY FAVORITE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL ICEBREAKER GAMES
GAME 1: CANDY* COLORS
This is an icebreaker that helps kids learn new facts about each other in a sweet, tasty way. The students pick several pieces of candy from a bag, and associate each piece with a different fact about themselves.
*A slightly healthier alternative to this game would be to use prepackaged gummy snacks. Many versions of gummy snacks provide kids with 100% of their required vitamin C for the day and you can even buy an organic version if you wish.
Materials: Any candy (or prepackaged gummy snacks) with about five different variations (of color or candy type) such as gummy bears, Life Savers, gum drops, Skittles, M&Ms, Jolly Ranchers, etc. Be sure to purchase enough candy for each student to have at least five pieces.
Instructions: Pass around the candy and tell each student to choose one to five pieces. Tell them not to eat the candy yet. After they have chosen their candy, you will tell them what each piece of candy represents.
On a whiteboard, chalkboard, or chart paper write the following:
- Red – Favorite summer memory
- Green – Favorite part about school
- Blue – Favorite sport/hobby/activity
- Yellow – Favorite book
- Orange – Your choice (share anything)
If you don’t have the above colors, change the items in the list to match the candy colors or types that you have. Each student takes a turn to introduce him or herself, beginning with his or her name, and then sharing one fact for each candy color or type that they have.
GAME 2: TWO TRUTHS AND A WISH
Two Truths and a Wish is a twist on the icebreaker game Two Truths and a Lie. In this game the players tell two truths about themselves and one wish (instead of a lie). The object of the game is to determine which statement is the wish.
Instructions: Tell the students to arrange themselves in a circle. Instruct each player to think of three statements about him or herself. Two statements should be true, and one should be a wish. Each student shares his or her three statements with the class in any order. The goal of the icebreaker game is to determine which statement is the wish. The class votes on which statement they believe is the wish. The student then reveals the wish.
Here are some possible sentence starters for those students that need may them:
- I have been...
- I play...
- I won...
- I own...
- I met...
- I belong to...
GAME 3: STRANDED ON A DESERTED ISLAND GAME
This game combines the classic “stranded on a desert island” scenario with student interests. This icebreaker game helps students share a little bit about themselves with their classmates. Tell the students that everyone is going to be stranded on a deserted island. Each person will describe one object that they would like to bring to the island and why.
Instructions: Tell the class that each person is allowed to bring one object to the island (something that represents them or something that they enjoy). Each student will describe which object he or she would bring and why. Explain that the object does not need to be useful for survival on the island. For example, someone that loves sports might bring a soccer ball or someone that loves art might bring a paint set.
GAME 4: NAME RELATION GAME
Have your students form a circle. Then start out by saying your name and a food that begins with the same letter.
Then the next person says his or her name with a corresponding food and your's. Then the third person does his or her name with a food, the second and the first persons' name and food.
The game continues around the circle, so that the last person has to do everyone in the class.
GAME 5: GET TO KNOW YOU BINGO
“Get To Know You Bingo” is probably the most popular of all the icebreakers out there. It works for almost all ages, and it can be a lot of fun.
You’ll need to create a bingo sheet or use the one available for download. If you would like to make your own, just make a 5 x 5 grid of personal statements such as “has long brown hair,” “has more than four siblings,” “has travelled to Canada,” and so on
Give the bingo sheets out to your students, with a pencil, and then send them off to find the person that meets the criteria in each box. Players can only use their classmates once on their sheet.
The game is over when someone collects a name for the entire grid OR after everyone has completed their grid you can begin reading out the names of your students—they would need to cross off a name when it is called. If they get five in a row, they win!
MY FAVORITE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL ICEBREAKERS ACTIVITIES
ACTIVITY 1: WHERE DID THE SUMMER GO?
Here's a great bulletin board idea and first day of school icebreaker activity. Tell your students they will be designing a t-shirt based on a place they traveled to over the summer. The t-shirt can be created based on a town they visited on a vacation, a place they took a day trip to, or a place they spent lots of time at over the summer (a pool, the beach, a pond, grandma's house, etc.). Tell the students to clearly write the name of the place they visited and to draw objects that represent that place. You may want to have an example to show your students. I always bring both an actual vacation t-shirt and a t-shirt I made to share with my students.
After the t-shirts are finished, ask the kids to share them with the class and to briefly explain some of their favorite things that they did on that vacation. Depending on your class size and time available you may need to do this in small groups rather than as an entire class. String a clothesline across your classroom and hang the t-shirts up using clothespins for everyone to admire.
A possible extension would be to have your students write about the vacation that they chose for their t-shirt. This is a quick and easy way to get some baseline writing data on your students. I find this informal writing sample provides me with a good starting point for my initial writing lessons.
Download my Where did the summer go? Activity now!
ACTIVITY 2: FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL ICEBREAKER TIME CAPSULE
I love this activity! I use this time capsule to both start and end my year. Available for download is a time capsule worksheet that asks the students a variety of questions such as what is their favorite food, subject, book, and so on. After the students complete their time capsules I allow them to share what they wrote on their time capsule sheet in small groups or with partners. I then collect the time capsule sheets, which I will return to the students on the last day of school for them to compare what has changed or stayed the same.
*Optional: Roll up the time capsule sheets and place them in empty paper towel rolls. Wrap the paper towel rolls with tissue paper & tie each end with a string. It is wonderful to see the students’ excitement on the last day of school when they enter the class to see the wrapped time capsules placed on their desks.
Download my Student Time Capsule Activity worksheet now!
ACTIVITY 3: GETTING TO KNOW YOUR READERS
A fun way for you to get to know your reading students better and help them get to know each other is by having them create a book jacket cover and table of contents about themselves. Ask the students to create a clever book title that represents them and to decorate their book cover with an illustration. On the back cover, have the students write a brief description of themselves. In the table of contents, ask them to write briefly about their family, their likes and dislikes, and reading habits.
Download my Book Jacket Cover and Table of Contents Activity now.
Icebreakers are a fun way to ease nervousness and to encourage conversation. They are a great way for classmates to get to know each other and build friendships.
Spread these icebreaker games and activities throughout the first month of school to have your students looking forward to the start of each new day.
These icebreaker games and activities will have your students going home saying, "I love my new class! This is going to be a fantastic school year!"