At the beginning of the school year, teachers have the responsibility to establish classroom routines, get to know students’ names, and immediately put in place the values and beliefs for the culture of the room. Classroom icebreakers provide the perfect opportunity to accomplish all of those tasks!
For years, I used the following icebreakers to get to know names and establish notions of student movement and talking to one another.
Your Classic Classroom Icebreakers
This is a low-stress activity that is a great way to begin as a classroom icebreaker. Have students line up by height without talking. You will see problem solving as students decide where the tallest and shortest people should stand!
After they line up, have the students turn to the person next to them and answer a question you pose. Your questions should be interesting and allow students to express their personality.
If you need to get to know their names, have them introduce the person they spoke with. This will show you value who they are and that you expect their classmates to know their names as well.
Possible questions to ask:
If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
If you were a superhero, who would you be and why?
If you could choose any talent, what would it be and why?
Growing up, what were your favorite toys to play with as a child?
Mount Rushmore honors four U.S. presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. If you could add one more person, who would it be and why?
An easy transition from the Height Game is to have students line up by their birthday, again, without talking. This gives you, the teacher, valuable information (the student’s birthday) and establishes the routine of moving quietly throughout the room.
Want to add a challenge? Put a time limit on the students or time them as they do it. You can even tell them the fastest time is 12 seconds and see how they engage!
After they line up, check to see if they are correct. Move them accordingly if you need to, then have students turn to the person next to them and answer a question you pose. Your questions should be interesting and allow students to express their personality.
New & Improved Classroom Icebreakers
After more than 10 years of teaching, I decided to amp up my classroom icebreakers and give students tasks that would truly exemplify what I value in the classroom. I added the following classroom icebreakers to my first-day activities.
Personalized Playdough Sculptures
Yep, you’re never too old to play with Playdough. You will need paper plates (to keep your desks clean) and little cans of Playdough (I have purchased a package of 15 for around $3). Or you can make your own using this recipe!
Have ready on each desk one can and one paper plate. Students will create something that represents themselves. You can play music to set the atmosphere of the room. Walk around and talk to students. This is a great activity to get to know your students!
If you need to learn names, have students write their name on the paper plate, so you see it as you approach each desk. Use the student’s name (at least three times in the class period) to help you remember what it is.
Want to build more classroom community? After everyone is done, have each student at the desk, say his/her name, and present what they made and why.
Moon Survival Group Activity
This activity is great to use at the end of the first week. By this time, you have put in place the foundational routines and rituals of your classroom. This classroom icebreaker activity employs team work and problem solving; it gets students moving and talking together in a positive way. Download the Survival on the Moon Icebreaker Activity here.
Present the following scenario to your students: You are a member of a space crew originally scheduled to meet your mother ship on the lighted surface of the moon. Due to mechanical problems, you are forced to land 200 miles from the mother ship. You must gather 15 items from your ship to take for your journey to the mother ship. These materials will help you survive on the Moon.
Put no more than 4 students in a group
Give each group a Survival on the Moon Materials List worksheet
Assign a recorder
Instruct students to brainstrom and come up with a list of materials they believe they would have traveled with from Earth (have them compile a list of at least 25 items)
From that list, instruct students to record on the top 15 items they would need for survival on their Survival on the Moon Materials List worksheet
You may need to put a time limit on the activity. This encourages engagement and motivation to complete the task.
After students have their 15 items, hand each group the Survival on the Moon NASA List and see how their list compared to what NASA suggests!
Do your students have items that aren’t on the list? Celebrate their creativity and have them share with the whole class!