We have all experienced it. Those first day jitters. That first day of a new job, the first day of a new program or club that we joined and if it was especially memorable, we might be even able to remember that first day of school way back when. Firsts can bring up fears and insecurities in all of us. And for students, the first day of a new school year, especially if things are completely new and unfamiliar can be even more intimidating. With distance learning, students will need even more opportunities to connect with one another and the space to get to know each other.
Having some fun and silly icebreakers to help ease students into the new setting can help. Check out some of the following ways in which you can help your class feel a little less jittery and a little more comfortable.
Some of these activities may be suitable for both in-class and online learning environments with minor adjustments.
Seat students in a circle. Tell the class to imagine that they’re stuck on a deserted island. To make it visual, project an image of an island on the board. Each person should share one object they would bring to the island and why. The item doesn’t have to be an item for survival. Encourage students to identify an item that’s important enough to them to bring. This game lets students share a bit about their interests and who they are!
Grab some card stock and print out some blank postcard templates. Ask students to draw a place they visited during their summer vacation — a park, Grandma’s house, a hotel. On the back, ask them to write about a summer memory associated with that place. Students can share their postcards, tell the class about their summer fun, and then put them up around the classroom!
Create a word search puzzle with your students’ names and ask students to find them — all while learning each other’s names. Make it a competition between small groups and offer up fun little prizes for the table that finishes first, second, and third. Create your word search puzzle online for free here.
Each team gets 2 rolls of toilet paper and/or crepe paper. Set a timer for 5 minutes and instruct students to design a toilet paper outfit on one student in the group. Play some fun music as students hustle to make their outfit! When the timer goes off, it’s time for the Fashion Show. Play some runway music and have each team’s model walk to show off the outfit without it falling off. The teacher can judge which team has the winning design!
Blow up a beach ball and use a marker to write some get-to-know-you questions on it. Toss the ball around a circle of students. When someone catches it, the question that lands right in front of them is the one they should answer. Go a few rounds until everyone has answered a few questions! Added bonus: Ask students to say their name when they answer to encourage everyone to learn each other’s names. Like: “My name is and my favorite food is….”
Grab some Skittles and gather students in a circle. Students should blindly pick a Skittle from a bag and depending on what color they pick, they answer a corresponding question from a pre-made chart. For example, red skittles could represent their favorite movie or a country they dream of visiting. See this photo for color-coded question inspiration. If students can’t or don’t want to eat the Skittles, that’s no problem! You can also play this game with Legos or any colorful object!
Get students writing and sharing with some “I Am” poems. Share a pre-made sheet like this to motivate students to write, reveal cool facts about themselves, and share who they are with the class. Poems can be displayed in class or stored away to be looked at again at the end of the year to see how much students have changed.
We all know high school students love their phones, so why not incorporate devices into a fun game that gets students mingling and socializing in a tech-friendly way? Use this awesome scavenger hunt sheet that asks students to find things like selfies, photos of pets, and certain apps on their peers’ phones.
This game poses a dilemma with two choices that are usually both bad or funny. Laugh along with your students with questions like: “Would you rather lose your sense of taste or your sense of smell?” Download these free Would You Rather printables or ask students to create their own and get the fun started!
Using either a regular Jenga set or a giant one, write a question on each block. Sit in a circle and place the game in the middle. Play as a whole class, letting everyone get up to take turns. Each time someone removes a brick, they have to answer the question on the Jenga piece! Have fun as the tension mounts and eventually the tower falls!
Whether you are in the classroom or working with your students remotely, these icebreakers can be adapted to fit your situation with some creativity and some modification. Not only will you learn a thing or two from your students, but it will help everyone feel like they are part of your class community by providing different ways to connect and feel heard from one another. And don’t forget, icebreakers don’t have to be reserved for just the beginning of a new school year – they are great to use throughout the year by sharing parts of one another.