Seven Icebreaker Ideas for the First Day of School

August is officially here, which marks the dreadful end of summer vacation. So, what can you expect on your first day back at school? Icebreakers, and lots of them. And if you’re anything like me, the thought of yet another “two truths and a lie” game will make you cringe.

While many students loathe the inevitable first-day introductions, the pressure’s on for teachers to find creative ways to engage their new students while trying to learn everyone’s name. So for you teachers out there, before choosing what to do with your students on their first day back, here are a few icebreaker dos and don’ts:

✔ Do encourage your students to get to know each other
✔ Do make your classroom a welcoming and inclusive environment
✔ Do offer incentives or rewards for participation

× Don’t make students take part in activities that violates their personal space
× Don’t choose activities that will make students feel uncomfortable or intimidated
× Don’t exclude certain groups or individuals from participating in activities

While there are tons of icebreakers to choose from, most are outdated, overused, or just extremely unappealing. So, let’s go over seven icebreakers for the first day of school that students will actually want to participate in.

1. The People’s Bingo

Materials: Homemade Bingo Boards, Pens

While this strays from a traditional game of Bingo, “People’s Bingo” is an easy game that will get students learning more about each other. Create a Bingo board with several unique categories for each square like “has lived in another country” or “can play an instrument.” Students must go around and find a classmate that meets the conditions of a square and sign off on it. No one is allowed to sign their own names on their own board—they must ask their peers until they find a match. The first student to fill their Bingo board with their classmates’ signatures win! Once a winner is announced, have them read aloud their answers to share the fun facts of their fellow classmates.


Image via Game Night Guys

2. Scattergories

Materials: Paper, Pens, Timer

There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to get students working together. Creative-thinking games are a great icebreaker because they prompt students to share ideas and strive towards a common goal. Scattergories is a Hasbro board game that can easily be adapted to a classroom setting. The game requires players to name objects within a set of categories for a specific letter within a time limit. For example, given the letter “J,” students must name a food, city, animal, etc. that starts with the letter “J”. Break students up into small groups so that they can work together to find unique answers to the specified categories. Whatever group can present the most original answers wins. You can find more detailed game instructions on Wikipedia.


Image via ThingLink

3. The Perfect Pair

Materials: Cards, Pens

If you’re looking for an icebreaker for a large group, this is it! Write out several cards that contain matching pairs (Romeo & Juliet, Peanut Butter & Jelly, etc.). Shuffle the cards, and pass them out to each student or stick them underneath their chairs before they enter the classroom. The object of the game is to have every individual find their other half by using only “yes” or “no” questions. The first student pair to find their match wins!


Image via Ethos3

4. Silent Situations

Materials: Timer

Challenge your students on how much they can accomplish by using non-verbal communication. Determine an objective that gets your students moving, like lining themselves up in alphabetical order or grouping themselves according to birthdays. The rules are very simple—no talking. They must complete their tasks by using only non-verbal cues and movements. Get creative with your categories and change up your timer to see if they improve!


Image via Canva

5. Who Am I?

Materials: Sticky Notes, Pens, Timer

Place a sticky note that contains a name of a person, place, or thing on each of your students’ foreheads. Teachers can adapt their topics to make it more relevant to their coursework, like literary characters, scientific elements, or historical events. Students must work together to provide context clues in order to figure out what is written on their note, without checking themselves. Once the allotted time is up, students have to guess what their note says based on the clues they received. At the end of the activity, ask your students what strategies they found helpful and how they determined what was written without sneaking a peek.


Image via Unsplash

6. Collaborative Drawing

Materials: Paper, Colored Pencils, Timer

No need to be an accomplished artist to partake in this icebreaker. Place students into small groups, and nominate one person from each team to choose a random piece of paper from a bowl of miscellaneous topics. Provide each group with a piece of paper and some drawing utensils. Once every team has selected a topic, each person from the team will get 60 seconds to make their mark before passing it along to their teammate. After five minutes, each team will present their collaborative drawing to the class. If their fellow classmates can guess what they’ve drawn, they’re all winners!


Image via TouchJet

7. Stationary Scavenger Hunt

Materials: List of Objects

Split students up into small groups and present them with a written list of objects that may be hiding in their school bags or pockets. The more random items on the list, the better. (Think old pennies, glasses, fidget spinners, etc.) The team that can showcase the most items on the list wins! Hopefully, you’ll get a few laughs at what’s hidden in the depths of student backpacks.

Icebreakers present an opportunity for students and teachers to get to know each other before diving into the curriculum of the school year. What’s more, they give teachers a way to create a positive classroom environment in which their students feel comfortable and eager to learn. By creating a fun, stress-free activity on the first day back to school, your students will feel more inclined to return to class and be ready to take on on the new year.