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While there are tons of icebreakers to choose from, most are outdated, overused, or just extremely unappealing.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.
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.
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!
4. Silent Situations
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!
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.
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!
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.