By Teachers, For Teachers
Back to school time is an exciting-but-nerve-wracking time for everyone. Students and teachers are filled with excitement and first-day jitters.
Getting your students to feel welcome, and establishing a good rapport during the first few weeks of school, should be your main priority.
Here are a few getting-to-know-you, first day of school activities and back to school games that will help you break the ice and create a comfortable atmosphere where students feel welcome.
K-5th Grade Ideas
Meeting Your Match
A fun way to break the ice on the first day of school is to challenge each student to find another classmate that matches them.
Here's how this activity works: As students enter the classroom, hand each child a puzzle piece. Once students are settled in, instruct them to walk around the room to each classmate to see if their puzzle piece fits with another students' piece. As they go from student to student, they must introduce themselves and tell one important fact about themselves. At the end of the activity each "match" must introduce one another and tell the class about the facts that they have learned. This activity can also be done with a piece of yarn. Cut each piece of yarn into different lengths. The students that have the same length of yarn are matches.
The Name Game
An easy getting to know you activity for elementary students is the name game. This fun-yet-simple game will help students (and you) learn each others’ names. To get started, have the students sit in a circle on the carpet. You should also take part in this activity because it will help you learn your students' names as well. Then go around the circle and have each child say their name as well as repeat the names that came before them. It's a good idea to place yourself last -- this will help you remember all of your students' names. This activity can also be played by having each student pick a word that starts with the same letter of their name and say that too. For example, the student may say, "Silly Sammy" or "Fun Fred."
Things in Common
Many students in middle school do not realize how much they may have in common with their classmates. Maybe if every middle school tried this getting-to-know-you activity there would not be so much bullying in school. To begin this activity, start by having each student write down five things that they can do well on an index card: Sing, draw, skateboard, etc. Once finished, have students read their cards to the class. As they are reading their card, write down what they are saying on the front board. After all students have had a turn, discuss what students have in common. For example, say "Look at how Reesa, Ameila, and Ally all take dance." Or "It's very interesting that Brady, Hudson, and Seth can all draw very well." Use the similarities students have to start a discussion about how students are alike and different. Then at the end of the activity, allow students with things in common to meet each other and discuss what they are good at.
Bingo Scavenger Hunt
This icebreaker activity is a great way for middle school children to get to know their classmates who they may not necessarily ever talk to. Before class starts, create a bingo board for each student in class. On each square, write a brief description, such as “Has one sister and one brother,” or “Likes pizza better than cheeseburgers.” Other ideas may be “Has lived in more than two houses,” “Can sing,” or “Lives close to school.” Challenge students to go around the room and get their classmates to sign off on one of the boxes, if they can. The goal is for each student to get bingo. To make it a little bit harder, you can have students try to fill up the whole board within a short timeframe.
Truth or Lie
Give students the opportunity to get to know one another by playing the truth or lie icebreaker game. To get started have each student tell the class two things about themselves, one that is true, and one that is false. The students listening must determine which one is true. They can do this by secret ballot, or just by raising their hand. Once the class figures it out, the student must give a brief description about their truth. Go around the classroom until all students have had a turn.
A fun way to get a rise out of your high school students is to tell them they are having their first assignment within a few minutes of class starting. Their goal: Sort themselves in alphabetical order by first name within four minutes. If you want to be really hard on them, have them use their last names only. After their initial shock, you will be surprised how quickly they will work together while getting to know one another.
Do you have any icebreaker activities and back to school games that you found successful? Please share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts!