Ice Breakers and First Day Activities

Build connections and engage students with fun get-to-know-you activities

By Andrea Ferrero

Ice Breakers and First Day Activities

There is nothing quite like the exhilaration you feel when you have a fresh start at the beginning of a new school year. This is the time to set the tone in your classroom. Students enter your room with varying degrees of anticipation and excitement. Activities that allow students to interact and get to know each other provide a simple way to ease students back into the classroom routine and help them build a rapport with classmates.

Getting to Know Your Students

There are a variety of ways to allow students to share information about themselves. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Have students draw or bring in a copy of their baby pictures. Then have them write two truths and a lie about themselves on the back of the paper. It is fun to have the class guess which student drew the picture. After several students have guessed the identity of the person, and determined which statement is a lie, the mystery person can stand up and claim the picture.
  • Have each student draw an abstract self-portrait, depicting their personal interests and hobbies. For example, if a student enjoys baseball, then their arms would be bats with catcher mitt hands. If a student loves music, their ears could be musical notes. Encourage students to use vibrant colors and to be creative. Have students write their names using large letters on the back of the piece. Art work can be gathered and posted around the classroom simulating an art gallery. Then you can have students walk around the room and guess which classmate drew each of the pieces.
  • Personality tests provide a unique way to get to know students. They also promote metacognition by fostering students’ awareness of how they learn best. There are many varieties of personality tests available. However, it is important for children to understand that these types of tests are not error-proof.   

How to Build Community

Making friends, and finding common ground with peers, can be a daunting challenge for students of any age. One way you can help students find shared interests, traits, and experiences is by having them play common traits games with one another. By identifying how they are similar to others in the class, students will have an easier time of feeling like they fit in.

  • Here is one game that can help students get to know each other. You can tell students, “When I say go, you have one minute to find and form a group of three or more students that have …” You can fill in the blank with a prompt such as the same pet, the same book at home, the same number of siblings, or the same favorite subject. The possible groupings are endless, and as the teacher, you can choose topics that will create unique groups each time. 
  • One of my students’ favorite activities, year after year, is beach ball pass. I either do the activity in a whole group or with several small groups. Each group receives a beach ball. I shout out a question, and each time the ball is tossed and caught, a student shares their answer. Some questions you could ask during this game include: What is your favorite (blank)? What do you want to be when you grow up? What is the strangest food you’ve eaten? If you could create a billboard with anything on it, what would it say?

Having Students Engage in Discussions

  • Take an index card with a vocabulary word written on it, and then cut the card in half. Have students find the missing half and answer a series of questions with a partner. Here are some possible questions:  What is the word? What do they think it means? What are their thoughts or opinions about it? Some of the words you might include are reading, sports, math, television, and Facebook. Each of these words can lead to some great classroom discussions.  
  • You can also play a game called T-shirt Share. Students answer a question based on the color of their t-shirts.  For example, students who are wearing red t-shirts might be asked to name the last movie they saw and give their opinion. A student wearing orange could name the last book he/she read and give a review. Someone wearing blue could name his/her favorite time of year.

 What follows are more suggestions for icebreakers and first day activities.

Ice Breakers and First Day Activities:

Mapping Your Identity

Students use a thesaurus as inspiration for creating an identity map to introduce themselves. 

Kindergarten Scavenger Hunt

Kindergarteners gain familiarity with their classroom and the tools in it. as they finish a scavenger hunt using clues provided by the teacher.