As educators, we have all witnessed the uncomfortable silence and apprehension of students on the first day of school. It’s common for students to feel anxious when starting at a new school, having a new teacher, or reuniting with friends after a long summer break. However, with some enjoyable, interactive, and suitable icebreakers, we can break this pattern and encourage students to feel enthusiastic about the new school year.
Icebreakers are activities or games that create a fun and welcoming atmosphere to help individuals feel more comfortable and build positive relationships between students and teachers. These activities are appropriate for students of all ages and can be adapted to different year levels. Icebreakers are particularly useful in school settings to motivate students. By using icebreakers, teachers can gain a great deal of insight into their students’ hobbies, likes, and dislikes.
The expression ‘the more, the merrier’ can also apply to icebreaker activities during the first week of school. The more activities you do, the more engaged and enthusiastic your students will be, fostering collaboration. It is beneficial to use icebreakers to allow students time to adjust to the new environment and build community with new students.
It’s important to consider the location for your icebreakers. In the classroom, you could try a name game or an icebreaker that involves learning about the students’ preferences. Icebreakers that relate to class expectations or the content area are also best done inside the classroom. Some icebreakers are better suited for the outdoors to minimise noise level distraction. For instance, Fan Club requires students to cheer on classmates, while Zip, Zap, Zop! needs lots of room for movement and laughter. In case of bad weather, see if the gymnasium or another large indoor space is available.
See below our favourite icebreakers your students will be sure to love!
Find Someone Who/High Fives
These activities require students to mingle and learn about each other. They are best suited for a large area in which students have ample space to move about and gather.
Ask students to find other students who share a quality. Examples include:
- Find someone who wakes up early/late
- Find someone who has the same favourite colour as you
- Find someone who is born in the same month you are
- You like to cook
- You watch football
- You love chocolate
- You have a sibling
- You are excited to start a new school year
Alternatively, everyone can gather in a circle and high-five in the middle in response to the statements. This is a good activity for the start of the new school year when students are getting to know each other.
This activity takes the form of a game and involves repeated competitive sessions of Paper/Scissors/Rock. It is best suited for a large area in which students have ample space to move about and gather.
For this activity, students begin in a large group or circle. When the leader gives the signal, they turn to their neighbour and begin challenging each other to a one-on-one game of Paper/Scissors/Rock.
- The winner of each individual round will advance to challenge more ‘winners’
- The losing player of each individual round then becomes part of the winner’s ‘fan club,’ meaning that it is then their job to follow the winner as they make new challenges and cheer them on
- Repeat as necessary until there are two large teams and two individuals competing
It should create a situation with a great deal of noisy cheering and excitement as one student and their fan club emerge victorious
Zip, Zap, Zop!
This activity challenges students to practice focus, agility, speed, and eye contact. It is best facilitated outdoors or in a large room with plenty of space.
Have group members stand in a circle. Ask them to envision an invisible ball of energy that will be passed from person to person.
Once it has begun, it will be passed with a clap and eye contact aimed at the intended recipient:
- The initiator will pass to a recipient with a pointed clap, eye contact & saying, ‘zip!’
- The recipient then passes to another person with, ‘zap!’
- Then the third passes yet again with, ‘zop!’
- The order then starts over with the next recipient
Once the group has the hang of it, challenge them to increase the speed. If someone misses a well-directed pass because they weren’t paying attention or if the passer does not make eye contact, etc., they’re out! You’ll eventually have a heated contest between two passers, and eventually, a small slip-up will yield a winner.
These are just a few icebreakers that can be done with students to start the year strong. For more ideas, check out our back-to-school icebreakers blog post. Keep in mind that you have the power to change the mundane routine of introducing students back into the classroom every year. Spice it up with some engaging activities every day of the first week of school. If the weather is beautiful, take the opportunity to go outside. Another day, have students go on a scavenger hunt to learn about different locations in the school, such as the gym, cafeteria, and library. Implementing these icebreaker strategies will help ensure you blast off into a great school year!
This article was written by Charmaine Morgan-Pullin, WorldStrides Curriculum and Academics Specialist.