Although icebreakers can seem frivolous, they are an important first step to getting student buy-in. Unless a student is emotionally connected to school, they will lack motivation to learn. Fostering feelings of trust and acceptance is difficult, if not impossible, when students don't know each others' names. Here are some great icebreakers that you can use in your classroom.
- Crossword Connection
This activity includes visual symbols of connection and self-introductions.
The teacher prints her own name on the board, leaving some space between each letter. She then tell the class something about herself. Next, she picks a student to come to the board, tell something about themselves, and print their name crossing the teacher's as in a crossword puzzle. Students take turns telling something about themselves and adding their names. Volunteers copy the completed puzzle as a poster. To save time, the puzzle could be written on paper taped to the board and left up in first draft form.
This activity can be extended by asking each student to write their name and a statement about themselves on a sheet of paper. The teacher can then use the statements as clues for a class-names crossword puzzle which can be made with crossword puzzle software.
- Find Your Kind
This activity requires a handout containing questions and places for signatures. You are welcome to use mine.
Students answer the questions in ink to reduce answer changing later. When everyone is finished, students find others who have the same answers on any question and get their signatures under the answers they had in common.
Variation for mature students: One student stands up and says only his name. Other students introduce him by telling what they have learned about about him by checking for his name on their handout. (Use this with caution.)
- New Friend Scavenger Hunt
This icebreaker allows students to learn cool things about each other. Students find individuals who fit descriptions listed on the worksheet. The individual who gets the most matches wins!
- TP Surprise
Students will know you are full of fun with this one.
The teacher welcomes students at the door while holding a roll of toilet paper. He instruct students to take as many sheets as they need refusing to explain the purpose. Once class begins, students are instructed to write one interesting thing about themselves on each sheet. When students are finished, they introduce themselves by reading their TP.
Variation: Students write one thing they hope or expect to learn in the course this year on each sheet.
Take A Stand
The purpose of this activity is for students to get a feel about their peers' positions on various matters. Unless you make the survey aspect of the exercise clear, students may think it is ridiculous despite their enjoyment of the physical activity.
The teacher puts one long line of tape down the center of the room, pushing desks out of the way so that students can stand on either side of the tape. The teacher reads statement with "either-or" answers such as, "I prefer night or day," "Democrats or Republicans," "lizards or snakes." Statements can range from silly trivia to serious content.
After hearing each statement, students agreeing with the first response move to one side of the classroom and those agreeing with the second, to the other. Undecided or middle-of-the-roaders, straddle the line.
- Birthday Lineup
Students are instructed to line themselves up around the perimeter of the room according to their birth date. The challenge is to do it without speaking or writing.
- Jigsaw Search
Students especially enjoy the search aspect of this activity.
The teacher prepares construction paper jigsaw puzzle shapes of several different colors. The shape may be symbolic of a topic being introduced. These are cut as a jig saw puzzle with the number of pieces matching the desired group size from two to four.
The teacher allows students to select one puzzle piece from a container as they walk into the room. At the designated time, students search the room for peers who have puzzle pieces that fit theirs and then team up with those students to perform a task. Some interesting tasks might be introducing a partner, making a poster to define a concept, decorating puzzle pieces, and making a mobile. Having students print their names on both sides of their puzzle piece might facilitate name learning during the search activity. The names could be erased or crossed out if puzzle pieces are reused.
Note: If the number of puzzle pieces does not match the number of students in the room, some students will not have a complete group. Left over puzzle pieces can be placed on a table for students to check to see if their group will be short members. To avoid groups being short members you could use two-piece puzzles and participate with a student left out yourself.
Check this page for even more icebreakers!