This article was orginally published on BusyTeacher.org.
Icebreakers are important when getting to know your students. They are even more important when your students do not know one another well. Depending on how your school organizes its classes, you may use some of the following activities at the beginning of the school year to help you and your students become familiar with the entire class. You can also adapt these icebreakers to introduce new students who happen to enter the class mid-semester.
1. Learn the Names In order to learn students’ names, you can have students take turns saying their name along with the names of all of the students who spoke before them --- or as many as they can remember. To make it more interesting and to learn a little more about your class, ask students to include something specific about themselves, such as their favorite cereal, color, sport or film. At the end of the activity, you should try your best to repeat every student’s name. If students are learning the names of their classmates for the first time, conduct some other name activities for practice. For example, have students stand in a circle and on each student’s turn, he or she should say a word or sentence related to whatever prompt or topic you choose, then call out the name of a classmate to go next.
2. Find Someone Who... If students know one another’s names, get them talking about other topics by having them play “Find Someone Who...” In this game, students ask each other questions based on pictures or phrases, aiming to find someone who can answer yes to each question. Model questions could be “Do you like...” or “Do you have...” After five to 10 minutes, depending on the number of questions students have to ask, have everyone sit down and call on students to read some of the answers (for example: “Ben likes soccer”); this way the class can learn more about individual students. Try to encourage students to offer up sentences about people who have not yet been mentioned. This gives everyone the opportunity to share and be recognized.
3. Talk and Remember Have students talk to the person to their right about a particular topic (hobbies, for instance). After a minute or two, have your students then turn to the person to their left and discuss another topic. You could also do this as a mingling exercise in which students have a limited amount of time to exchange information before moving on to the next person and conversation topic. Be sure to ask some students things they learned about their peers at the end of the activity so that they try their best to remember the conversations they had.
4. What's Important If your class is quite small, you may consider having students think about the three things they would take with them to a deserted island, then share why they chose one or all of those things. This is an excellent way of learning what is important to your students and gaining some insight into how they organize their thoughts. If your class is larger, you can conduct the same activity in groups, which is beneficial for introducing students to one another but will exclude you for most of the activity. Another similar group activity is to have students write down the first word that pops into their head when they hear you say a certain color. Students can then discuss why they chose particular words in their groups, or you can have the student with the most unique choice explain his answer. After a few minutes, give them another color to think about and discuss. Groups should present the class with a brief summary of their discussions towards the end of the activity.
5. Three Adjectives that Describe You For introductions, you can have students choose three adjectives to describe themselves. At the end of the year, you can also ask students to fill in adjectives for all their classmates (nothing mean spirited) and give students a summary of what their classmates said about them in the last lesson. This should give students some positive reinforcement and point out their personality strengths. It may also be interesting to compare these with the adjectives students chose to describe themselves.
Icebreakers make for excellent activities because they offer students the opportunity to share things about themselves and learn about their peers. These activities often get students moving or thinking creatively and can be lots of fun, dissolving any tension or nervousness that might initially exist in the classroom. It’s important that students be able to interact with one another easily because learning is all about communication.