8 First Day of High School Activities to Get to Know Your Students

First Day of High School Activities
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The first day of high school is full of excitement and nerves for students and teachers alike. You can put your students at ease right away by enthusiastically welcoming them to your class and greeting them at the door with a smile, an introduction, and a handshake.

The first day will inevitably involve some logistics, like going over the class rules and reviewing the course syllabi. However, you can make your students' introduction to your classroom stress-free and positive by adding these fun first day of high school activities.

01
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Would You Rather?

Help the teens in your class relax with a fun round of "Would You Rather," the game in which you pit two choices against each other. Sometimes the choices are serious; other times they’re silly. Occasionally, neither is a good option, forcing students to choose the lesser of two evils.

Get started with these these Would You Rather prompts. Would you rather...

  • Live in the mountains or on the beach?
  • Be a famous author or a famous musician?
  • Have the ability to read minds or be invisible?
  • Spend the day at an amusement park or the mall?
  • Have a private jet or a fancy sports car?
  • Live somewhere that is always warm and sunny, or somewhere that is always cold and snowy?

After you ask each question, instruct students to move to one side of the room if they’d choose the first option and the other if they’d prefer the second.

If you’d rather keep everyone in their seats, provide students with different color choice markers (e.g. colored paper plates, paint stir sticks). Students hold up one color for the first choice and the other color for the second.

02
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Two Truths and a Lie

Get to know your students and help them get to know each other with the classic icebreaker game Two Truths and a Lie. Tell the students to share two true facts and one made-up fact about themselves. After a student shares his or her facts, the other students should guess which statement is a lie.

For example, a student might say, “I moved here from California. My birthday is in October. And, I have three brothers.” The other students then guess which of the three statements is untrue until the first student reveals that he is an only child.

You can start the game by sharing two truths and a lie about yourself, then go around the room until each student gets a turn. 

03
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Letter to Yourself

Begin the school year with this introspective activity. Invite the students write a letter to their future selves. Provide a list of questions, writing prompts, or sentence starters and instruct students to answer the questions in complete sentences. Try some of the following:

  • I am wearing…
  • My best friend is…
  • What I’m looking forward to most this year is…
  • What is your favorite subject?
  • What are your favorite songs, TV shows, books, games, or music artists?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What is your favorite way to spend your free time?

Provide envelopes so that students can seal their letters once they’re complete. Then, the students should turn in their sealed letters to you for safe-keeping. Return the messages to the students on their last day of school.

04
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Tell Me About Yourself

Get to know your students with an engaging questionnaire. Write five to ten questions—some lighthearted, a few thoughtful—on the board or provide a printed handout. Ask questions such as:

  • What is one of your favorite memories?
  • Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
  • What qualities does a great teacher have?
  • How do you learn best (examples: quiet environment, hands-on, listening, reading)?
  • If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Students should turn in their finished questionnaires to you. Use this activity as an opportunity to gain insight into their personalities.

05
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Pop Culture Quiz

Take a break from the first-day-of-school stress with a pop quiz. A pop culture quiz, that is!

In advance, create a list of 10-15 questions about current pop culture, from music to movies. Then, to begin the game, divide the class into multiple teams. Distribute paper and pens/markers or personal whiteboards to each team.

Stand at the front of the room and ask one question at a time. Give the teams time (30-60 seconds) to confer quietly about their answers. Each team should write down their final answer on a piece of paper. Once the time is up, ask each team to hold up their answer. Each team that answers correctly earns a point. Record the score on the board. Whichever team earns the most points wins!

06
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Anonymous Responses

Create a sense of community and connection in your classroom through this activity. In advance, prepare one or two questions to ask the students. Here are some examples:

  • What are you most nervous about the new school year?
  • What is one thing you wish everyone at school knew about you?
  • What is your biggest goal this school year?

Write your question(s) on the board, pass out an index card to each student. Explain that they should write down their answers without including their name, and assure them that their responses are completely anonymous (but that they will be shared with the group). Give the class 5 minutes to complete the activity. When time is up, instruct students to fold their cards once and place them in a basket or bin at the front of the room.

Once everyone has turned in their index cards, read the responses out loud. Many students may be surprised to find out how similar they are to their classmates. To extend the activity, moderate a brief discussion about the students' reactions to hearing their classmates' responses.

07
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Teacher Multiple Choice Quiz

Give your students a chance to get to know you through a silly multiple choice quiz. To create the quiz, come up with a list of fun or surprising facts about yourself. Then, turn them into multiple choice questions. Be sure to include some funny wrong answers.

After the students have finished the quiz, go over the correct answers and have the students "grade" their own quizzes. This activity often generates fun, engaging discussions, as many students are curious to hear the backstories behind some of the facts you included on the quiz.

08
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Classmate Interviews

Divide the students into pairs and pass out a list of interview question prompts. Tell the students to be on the lookout for things they have in common. Then, give the students 10 minutes to interview their partners. When time is up, each student should introduce his or her partner to the class using the information they learned during the meeting. Each presentation should include a fun fact and a newly-discovered commonality.

This activity is an excellent way for students to get to know each other. In addition, many students find it less intimidating to speak to the class about someone else rather than themselves.