4 Fun Classroom Icebreakers

Warming Up the Classroom Climate

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A positive school climate improves outcomes for students, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. A positive school climate also contributes to academic achievement. Creating a positive school climate that offers such benefits can start in the classroom, and one way to start is by using icebreakers.

Although icebreakers do not outwardly appear academic, they are a first step to building a positive classroom climate. According to researchers Sophie Maxwell et al. in their report "The Impact of School Climate and School Identification on Academic Achievement" in "Frontier Psychology" (12/2017), "the more positively students perceived school climate, the better their achievement scores were in the numeracy and writing domains." Included in these perceptions were connections to a class and the strength of relationships with school staff. 

Fostering feelings of trust and acceptance in relationships are difficult when students do not know how to talk to each other. Developing empathy and making connections come from interactions in an informal environment. An emotional connection to a classroom or school will improve a student's motivation to attend. Teachers might use the following four activities at the beginning of school. They each can be adapted to refresh classroom collaboration and cooperation at various times of the year.

Crossword Connection

This activity includes visual symbols of connection and self-introductions.

The teacher prints her name on the board, leaving some space between each letter. She then tells 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 name as in a crossword puzzle. Students take turns by saying something about themselves and adding their names. Volunteers copy the completed puzzle as a poster.  The puzzle could be written on paper taped to the board and left up in first draft form to save time.

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 class names made with crossword puzzle software.

TP Surprise

Students will know you are full of fun with this one.

The teacher welcomes students at the door at the start of class while holding a roll of toilet paper. He or she instructs students to take as many sheets as they need but refusing to explain the purpose. Once class begins, the teacher asks students to write one interesting thing about themselves on each sheet. When students are finished, they can introduce themselves by reading each sheet of toilet paper.

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 survey their peers' positions quickly on various matters. This survey also combines physical movement with topics that range from the serious to the ridiculous. 

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 a statement with "either-or" answers such as, "I prefer night or day," "Democrats or Republicans," "lizards or snakes." The 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 tape and those agreeing with the second, to the other side of the tape. Undecided or middle-of-the-roaders are allowed to straddle the line of tape.

Jigsaw Search

Students especially enjoy the search aspect of this activity.

The teacher prepares jigsaw puzzle shapes. The shape may be symbolic of a topic or in different colors. These are cut as a jigsaw 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 classroom for peers who have puzzle pieces that fit theirs and then team up with those students to perform a task. Some tasks might be to introduce a partner, to make a poster defining a concept, or to decorate the puzzle pieces and make a mobile.

The teacher may have students print their names on both sides of their puzzle piece in order to facilitate name learning during the search activity. The names could be erased or crossed out so the puzzle pieces can be reused. Later, the puzzle pieces can be used to as a way to review subject content, for example, by joining an author and his novel, or an element and its properties.

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. Leftover puzzle pieces can be placed on a table for students to check to see if their group will be short members.