Ice Breakers for the First Day of Elementary School

Wondering How to Handle the First Few Minutes With Your New Students?

ice breakers
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The first few minutes of a new school year can be awkward and nerve-wracking for both you and your new students. Looking around the room you wonder, "Who exactly are these people?"

These are some of my favorite Ice Breaker activities that I enjoy using with my new elementary school students each August. The activities are fun and easy. Best of all, they elevate the mood and help thaw out the first day of school jitters.

1. Human Scavenger Hunt

To prepare, pick about 30-40 interesting characteristics and experiences and list them on a worksheet with a little-underlined space next to each item. Next, have the students roam around the classroom asking each other to sign on the lines that relate to them.

For example, some of your lines might be, "Went out of the country this summer" or "Has braces" or "Likes pickles." So, if a student went to Turkey this summer, they can sign that line on other people's worksheets. I say that it's OK for each student to sign two of any other person's blank spaces.

The goal is to fill up your worksheet with signatures for each and every category. This may look like organized chaos, but I guarantee you the students will stay on task and have fun with this one. I participate, too, which gives them a real kick! Alternatively, this activity can be put into the format of a Bingo board, rather than a list.

2. Two Truths and a Lie

At their desks, ask your students to write down three sentences about their lives (or their summer vacations). Two of the sentences should be true and one should be a fib.

For example, your statements could be:

This summer I went to Alaska

I have 5 little brothers.

My favorite food is Brussels sprouts.

Next, have your class sit in a circle. Each person (including you, teacher!) gets a chance to share their three sentences. Then the rest of the class takes turns guessing which one is the lie. Obviously, the more realistic your lie (or mundane your truths), the harder time people will have figuring out the truth.

3. Same and Different

Organize your class into small groups of approximately 4 or 5. Give each group two pieces of paper and a pencil. On the first sheet of paper, the students write "Same" or "Shared" at the top and then proceed to find qualities that are shared by the group as a whole.

Make sure to point out that these should not be silly or trite qualities, such as "We all have toes."

On the second paper, label it "Different" or "Unique" and give the students time to determine some aspects that are unique to only one member of their group. Then, set aside time for each group to share and present their findings.

Not only is this a great activity for getting to know each other, it also emphasizes how the class has shared commonalities as well as unique differences that make up an interesting and completely human whole.

4. Trivia Card Shuffle

First, come up with a predetermined set of questions about your students.

Write them on the board for all to see. These questions can be about anything, ranging from "What is your favorite food?" to "What did you do this summer?"

Give each student an index card numbered 1-5 (or however many questions you are asking) and have them write their answers to the questions on it, in order. You should also fill out a card about yourself. After a few minutes, collect the cards and redistribute them to the students, making sure no one gets their own card.

From here, there are two ways that you can finish out this Ice Breaker. The first option is to have the students get up and mingle as they chat and try to figure out who wrote the cards they are holding. The second method is to begin the sharing process by modeling for the students how to use the card to introduce a classmate.

5. Sentence Circles

Split your students into groups of 5. Give each group a piece of sentence strip paper and a pencil. On your signal, the first person in the group writes one word on the strip and then passes it to the left.

The second person then writes the second word of the burgeoning sentence. The writing continues in this pattern around the circle - with no talking!

When the sentences are complete, the students share their creations with the class. Do this a few times and have them notice how their collective sentences improve each time around.

Edited By: Janelle Cox