Tips and icebreakers to start the new year
Being the fabulous teacher that you are, no doubt you want to get to know your students in order to prepare for the school year ahead, and you want the students to get to know you and their peers so they feel comfortable in their learning environment. But being the first day back at school, students are likely to feel a little unsure in a new classroom with a new teacher and possibly new classmates.
There is no better way to ease the tension and learn about one another than with some icebreaker activities. This will allow the students to open up and relax, and interact more willingly. They also provide a unique opportunity to gain insight into how students react to various situations and topics, and where their talents and interests may lay. This will allow students to form bonds and discover things they have in common with others. It also provides a great opportunity to get students to flex their creative and critical thinking skills, and provide much needed practice in collaboration and teamwork.
Here are some creative ways to break the ice, without traumatising shy students, or boring others to tears:
- Print out a set of brain puzzlers such as <http://tinyurl.com/jk6qj94>, <http://tinyurl.com/h7pbfuu> and<http://tinyurl.com/zdjhlkr>. Place students in small groups to work together to nut these out. You’ll soon see who the vocal students are, who the quiet achievers are and who feels they are unable to contribute.
- Instruct students to line themselves up in order of their birthday, but the trick is they are not allowed to talk. They’ll quickly need to work out alternative ways to communicate!
- Ask students a question and ask them to move to one corner of the room or different corner of the room depending on their answer. Students then need to offer reasons why they moved to this spot. This will get them moving and talking at the same time. Questions to get you started include: Do you like to be indoors or outdoors? Do you prefer pizza or hamburgers? Do you prefer summer or winter? Should all students have to play sport? Would you like a world run by robots? Would you travel to Mars? Which is worse: being hot or being cold?
- Seat small groups around a large piece of paper. Each student within the group has a different coloured marker which they use to create a character; e.g. an alien, a monster, mysterious creature or robot. The group has to do this without any discussion or verbal communication. Give the groups a starting and finishing signal. Only after the finishing signal can the group talk about and name their character. Each group can present a report on its character to the class.
- Students, in groups of five, imagine they are stranded on a deserted island. They are allowed five items to help them survive but the items must come from their personal belongings they have brought with them to school. This could include anything in their backpacks, pencil cases, desks or pockets. Each person must contribute one thing. The groups then present to the class the five things they chose and why they felt the items were important for their survival.
- In small groups students discuss their likes and dislikes and then write down the things they have in common on small rectangles of card or index cards. Students write one thing per card and each group will have 20 cards to write on. Once completed their task is to then form a tower from the cards that is at least 20-cm high. Prizes can be given for the highest tower, most creative tower or strongest tower.
- In pairs (or larger groups for younger children), students attempt to rescue Fred the gummy worm, without touching him, his boat (an upside down plastic cup), or his gummy life preserver (placed under the cup) with their hands. A detailed brief can be found here <http://mastrianascience.wikispaces.com/file/view/Save+Fred%5B1%5D.pdf>
There you have it—ice broken, minds stretched, strengths noted and new friends made. Happy start to the new school year!