On the first day back to school, energized students will enter the doors with their new bookbag, lunch box, school supplies, and a renewed excitement for learning. Many students are also nervous as the meet a new teacher, new classmates, or even start at a new school. One way to make the transition easier is by starting off the first day is with an ice breaker activity. This initial need for connections is especially important for special needs students. This allows the student to begin a trusting bond with the teacher and is a starting activity to feel acceptance and fitting in with classmates. This is especially important for special education students, whether taught in the general education classroom or in pull out models.
Ice breakers can range from games, worksheets, getting to know you activities, or what you did this summer sharing. There are many different ways to start the process of getting to know your students and for them to get to know each other. I have found some great online resources that have a variety of activities for different grade levels and abilities.
A to Z Teacher Stuff: Teacher Tips with Ice Breaker Activities
The site A to Z Teacher Stuff has annotated list of ice breakers and getting acquainted activities. Teachers have added their activities which include an explanation, and a description of the activity and the appropriate grade levels. Ideas include puzzles, crosswords, collages, and poetry. Some of the suggestions included activities that can be setup ahead of time when parents and students come in for a “before school” open house. These include having students bring in pictures of their family or activities from the summer, or filling a small brown paper back with a few items that represent who they are. Many of the suggestions on this site are easily adaptable with students who may have learning or mobility impairments.
KinderArt Ice Breakers
KinderArt has a list of 29 different ice breakers for elementary level students. They range from very simple activities like having students draw a picture of their family, to very intricate like planning a classroom scavenger hunt. There are also many active ice breakers including tossing bean bags to learn names, parachute games (various ideas on the site – great for PE teachers), and matching and order games (same shoe size, same color shirt, same color eyes). A few of the activities on this site are specific for special needs students including the bean bag toss activity where students are arranged in a circle and toss the bean bag to different students and share facts about themselves.
Some Ice Breakers I have done in the past:
- Toilet Paper Game: Students are asked to take as many or as few pieces of toilet paper and pass it to the next student. At this point, no other explanation given. After the last student has taken their pieces of toilet paper, you explain to the students that they need to come up with one fact about themselves based on each of piece of toilet paper they took. The students laugh and enjoy this activity as some students will choose many sheets and others may only one. If you teach multiple classes, many students will hear about it before the end of the day – so it doesn’t work as well.
- Fact Web: Arrange the students in a circle. Holding the ball of yarn in your hand explain the activity that the students will share one fun fact about themselves and then they hold on to the end of the string and throw it to anyone in the circle. The next student says a fact, holds on to their end of the string, and throws to another student. When all students have had a turn they will have created a web. Be sure to remind the students throughout the activity to hold on to their end of the yarn. This web can then be displayed on a classroom wall or board (move it very carefully) to discuss different topics like working together, and building relationships.
- Collages: As an assignment for the first day of school, my students are to go home and make a collage including pictures of their family, friends, favorite activities, foods, TV shows, musicians, or any other appropriate pictures that help to show who they are. The next day they come back and share them with the class. This can be done digitally or with scissors, glue and construction paper. I’ve also done this activity in school using magazines instead of online or personal photos.
- Clock Buddies: Students will receive a clock with blank lines next to every hour. They have to go around the room and find one other student to pair with at each hour. Bring the class back together and then tell them that you will give them 12 different questions to ask their different buddies on the clock. You can create questions that would help the students get acquainted. Students will need a signal for when to move on to the next hour and buddy. This is also an activity used to help pair students for future activities (ie. This worksheet will be done with your 2pm Buddy).
- Pair & Share Introduction: This is a very simple and straight forward ice breaker. The students are placed in pairs and then given a set of questions they need to learn about the other person. You then come back as a group and the pairs will introduce each other to the rest of the class.
Feel free to comment your best or most memorable ice breakers or links to great ice breaker idea sites!
-Article By: Laura Ketcham