Icebreaker games at the start of the school year are a time-honoured tradition. In fact, icebreakers are so much a tradition that the meme world has taken it by storm, and teachers intentionally show up at least 5 minutes late on Pro-D days to conveniently miss the "Go around the circle and introduce yourself!" part of the day.
I totally get it! Students typically groan at the thought of ice breakers too... But I'm a BIG fan! Here's why:
Ice Breakers set a tone of "play" early on, and establish you as a person willing to have fun WITH students!
Ice breakers are a great way for students to get to know each other!
You can conveniently mix up cliques or groups using games (so students don't even know it's happening!)
However, with that said, ice breakers can be scary for students. The "go around a circle and introduce yourself" for some students in the scariest part of the week!
So before you begin, establish an "out" system for every student, so when they do participate, it's of their own free will and they can truly buy in and reap the benefits! For example, I allow students to say "pass" for anything "go around the circle," or for some games, I allow students to watch from the sidelines before jumping in, or volunteering to lead, rather than forcing them to.
So, without further adieu!
TOP 10 FAVOURITE ICE BREAKERS
for the first week of school!
1. Two Truths and a Lie:
One person goes first and they tell two facts about themselves and one lie. The objective is to make it unobvious which point is the lie. The group then must guess the lie.
Split the group into partners. Talk until you find something in common. This should be something specific, like having the same favourite song, not just “we both like music.” Once the partners have found something in common, join with another group of 2 to make a group of 4 and repeat. Repeat, joining groups together until the full size of the group is sitting together and trying to identify something specific in common.
3. How do you like your neighbour?
Create a circle of chairs with one fewer than the number of people playing. Everyone sits in a circle except for the one person without a chair. This person will stand in the middle of the circle. They then say “I like my neighbour who…” and they complete the sentence using an action, clothing colour, favourite item, etc… Ex. “I like my neighbour who has been scuba diving.” Everyone who has been scuba diving then jumps up and switches chairs. They cannot take a chair from directly next to them. The person in the middle must then try to steal an empty chair. Whoever is left in the circle repeats the saying with a new statement.
Everyone stands in a circle with one person in the middle. The object of this game is to keep the person in the center for as long as possible.
The person in the center must then move toward a person in the circle slowly, with their best zombie walk!
The person who the zombie has chosen must then try to get “saved!” They need to make eye contact with someone else in the circle, who will be their saviour!
Once they’ve made eye contact, the saviour must then say the name of someone else in the circle before the zombie gets to the original person. Once the saviour has said a name, the zombie changes directions and moves toward the new person whose name was said.
If the zombie reaches someone before a saviour has said another name, the person tagged is in the new zombie.
Repeat for as many rounds as you wish!
Stand in a circle with one person in the middle. The person in the middle must point to someone in the circle and say their name. The person whose name was said must duck quickly. The two people on either side of the person in the middle must turn toward each other and either yell ZAP or yell the other person’s name (depending on if you’re still practicing names). Whoever said Zap first wins and the other person is out of the game. If the person whose name was initially said doesn’t duck quickly enough, they are out.
The game repeats until only two players are left. These two players then stand back to back and walk out while the person from the middle says random numbers. Once they say “7” two people still playing must jump around and yell ZAP. Whoever says it first, wins the game.
6. Pass it on!
Have students come up with a simple, memorable, but unique fact about themselves (I always use “my dog has three toes”). They will then walk through and come to one other person and share their fact. They will then wait for the other person to share their fact. Once they’ve both heard each other’s facts, they now absorb the new fact instead of telling their own. They then approach another person and share their new fact as though it was theirs.
With every exchange of facts, they are to remember the new one and let go of the old.
At the end, let everyone share their original facts and see how many actually survived!
7. Never have I ever…
Provide a series of statements starting with “never have I ever.” Students can then raise their hands if they HAVE done the statement.
Ex. Never have I ever ridden a horse, jumped on a trampoline, eaten raw fish, swam in the ocean, skipped class, ran 5km, been outside the country, owned a pet, fought with a sibling, watched *insert newest popular film here*, painted a picture they are proud of, failed a test, etc.
8. Spectrum of difference
Provide a series of statements that students can answer on a scale. Mark one side of the room as strongly agree, and the other side as strongly disagree. Students can then place themselves anywhere along the line in terms of how much they agree or disagree with the statement.
This can also be done with fingers from a desk. 5 fingers up is strongly agree, 1 finger up is strongly disagree.
Students should have to wear school uniforms.
The legal driving age should be younger.
School shouldn’t be mandatory past middle school.
9. Name Wave
Students stand in a circle (though they can also stand by their desks). They then must come up with an action that they can pair with their name. The first student to go says their name and completes the action at the same time. The rest of the class then repeats their name and action right after them!
If this is done in a circle, it can be done like a wave. Meaning that the person to the left will go, then it will trickle down the line until it makes it back to the person whose name was said.
The action can be big or small, but it should take into account the space in your room and the abilities of the other students.
Students start in a circle, though this can be done at desks as well. Everyone puts one hand at 90 degrees with their hand up and their elbow resting on their other hand. The first person to go says their name, and then points to someone with their hand and says the other person’s name. They then keep their handed pointed at the person they chose until everyone in the room is now pointing at someone. The game continues with each person repeating their own name and point to a new person who has not been chosen by saying their name too.
Once everyone has gone, repeat the game and try to have everyone remember the first person they pointed to. Everyone can drop their hands and just say the name of the person they chose in the first round until it makes it back to the first person again.
You can repeat this as many times as you’d like, trying to increase speed each time. You may need to stop and start again a few times until people get the hang of it.
You can play this game with other things too - for instance, instead of names, ask students their favourite TV show, and have them say their favourite show the first time, and the show of the person they pointed to the second round.
Story telling - fact or fiction!
Put a list of words on the board - between 3-7 words. These can be any words, but they should nouns that students will easily understand.
In partners, students then must try to tell their partner a story about their life that relates to the words. They can jump back and forth, each telling a story about the first word, then second, and so on. Once they’ve gotten through all their stories, they can try to determine if any of the stories were made up!! Students have full autonomy to create a fictional story, but they should try to tell it convincingly!
This activity is great for students to get to know each other, but also takes pressure off students who may feel they have no “fun” or “interesting” stories to share.
It also makes for a great preface to a short-fiction unit!