Icebreaker activities are a great way to get kids talking about themselves and connecting with their classmates. The Free Spirit Advisory Board is here to share their tried-and-true activities to break the ice and help kids feel excited for the new school year.
“Working with preschoolers—they are very visual and like to touch things. In the past I’ve had children bring in family pictures to spark conversation or make posters about themselves.”
—Jeni, director of Kendal Early Learning Center
“I give each of my students some Play-Doh. They have to make something that reflects their personality or interests. It’s always amazing to see what they come up with!”
—Nancy, rock-star teacher
“The start of a new school year can be both exciting and anxiety-provoking for students. As an elementary school social worker, I use a couple different icebreakers for my groups and classes. ‘Good News and Bad News’ gives students a chance to tell a bit about themselves. After I model it, each student shares one good thing and one not-so-good thing that happened to him or her. It could be about the summer or the first day of school or almost anything. This provides an opportunity for children to get to know more about one another, as well as practice listening and taking turns. Those who cannot think of any ‘news’ can pass. I come back to those students after other students have shared, and usually [by then] they have something they want to tell the class about, too.
“Another activity I like to use to help students relax and get to know each other is the ‘What’s Different?’ game. Students take turns, either individually or in pairs, going in front of the class. After having the class inspect their appearance, they go where other students cannot see them and change something about the way they look. They might take out a hair clip, pull down a sock, remove some jewelry, or push up their sleeves. When they return, the rest of the class has to guess what the students have changed: What’s different? Once the class has guessed successfully, another student or pair of students takes a turn. Students have a lot of fun with this game and can get quite creative!”
—Kathy, school social worker
“I like to play with a therapy ball and have clients stand in a circle, toss the ball around the room, and answer the questions that their left thumbs land on when they catch the ball. Another game [is to] have clients complete a check-in and identify three positives and one thing they would like to work on over the next week or month. This reinforces motivation for clients.”
“1. Beach Ball Icebreaker: I write age-appropriate questions all over a beach ball. Toss the ball around the room and allow students to share about themselves while having fun. Add in some action items (i.e., shake your booty, share your best robot moves, etc.). Kids love the excitement!
“2. Question Jenga: Write questions on Jenga blocks, and as students pull a block, they answer the question. Upgrade this activity by creating yard Jenga (bigger blocks) and do the activity outside.”
—Ashley, school-based interventionist
“I like to learn all of my students’ names quickly, and I want them to know the names of their peers also. So, sitting or standing in a circle, the first student states his or her name, including an adjective that starts with the same letter as his or her first name. For example, ‘Bold Beverly.’ The next student introduces himself or herself in the same manner, but repeating the first student’s name and then stating the adjective and his or her own name. We continue around the circle. Of course, it becomes challenging as more students introduce themselves, but the repetition helps us all remember one another’s names.
“Another fun activity is to have the students line up (or make a circle) in order by birthdays. The student whose birthday is the earliest in January will be first, followed by the other birthdays in the room. The students have an opportunity to talk, but they are engaged in the same topic: birthdays.”
—Beverly, director of advanced studies
“We have a freshman orientation called Mustang Roundup because we’re the Mustangs, of course, and the students are always super nervous. After we have a large-group meeting in the auditorium to welcome them, we break them into smaller groups and take them to classrooms around the campus. We have older students act as mentors/leaders who run the groups. They play fun games with the kids to help break the ice. One game they did last year was everyone stood in a circle and threw a ball to someone across from them. Students, as they caught the ball, had to say their name and something they were looking forward to about high school.”
—Wanda, high school guidance counselor
“I usually give students an index card and have them write their first name on it and decorate it with pictures of things they like or are interested in. The students take turns presenting these to the class, and then we tape the cards to their desks. I have a colleague who keeps a tub of different kinds of hats (police officer, chef, football helmet, beret, etc.). She has all the students choose a hat and then sit in a circle with their hats on. The students have to say their names and explain why they picked their hats.”
—Andrew, resource room teacher
For more icebreaker activities, check out Icebreakers In a Jar®: Quirky questions to practice social skills.
The Free Spirit Advisory Board of Educators is a group of professionals who provide feedback that helps make Free Spirit books be even more beneficial for kids, teens, and the adults who care about them. Interested in becoming a member? Recruitment is ongoing! For more information about the benefits and responsibilities of membership, download our Free Spirit Advisory Board flyer and our Free Spirit Advisory Board application.
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