Middle and High School Ice Breakers Ideas
The first day of school – it will be here before we know it! The excitement, nervousness, anxiousness, curiosity, enthusiasm……and I can only image how the students will be feeling! Each year I felt like it was a chance to start over new; to improve upon what I did the previous year or how I did it. I always started every class with an ice breaker of some kind. I think ice breakers make such an impact on how a class dynamic starts off the year. It helps students connect ( I was always amazed that some of my students didn’t know each other even though they’ve been in school together for several years in a very small district), makes them feel more comfortable in your classroom, lets them get to know your personality instead of just You, The Teacher, if you have a new student starting in the school, it can help them fit in and get to know their new classmates, and it can help students who have gone to school together for years identify connections they didn’t know existed. If you do a lot of group work in your classroom, ice breakers and team building exercises can help with working in pairs/groups later on, it can lead to better class discussions as the students get more comfortable with each other quickly, and it can give you an opportunity to talk about classroom expectations and what an activity should look like in your room.
There are A TON of options when it comes to ice breakers and team building exercises. You could do a search and find lots to choose from. Here are a couple of “get to know you” and “ice breaker” ideas:
1) Get To Know Me Worksheet: This is a worksheet that students fill out about themselves and/or their summer vacation experiences. HERE is a free “Get to know you” worksheet that I created. This is mostly appropriate for late elementary and middle school students, but my 9th graders always enjoyed things like this, too. This worksheet combines a little bit of info about the student as well as asking them some questions about their summer vacation. For the “info” questions, students write an expression that simplifies to the number that represents the answer about them. For example, (18+8)/2 would simplify to 13 for the “I am ___ years old” box. You could post these on a bulletin board and let students read about and get to know their classmates or you could read them aloud or have students trade and share.
2) Crossword Names: Students write their name in the middle of a piece of paper. They then move around the room having others add their own names in a crossword type fashion to the name(s) already on the paper using at least one shared letter. The student who can get the most names to fit is the winner. You could do a number of variations of this game as well: favorite book, favorite video game, pet names, etc.
3) Self “Portrait”: Each student has 5 minutes to draw a picture that illustrates who they are (doesn’t necessarily have to be a picture of them). Then the teacher collects the pictures and holds them up one at a time. Students try to guess which student drew which picture.
4) Tower Building: Have a contest to see which group can build the highest tower out of newspaper, scrap printer paper, or something else you can get for free (paper clips, etc.).
5) Two Truths and a Lie: This is a personal favorite of mine. Each student puts their name at the top of a piece of paper and writes 3 statements about themselves, two that are true and one that isn’t true. The teacher then collects the papers and reads them one at a time. Students try to guess which statement is the lie for each student. One tip: make sure you tell the students to mix it up when they are writing their items. If everyone writes the lie first, then it is too easy to guess!
6) Human Knot: If you have a large class you may want to split into two groups for this one. Students stand in a group and randomly hold hands with other people in the group. Then, once
everyone is holding hands, they try to “untangle” themselves and form a circle. Sometimes students are reluctant to hold hands at first, but this is a really good one for getting communication going and quickly getting students comfortable with each other!
7) Back to School BINGO
This activity is a great way to get students interacting on that first day when they can be sort of clammed up. It’s like BINGO in that students are trying to fill in their card vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, but they must find classmates that meet the requirement for the squares. For example,
students must find a classmate who flew on a plane over the summer, has a new pair of shoes on, shares a hobby with them, etc. It’s a great way to break up the “here are the rules and outline” routine of that first day and get students interacting with each other (and you!).
One year, for some reason, I chose NOT to do an ice breaker with my classes and I really noticed a much lower connection, both between me and the students and between the students themselves. Ice breakers can take the first few days or the first few minutes, but whatever you choose to do, they will increase the connection in your classroom and be well worth your time! If you have other ice breakers you’ve used and really like, please leave suggestions below in the comment section!