First Week of School: Fun Icebreakers for Kids and Teens
We all know the first week or two of class is devoted to establishing a class culture, setting up procedures, and helping everyone get to know each other. For that last task, plenty of activities have been devised—some better than others. Here are some genuinely fun icebreakers for kids and teens in a classroom setting.
Venn Diagram Interview
Have students pair up arbitrarily—for example, by birthdays or alphabetically. Every pair draws a Venn diagram and tells one another about themselves.
Have them interview each other for about 15 minutes. Encourage students to talk about their likes, dislikes, favorite activities, families, and other basic get-to-know-you topics. Then, have each pair list those facts in the appropriate places on the diagram. At the end of the time, each student introduces their partner to the rest of the class.
Note: if you have an odd number of students, one student gets to partner with you based on the same arbitrary grouping.
If you don’t feel like organizing the students by birthday yourself, have them do it!
Simply tell them to line up in birthday order. They’ll obviously have to talk to each other to figure it out. Beware; it will be very noisy and active.
Once they are all lined up correctly, have them sort themselves out by other categories like height or the first letter of their name. At the end of each category, have a little chat about what has been revealed, and then move on to the next qualifier.
This is one of our favorite fun icebreakers because it helps students break the ice without even realizing that they’re doing so. With some brainstorming beforehand, this activity can easily last a full class period.
You might be familiar with parking lots – they’re large pieces of posted paper that students add to throughout the class as a formative assessment strategy. It also works for sharing getting-to-know-you information.
Simply make the question something interesting but non-personal, then post it up on the wall and ask students to stick their answers to it with Post-It notes. They will look forward to adding their two cents and checking out everyone else’s.
This activity gets used in a variety of settings, including classrooms and conferences. Pick an inoffensive (and superficial) topic—like dogs vs. cats, fall vs. spring, Gryffindor vs. Slytherin, or Batman vs. Superman—then have students move to the side of the room that corresponds with their viewpoint.
This helps students find out that they aren’t alone in their beliefs, no matter how trivial they may be. Then, really break the ice by asking several students from each side to give a short statement on their reasons for picking that side—just make sure to avoid letting anyone get too carried away!
It’s also important for the students to get to know you during the first days. Announce that you’re giving a pop quiz. They will absolutely freak out since you haven’t covered any actual material yet. Then, reveal the quiz, which is made up of questions all about you.
They’ll obviously have to guess. Then everyone shares their guesses, which tends to be very funny for all involved. Then, of course, share the right answers to the quiz. When considering fun icebreakers for teens, this might be at the top of your list because it can help them to feel safe first in knowing you before they start getting to know one another.
In a similar vein, print out some personal pictures of yourself and your family (not that personal).
Cut them up into random pieces and leave them in an envelope on each small group’s table, then have them assemble the pieces as a team. When everyone finishes, give the backstory to each picture. This is one of the fun icebreakers you can do to help students get to know you better as a teacher.
A lot of teachers use this game. You stand at the door with a roll of toilet paper, welcoming students into class.
Ask each student to take as much paper as they want without explaining what it’s for. When everyone is seated, the students write one interesting fact about themselves on each square of paper.
Noteworthy fact: outgoing students will often take a lot of TP, while shy students may only take a few squares, so no one should feel too out of place.
Fun Icebreakers for Kids and Teens: Conclusion
Even though these sorts of icebreaker activities get a bad rap sometimes, they really are important to building community and a philosophy of teamwork in your classroom.
Looking for more strategies to build a positive classroom learning environment? Check out this blog for 5 Tips to Develop a Growth Mindset in Your Classroom, and don't forget to take a look at all our favorite (and free) classroom printables.