6 “Get to Know You” Activities & Icebreakers In the Classroom

getting to know your students

The beginning of a new school year is always an exciting yet anxious time, and getting your students started on a positive note is important. Your first impression should be of high energy and excitement about being together, and you want to reinforce your enthusiasm about how and what your new students will be learning throughout the year. In addition to encouraging them to start the school year positively, you also need to gather some information about them to get to know them and to best meet their needs. To differentiate, you have to get to know your students, and you can get to know them by finding out about their interests, likes, and dislikes and determining their readiness levels in different academic areas.

The following “get to know you” activities and icebreakers can help you get to know your students and help your students get to know each other. As students participate, remember to make notes as you go:

  1. Autobiography Bags – On the first day of school, share a small brown lunch bag filled with items that best ‘describe’ them. Remove each item and tell the students a short story about that item. The bag might include baby pictures, pictures of pets, an object from a collection or hobby, a favorite snack food, etc. Then, students are given brown bags to take home. Students create their autobiography bags for homework with items that tell about themselves. Students may share their bags throughout the first week of school in the community circle. You may choose to guide some of the examples of items that students should include in their bags. EX: Something that represents your favorite pet, sport, etc.
  2. Take As Much As You Want! During the first group activity, have a roll of toilet paper on hand! Be prepared for comments. Explain to the students that they will need this for the next class task. Pass the roll of toilet paper around and have students take 5-8 sheets OR invite each student to take as much as they want. (One teacher invited the students to “take as much as you need to complete the job.” The teacher hasn’t told them what the job is yet!) Give students a chance to get the chuckles out of their system over the amount of paper they took, and then explain how the game works. For every piece of toilet paper the students ripped off, they share with the class one thing about themselves. Some students begin to rethink the number of sheets that they took, but with a little bit of encouragement they will find things to share. On the last piece of paper, students have to share what their favorite thing about the subject. This activity is a great way to find out about students’ personalities, families, likes, and dislikes – in a highly engaging way!
  3. “My Important Numbers.” Students create a “My Important Numbers” sheet. The “My Important Numbers” information might include birthday, address numbers, phone number, sports number, bus number, favorite number, number of pets, number of people in the family, etc. When the class gathers together to share their numbers, students see what numbers they have in common with their classmates and everyone learns a little bit about one another. This will come in handy when you begin pairing students for assignments.
  4. Putting the Pieces Together – Give each student a blank puzzle piece. Have students draw something that represents an area of interest for them a favorite sport, type of music, OR one talent that they bring to class. Collect the pieces and redistribute. Have students find the owner of the puzzle piece. Students will introduce the puzzle owner and post the piece in a designated area of the classroom. As students finish each introduction, they add the puzzle piece to the previous pieces. At the end of the activity, when all of the pieces have been assembled, have a discussion about the puzzle.
  5. Three Truths and a Fib – Give each student an index card and have them write three true things about themselves and one fib. Other students try to guess which one is the fib. This can be done as a movement exercise where everyone speaks to a few people or as a whole group exercise. The whole group option allows you to gather information about the students in the class. The nice thing is that it gives students a chance to share some unusual things.
  6. Snowball Fight – Have students write three things about themselves on a blank piece of paper. Student should not put their names on the paper. Have students crush their sheet of paper into a ball. Explain the rules of the snowball fight. This is very important! Rule 1 – Students cannot begin until you say “go”. Rule 2 – Everyone must stop when you say “stop.” Rule 3 – Students should not throw “snowballs” at anybody’s face. Let students snowball fight for 15 seconds. Each student should find one “snowball” and open it up. Students should read the information and find the student to whom it belongs. Have students introduce each other to the class and share the information.

Don Marlett

Don has been an educator for 20+ years. Before joining Learning-Focused, he taught High School and Middle School Science and was a school administrator. Don has participated in school evaluations focused on implementing High-Yield Strategies. In addition, he partnered with various state DOEs to support leaders and presented at numerous conferences hosted by multiple leadership organizations in Florida, NC, Ohio, WV, TN, and KY. Don leads product development, provides leadership training and coaching, and coaches educators in the implementation of High-Yield strategies.

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