Thursday, August 23, 2012

Icebreakers and First Day Activities

Every year before the first day of school, I scour the internet for some kind (any kind) of creative "icebreaker" to do with my classes.  There are A LOT of ideas out there I assure you; but, most of them are just plain corny and overused - especially for the high school classroom. (Either that, or just WAY out of my league, like some of the Pinterest photos I've included in this post.)

That said,  I still think doing some kind-of "getting to know you" activity IS important no matter how old the students are... We are going to be spending a lot of time together, and I'm going to ask a lot of these young people - to work hard for me, do what I ask, participate in class discussions, and consider some controversial topics in literature and life - the least I can do is take ONE stinking class period to get to know them.  (Sorry if you are one of those "jump right in" teachers... It's just not my style.)
To be honest with you, I have yet to find something that I LOVE for the first day of school.  This year, as well as several years prior to this, I started off with your classic "two truths and a lie" game.  In case you are unfamiliar, basically, I just ask that every student write down three statements about himself/herself.  Two of the statements should be TRUE, and one should be FALSE. Then, they take turns reading their statements to the class, and we try to guess which one is the lie.  It is simple.  It doesn't take much upfront planning on my part. I learn a good bit about the kids - both from their facts and the "approach" they take with the activity (serious/funny/sarcastic/etc.) Plus, my students usually enjoy it.  (I also like to tell the class that this helps me figure out who the good liars are in the class so I can "keep my eye on them" later. Ha!)  Because I'm not opposed to a little bribery once in a while, I usually offer some kind-of candy "prize" for anyone that stumps me/the class.

This year, I went a little further with this concept and gave a QUIZ at the very start of class.  I enjoy a little humor at their expense, so I got a kick out of telling them to get out a blank sheet of paper and number it 1 - 25 as soon as they walked in the room.  (Some students started panicking immediately about the summer reading they didn't do!)  Anyway, the quiz was really just a little "Quiz on the Teacher" with True/False statements like  "Mrs. Chapman was once a competitive gymnast" (True) and "Mrs. Chapman has read all of the Harry Potter books" (False - I haven't read a single one!!).  In the end, I gave a prize (something "valuable" like movie theater boxed candy in my case) to the student with the most correct answers. I even had two or three "lightening round" bonus questions to break a tie.  The game was a lot of fun and allowed me to really introduce myself - more than just the surface level "I went to Clemson, I like to write, and here's your syllabus" - and it was especially appropriate since I am new to the school.  Then, I told them it was their turn and introduced 2 truths and a lie game.

So... that's what we did on Day 1 (which is really two days now because of block scheduling - totally new to me!).  What about you? What ideas do you have for the first day of school?  I'd love to hear some new ones and add to my tiny repertoire.

And, on a slightly different note, I ran across this "Prayer for the First Day of School" when I was searching back to school stuff on Pinterest.  Seriously, it brought tears to my eyes... This is EXACTLY my heart for the kids that enter my classroom this year... I need to be praying this every single day.
Apparently, no one really knows who actually wrote this - if you do, please tell me!
BUT, this website designed this and another cute printable of it!


  1. Haha sneaky teacher! This is a great idea for the first day! As a student I always hated icebreaker games, glad to see a teacher branch out from that :)

  2. We started school last week and I began class with a "pop quiz" too! However, I only had 10 statements about my self. Some of which were true, some of which were false. Once everyone completed the quiz, we went through each statement and I had students raise their hand if they thought it was true. They enjoyed this a lot and they really enjoy getting to know their teacher! I'll have to add the two truths and a lie to mine next semester! Thanks for the ideas! And I loved that prayer! May have to frame it and put it on my desk!

  3. I love both of these ideas. I teach high school as well and really struggle to find something that is not corny for the first day/get to know you.

  4. The quiz idea is a good one! I usually do a get to know you BINGO with my 8th graders, because it gets them up and moving, then we go over the questions so I can get to know them a bit.

  5. I think the two truths and a lie is a good thing. You can be really harsh on them the first day of school and at the end of the day tell them, that they should not expect you to act like this the rest of the school year. That just might be my cruel sense of humor though. The quiz is a good idea too, because you always have the students from last year saying, "He/She is so mean. You better hope you do not get her next year." Good luck!

  6. What a great way to start! I remember having an English teacher in high school that did ice-breakers everyday for like 2 weeks! Sounds like you are gonna have an awesome year!

  7. I also do Two Truths and a Lie. We always end up having a good time with it! One thing that I started doing last year was to write a letter about myself. I wrote about how long I have been teaching, where I grew up and went to school, what I like to do in the free time I don't have (haha), and then I end the letter with a paragraph about my expectations of my students and of myself as a teacher. I give a copy to everyone and then they write a letter back to me. My honors kids do it for homework, but I had my lower level students do it in class, and they did a great job with it. I love getting to read them. It also is a great way to get a writing sample right away!

  8. I hate "ice breakers" and finding first-day activities for secondary students is always difficult. Plus, by the time they get to high school they've done every ice breaker in the book. But this is a great idea! It's unique and fun and doesn't treat them like first graders :) Plus, I love that prayer. I might have to put that next to my desk. Thanks!


  9. I LOVE these ice-breaker/first day activities!! I am one of those new teachers without a teaching job right out of college, so all of these ideas are so fresh to me!! I am DEFINITELY going to use this when I get my own classroom!!! :-)

    P.S. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in your classroom...I'm sure you are the perfect combination of witty, yet serious! I know your students will love you!

  10. I hate the first day ice breakers too!! but I love that quiz idea on the teacher...takes pressure off the kids and I'm sure they loved it! I think I will try it. I get my kids this coming Wednesday.

    I also do the interview...have 4 kids sit together and have go around interviewing each other and then they introduce the person they interviewed to the class (set of 5-6 questions..)

    Another thing I do is things in common ...have them in the same group of four come up with things they like and dislike in common - activities, movies, actors, foods, etc. It sounds a bit corny but they like it and lots of laughter which is good for the first day or so.

  11. Aw! I love the true/false game with the questions about you! And the two truths and a lie! I bet they LOVE you!

  12. The get to know you game sounds wonderful. I love the prayer.

    I would love for you to link this post up to my Back to School Traditions link up!

  13. Hey Elizabeth! I hope your first week of "new" classes have gone well! I seem to fall in the trap of doing the same ole ice breaker every year...we switch reading classes every nine weeks, so I try to do a new ice breaker each nine weeks. I found this site that had some neat 21st century ideas. I thought you might especially like the pinterest idea. See you soon! Karen W.


Your comments are what makes this thing fun! I LOVE to hear from you and do my best to respond to everyone! THANK YOU!

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