What are you favorite activities to do with your class on the first day of school? Do you feel it is important to do ice breakers? How much time do you spend on ice breakers the first week? Do you ever do ice breaker type activities throughout the school year?
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There are already a number of terrific "First Day" icebreakers here already, but since you've inquired about ones throughout the year, I will give you an idea that is designed for a literature survey course.
Almost every literature anthology of the twentieth century includes Langston Hughes's poem, "Theme for English B." We all study the poem first, of course, and talk about its structure: how the speaker physically arrives at his university, then his pleasures and dreams, and finally how the speaker interacts, reflects, and communicates with the professor.
THEN I ask them to write their own "Themes." I wrote one personally for them, as I never ask my students to do anything I would not do myself. (As I have been doing this for some time, I also read poems submitted in previous courses. They really seem to like hearing those as well. It makes them feel less intimidated and able to accomplish the writing.)
Sometime I use class time, other times I assign it as homework. The next class, they get with their writing groups and share their work. This is best done mid-year or close to year's end as the students are far more comfortable with one another as the semester (or year) progresses. My classes all work with their partners all semester, so by this point they share quite easily. The partners offer constructive criticism.
I then ask for anyone who wants to do so to read to the whole class (or let their partner read it aloud, or myself, if they are shy). You would be surprised how many are willing and eager to do so.
I love this exercise because I learn so much about my students and since it's later in the year, their growth as writers becomes apparent.
I like to set the tone for the school year by demonstrating that school work can equal fun. I ask students to write a passage that describes some moment when they realized they were going back to school. I encourage them to take to back to that moment and make me feel it. What were they doing? What happened? How did they feel? I ask them to be as specific as possible. I have found students returning to school usually have some profound feelings to share.
I teach high school English, so I like to start off right away by talking about books. I ask them what is the best book they have read for school and the best one they have read for pleasure. Their answers are very insightful for me -- I learn very quickly what types of books are most appealing and whether they like to read for pleasure in the first place. They kind of enjoy reminiscing about the good and bad books for their past.
One of the the things I do is have students fill out an inventory of questions. I have about ten questions on there and I tell students that no one else will read them but me. Some of the questions are about who they consider a hero, the hardest teacher they ever had, where their strengths in a class lie, where their weaknesses are, the greatest achievement in the history of humanity. We start it in class, take any questions and they write. At the end of the period, I collect them or the next class and I seal them in an envelope. Over the course of the year, I look back at them and see where kids are and talk to them based on what they put down. It helps to open dialogues with students about their initial thoughts on issues and the hopeful growth evident. They get their personal inventories back at the end of the year to see their change. The questions usually require about three to five sentences to answer, so it also serves a great baseline for assessing their writing and thinking skills.
I also agree that icebreakers are important no matter what grade. Every class is a new group of students and whether or not they know each other, they need to form a team. I think it is a great way to introduce group work expectations and rules while providing excitement for the class. I love the survival scenerios at wilderdom.com or the marshmallow challenge.
For my freshmen in Physical Science class, I usually do a lab the first day. This is their first "real" science class, so they feel very important putting on safety goggles and aprons. I have them measure out a small amount of hydrocholoric acid into a test tube, drop in a piece of magnesium metal, and then invert a larger test tube over the top to catch the gas that fizzes out. Then they stick a burning splint into the gas tube, and it explodes! The quantities are very small, so they get a safe little pop! and a bit of flame. I tell them they have officially begun their high school science career "with a bang", and then I use that activity as a springboard into both lab procedure and elements and atoms.
It's been a very popular activity and a good hook to get their attention.
This is one of the best first day activities !! Please keep uo the good work.
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I am a firm believer in ice breakers on the first day, followed by an exciting introduction to your topic. For example, on the first day of Senior English, we do an opening icebreaker to loosen up and get to know those around us, then I introduce the elements of literature by making the class human plot diagrams.
The students get in groups of 4 and lie,stand or kneel to represent exposition, initial incident, rising action, climax, falling action,and resolution. I make them move about as I talk about chronological vs. In media res plot structure, etc. It produces giggles but also imparts information.
This is much better than reading rules and going over syllabi for the whole period. I think you kill the excitement of back to school that way.
I do very little in the way of icebreakers. I might give a short, random quiz about me as a way of disseminating some information (such as the fact that they may not use pencil for assignments) or do a short round of "would you rather...?" In general terms, students are ready to do something productive and I like to capitalize on that harnessed energy.
Check this one out and please share if it works:
Go online and search for a list of 20 questions that are typical to profiles ad cool surveys. Or come up with them on your own.
Write down the 20 questions as statements.
Have the students make a sign (or write it on small whiteboards if you have them). On one side of the sign, they will write down "that'll be me", in one color, and "that's SO NOT ME" on the other side, in a different color.
Write the names of the students on the board on a list, or as in a chart. You will be doing tally marks next to each name.
Begin making the statements: For example, "I am a big fan of Katie Perry".
So, those who are will raise the sign where it says "That'll be me" while those who do not, will either leave their sign down, or show the opposite side.
Some of the most popular questions I've used are:
1. I have eaten raw meat
2. I own a very scary pet.
3. I plan to get a tattoo when I reach the legal age.
For the little ones, some good lines are:
1. I have a baby brother or baby sister
2. I love eating broccoli
3. I believe in Smurfs.
etc, etc, etc- It is a sweet icebreaker, you get the kids to laugh a bit that first day, and they get to know one interesting fact or two about each other.
I do several learning style activities where I can get familiar with how they learn best as a group and individually...this helps me differentiate my lesson plans throughout the year. I color code the learning styles (for instance red=visual; blue=auditory; yellow=kinesthetic) and I put that color dot (or dots if students learn equally in multiple ways) by the students' names in my gradebook.
I don't do a lot of ice breakers, but I do have them pair up, intereview one another, and the introduce their partner to the class. It helps me become familiar with my kiddos in the first couple of days. I also pass out index cards and have them put their info (address, phone, email, class schedule, hobbies, thing they like and dislike most about English). This helps me get to know them, and also gives me a place to record parent contact throughout the year (I note on the back of the card when and why I call or email, if I got an answer or left a message, etc.)
One other thing I like to do is make a list of controversial issues or choices. I mark the room "agree" "disagree" or "undecided". The statement is read, and the students move to the appropriate spot in the room according to their answers. No one can remain "parked", and I often follow up by asking the biggest group or sometimes the smallest group why they think that way or for more info. Some examples are: "I have traveled out of the country. I believe in vampires. I would rather have hot breakfast to cold food. I believe in the death penalty. People who are pro life and pro death penalty are hypocrites. Chocolate should be a food group." Some are fun, some are serious, some are connected with current events stuff. It's a way to get them moving and talking and ready for the year.
I have only used icebreakers when I have worked in Adult Education and we receive a new group of students who do not know each other at the beginning of each year. I have used "Name Bingo" or "Find someone who..." to act as an icebreaker which involves everyone getting up and talking to each other at the same time. This has worked really well. However, now that I am teaching in a High School setting, I hardly ever use them.
No icebreakers here either. I find that students are reluctnant to share aloud on the first day of school, so I save those kinds of presentations for later when they're more comfortable in the class. I introduce myself, and offer some "true/false" statements about me, with the students guessing which are correct. Then I have them write me an introductory letter, asking them questions about what they enjoy reading or writing, why they've decided to take the class, what their expectations are, etc. Then I have them put 2 true statements and one false statement about themselves, and I guess their falsity before I give the letters back. It's a nice way for me to get a feel for the class without embarrassing anyone, and it's worked for the past 6 years.
I don't use ice breakers on the first day, either. Aside from the required stuff (personal forms, book distribution, etc.), I usually introduce myself and provide a brief list of expectations (rules, outline of study for the first few weeks), and then give a short writing assignment so I'll immediately be able to get an idea of the students' writing and vocabulary skills. I often use the oldddd example of "What I Did on My Summer Vacation," but I allow it to be a fictionalized account for those kids who either didn't have anything substantial to write about.
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