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Ice Breakers for the First Day of School

The first day of school can be tough. Here are some fun games to play to break the ice and get to know each other. This article can also be helpful for the first day of home school co-op classes.

I can hear it…the bell rings, screams of laughter, of angst, of excitement, of terror. The first day of school is loaded with every kind of emotion a child can bare, the teachers too. But don’t fret, I have some fun games to play with your kids to ease the tension, get to know each other, and get your students geared up for another year of learning.

Everything is new that first day. New classmates, new teacher, even the child himself has changed over the summer. Looking back on my school years, the fear of the unknown overwhelmed on that first day. But I didn’t have the courage to ask my questions, or introduce myself. In 5th grade, my teacher Mrs. Lang played a game with us that stuck with me through my years. She held a ball and introduced herself to the class, “Hi class, my name is Mrs. Lang.” Then she tossed the ball to a student, who proceeded to say, “Nice to meet you Mrs. Lang, my name is Jimmy Frank.” Then he tossed the ball to another student.
This continued until everyone had gotten the chance to greet another student and introduce himself. This game is great for breaking that “new” awkward silence. This is also a great game to play should you have a new comer during the year.

The chitter chatter of summer happenings can easily frustrate a teacher, and distract the entire class. A great way to allow your students to share all of these, and keep the class focused, is another favorite of mine. Hang man is a well known game, but through in personal experience and a whole new world opens up. The idea here is that the phrase started must use the name of a place he, or someone he knows, visited over the summer.

After the phrase is discovered, the student gets the chance (if he chooses) to tell a little about his experience there. If the student isn’t comfortable sharing his experience, the teacher can open up the floor for other students who have been there, or the teacher can take the stage and share an experience of her own. This game helps the kids get their stories out, the whole class learns a little geography and culture, and the kids get some interaction with their new classmates. This is also a great game to play after breaks, such as winter or spring break.

Many early elementary teachers have workstations or learning labs set up in their classrooms. If you’re not one of these teachers perhaps you should look into it. As the children walk into the class for the first time they have no idea what the focus or goal of each center is. A great way to introduce them to the centers, and get them used to the structures, is to have a scavenger hunt. This can be approached as many ways as there are to set up stations. Just one idea is to separate the class into groups of about 5 students.

Have a list of ten to fifteen items to find or collect. Provide each group with a check off list, on that list have a section for them to write in what they think each station is all about (such as vocabulary, math, geography, reading skills, etc.). Have some type of point system, X number of points for items collected and XX number of points for correct assumptions. Then reward the group with the most points with a lunch with the teacher or outside. This game gets them familiar with their new class, builds communication skills between their partners, and provides an out for their built up energy. The reward will build their teacher-student relationship, and show them the teacher is interested in them.

These three games are only a beginning to the possibilities a teacher can build on. One thing to keep in mind, on that first day, is these kids have had freedom for the last three months, sitting down and keeping still will be a difficult task. If you expect your students to be ready for reading assignments and mathematical equations on the first day, your expectations are unattainable. It’s a well known and proven fact that kids process more information if they are comfortable, engaged, and excited about the new information. Make the first of class as enjoyable as you possibly can, and give the kids the freedom to be kids.

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