Back to School Getting to Know You Activities:
The first few days of school can be an awkward time for students. They have to figure out where their new classes are located and then desperately hope that they’ll see a friendly face to sit next to. This is especially hard for any brand new students to a school. Inevitably it happens every year in my classroom on the first day of school…the uncomfortable silence of no students talking.
Although I’ll be praying for this silence later in the school year, I like to provide opportunities to get my students up and moving and talking with other kids early on. So throughout the first week of school, I make time for several ice breakers that will get my students engaged with me and each other so they begin to feel more at ease and comfortable in my classroom.
There are tons of great “Getting to Know You” activities out there but these are my top 5 that I use consistently each year.
Now I have to confess, I like this activity for selfish reasons. I am TERRIBLE at learning student names. I wish I could be one of those teachers who knows every student’s first and last name by the end of the first week of school, but having 170 students on average makes it pretty impossible for me. I’m definitely a visual learner so name tents have been a great tool for me. But they also serve the purpose of letting my students get to know each other.
To be a good ice breaker, a name tent needs to have more on it than just space for a name. I like the tri-fold design so I can utilize more space for my students to share information about themselves. In the middle section, they write their name and their favorite hobby, dessert, movie, and song. On the bottom section I have them create their own acrostic which means they have to come up with a descriptive adjective about themselves for each letter of their name. On the final section, they have to write down 3 facts and 1 fib and then we have to guess which statement was the fib. This section is the one my students have the most fun with and like to get tricky.
You can click HERE to download our FREE name tent (it’s editable too). I like to print them on white card stock so they stand up better, but regular white printer paper will work too. I have my students use markers to make them more colorful and easier for me to read across the room.
I started using this activity a few years ago and it was a huge hit! Just as the name implies, it’s a ball with questions written all over it that my students get to toss around. So it’s no surprise why they love it so much. They’ll jump at any chance they get to throw something around the room. In fact, my students will still randomly ask to get it back out throughout the year, even though we already all know each other!
You can use any type of ball for this activity, but the larger it is, the more questions you can write on it. I like to use a jumbo beach ball to make it fun for my students. I use a permanent marker to write questions all over the ball that my students have to answer about themselves.
To play the game, I start it off by answering a question on the ball. I then toss the ball to a student and they have to answer the question that is closest to their right thumb. You can pick any strategy you want, but I’ve found that the thumb is easiest. Once they answer their question, they toss the ball to another student in the room and that student then has to answer the new question their thumb landed closest to.
I try to come up with a wide variety of different questions for my students to answer. For example, “What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?”, “What are 3 words that describe you?”, “What famous person would you like to meet?”, and “What is your favorite TV show?” You can click HERE if you would like to download our FREE sample list of questions we like to use for this activity. The possibilities are endless…until you run out of room on your ball.
This game is similar to the ball of questions game since students have to answer questions about themselves but it also allows them to ask questions too for more interaction with one another. Plus this activity uses cards so nothing gets thrown around the room if that’s more your style.
Just like the ball of questions, this activity offers a wide variety of questions for my students to ask and answer each other. We have already created The Big Question game for you that includes 40 different question cards and even offers an editable template at the end if you would like to add any more of your own. Click HERE to check it out! I like to print the cards out on cardstock for more durability but regular printer paper will work too.
To play the game, give each student in your class 1 question card face down. I tell them not to look until each student has a card. Once everyone is ready, students will move freely around the room to find another student in order to ask them the question on their card. After they answer, that student will then ask the question on their card as well. When both students have successfully asked and answered each of their questions, they trade cards and move around the room again to find someone new. The goal is to ask, answer, and trade cards as many times as possible so they can meet all of their classmates. It’s a perfect activity for teachers to join in as well. I always learn so much about my students from this ice breaker!
This is a great activity because it doesn’t require much for me to set up and my kids get to constantly move around the room. That’s a win-win for all of us! For this game, I create several statements that I will read aloud to the class. I have 4 signs that I place in each of the 4 corners of my room (hence the name of the game, Four Corners). My 4 signs say “For Sure!”, “I Guess So”, “Not Really”, and “No Way!” but you can change them to say whatever you’d like. I like to print each sign out on a different colored piece of paper, but you can also choose to just write them instead.
To play the game, I read one statement from my paper and my students then have to move to the corner that best represents their reaction to my statement. Some examples of the statements I use are “I’m going to turn in all of my homework on time.”, “Dogs are better than cats.”, “I’m really good at dancing.”, and “Science is my best subject.” My students always have a lot of fun with this activity, especially when they see how different everyone’s responses are.
You can click HERE to download the signs and statements I like to use in my classroom. I keep my list fairly short to allow time for my students to move around, but you can come with as many different statements as you would like. Plus it’s easy to change or add statements throughout the game since you’re the only one who actually sees the list!
This is another fun ice breaker that I like to use to help my students get to know each other. I create a variety of statements and place them in individual boxes in order to create a BINGO sheet. I like to use 25 boxes in a 5 x 5 grid, but you can create as many as you’d like. Some examples of statements I use are “My birthday is in the summer.”, “I speak more than 1 language.”, “I have a younger sister.”, and “I like to sing.”
To play the game, I hand out a BINGO sheet to each student. When everyone is ready, students will move around the room to try to find another student who matches one of the statements. When they find a match, they write that student’s name down in the box. The goal is to see who can be the first to match 5 in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally for a BINGO. In my classroom, I like to keep the game going to see if anyone can get a “black out”, meaning they found a match for every single box.
You can click HERE to download a FREE BINGO game that I like to use in my classroom. It’s a great activity for teachers to also join in on the fun. My students really enjoy learning about me while I’m getting to know all about them too!
All of these “Getting to Know You” activities are perfect for the first week of school to get your students engaged in conversation and learn more about one another. I actually like to keep them handy to use within the next few weeks as well whenever I have a little time left at the end of class or if I feel my students need a quick “brain break”.
I know there are tons of great ice breaker activities out there so please comment below to let me know what you like to use in your classroom!
Thanks for reading!