Raise your hand if you love those ice breaker activities at staff meetings and other professional development trainings. What’s that? No hands?
We don’t tend to enjoy those because (a) we feel like our time is better spent learning content, (b) we already know everyone in the room or (c) we are introverts and would prefer to melt into our chair than stand up and shake it for strangers.
Guess what. Your students are the exact same way. Those first day of school ice breakers can be cringe-worthy for many (most) students.
Let’s discuss the reasons why you should mix it up on your first day of school.
- By middle school, many of the students already know each other. Sure, you may not know them but they are already at least familiar with one another. A “get to know you” activity may be met with eye rolls unless you teach 6th Grade and have students coming together from different elementary schools.
- Even if you do teach 6th Grade – students are doing SO many ice breakers and “About Me” forms on the first day of school. You just might get away with it in your firstborn period class, but by your last period, they’ll be completely over those kids of activities. Think about a full day of PD… if you did the same thing to kick off each session, you would be completely burnt out by the end of the day. The same goes for your students.
- Students need to feel as though what they are doing is meaningful – even on the first day of school. A “find someone who” activity might not be your most meaningful option!
So, what should you do on the first day? And, when should you give out those “About Me” forms?
- You should start with content. Yep. Content. Let them know their time in your class will be meaningful to their leaning. Do not start with a pre assessment or any “boring” content unless your school requires it.
- Start with a resource that encourages collaboration and brings in OLD skills. This will give your students a feeling of confidence (because they’ll be doing something they already know) and let them chat while working.
- I highly recommend something like a Back to School Escape Room. Yes it is prep heavy but your students will be engaged and excited about your class.
- Since you NEED those “About Me” forms for a variety of reasons, send them home, work them into a warm up or wait until the second week of school. Even the parents could use a break from all the forms on the first day of school. Send home your syllabus and info about your class and let them know you are giving them a form break and will send home those in a few days!
As with literally everything in teaching – you have to do what works best for you. You may have some rockstar ice breaker that students always love. If so, go for it! You may teach in a gigantic school where students may not already know each other. You may teach in an area that houses a lot of military families, so there are a ton of new faces each year. For those of you in schools like that – go ahead with your ice breakers! There may still be a place for them in many classrooms – but probably not most.