Five ways to Break the Ice with Your Students

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August 5, 2021 by HCDE Communications

Students often encounter many new experiences and uncertainties on the first day of school. As a teacher, here are a few fun ways you can set the expectations for your classroom and how students should interact with you and one another.


Group your students in pairs and have them spend a few minutes interviewing each other with a list of pre-determined questions or have them create their own. Afterward, let each pair introduce each other to the rest of the class. You can complete all the introductions on the first day or spread them out over the course of the week, depending on what works best for your students’ age group.

Notes: Consider giving younger students a limited number of pre-determined questions to simplify the objective. Limit the time each student has to interview their partners to ensure enough time to complete the activity. Instead of giving students the chance to pair with someone they know, ask them to line up alphabetically by first name or by birthday and pair them that way.

What Am I?

Have the students get into a circle and give each student a post-it note. Have each person write down a noun and then stick the post-it on the forehead of the person to their left with the noun showing. Then, let each student take a turn to ask the group up to 10 “yes” or “no” questions that will help them guess the noun on their forehead. Move on if they do not guess correctly. Keep going until all of your students have had a turn or your time runs out.

Notes: Give the game an additional element of teamwork by allowing the student to ask for one or two hints from the person to their right. Take notice of which students volunteer answers easily and those who are more timid and consider building your seating chart to spread them throughout the room.

Find Someone Who…

Give each of your students a list of attributes such as “find someone who has been to a foreign country” or “find someone who has green eyes.” Modify your list based on your students’ age level, but generally, keep the attributes simple yet interesting. Students must work together to attribute each item on the list to one of their classmates. For example, when a student finds a classmate who has green eyes, that classmate will sign their name next to that attribute. Each student can only ask each classmate to sign next to one of the attributes on the list. Let students everyone has completed the list.

Notes: Make the attributes uncommon facts or easily identifiable physical traits such as eye color, curly hair, or freckles. Add a competitive element to the game and give a prize to the first one, two, or three students to complete the list.

Spider Web

Have your students get into a circle. Start with yourself, hold a ball of string or yarn and say your name and an interesting fact about you. Then, choose a student who is across the circle to roll or toss the ball to while holding the end of the string. Have the student repeat the process and pass the ball to another student across the circle from them while holding onto the string. Play until all students have gotten a turn and there is a web of string filling the circle.

Notes: Reflect on how each person is part of the web and that without each person holding onto the string, the web wouldn’t be complete.


In this activity, write a different prompt on four to six pieces of construction paper. Group students into as many groups as there are prompts and give each student a marker. Have the groups rotate and each student respond to the prompts on the paper. For the first day of school, keep the prompts simple, but as the year progresses, increase the complexity of the statements and even use academic questions to review content.

Here are some suggestions for topics at the beginning of the year:

  • Favorite memory
  • What I wonder about
  • What I want to be when I grow up and why
  • Things that excite me
  • What I like about school
  • What I dislike about school
  • Things I find annoying
  • Things I appreciate
  • I feel sad when

Notes: View more ideas for questions you can ask students at the beginning and throughout the year to promote critical thinking.

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