I always love back to school time, and it’s not just because I’m obsessed with school supplies. A new school year brings the excitement of getting to know a whole new group of students! There are so many different ways you can learn about the kids in your class, but here are a few of my absolute favorite ice breaker games for back to school. Keep reading to learn more about your free back to school student survey!
You can’t go wrong with a good ol’ fashioned student survey. It’s an opportunity to ask students anything you want to know about them. You can ask whatever you’re interested in knowing, but I like to split my questions between facts (name, birthday, etc.), personal interests, goals and dreams, important people in their lives, things they’re proud of, areas of struggle, and what they look for in a good teacher. Here is my back to school student survey graphic organizer if you’re interested in seeing what that looks like. You can download a free printable copy, and best of all, it includes a link to a digital version as well!
Who Is It? Game
I learned this game from one of my professors in my doctoral program, and it’s a big hit for students and adults alike. Here’s how it works: you provide four facts about yourself, each one more unique than the last. For your first fact, you want to give a statement that applies to the majority of the people in the room. The second fact should apply to about only half of the people, the third fact should match with a quarter or less, and the last fact should be something that is completely unique to you. For example, I used these four facts with my students:
- I love buying new school supplies.
- I have a dog.
- I’ve visited at least five national parks.
- I watched The Dark Knight Rises with the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team in London in 2012.
This game is the most fun when you have your students all stand up to play at the very beginning. If the statement you read applies to them, they remain standing. If it does not apply to them, they take a seat. This way you get to slowly narrow down which student actually wrote the statements. I always do my four statements as an example without telling students what we’re doing, and then I go over the directions for everyone once I’ve revealed the facts were about me. I have each student write down their four facts on a notecard that I collect, and then I read 1-2 a day for the next few weeks until everyone’s card has been read.
I’ve found it’s helpful to remind students that they’re just estimating which statements other people will agree with and it’s not a big deal if things don’t go as planned (i.e. most of the class sits down after your first statement). It’s fun to keep the cards anonymous while you’re reading them, but I like to have students add their names so I can make sure that I don’t read a student’s card on a day they’re absent. It’s so important to build classroom community throughout the school year instead of just the first few days of school, so this is a great game for that! Not only can you make it last a few weeks (depending on the size of your class), but it’s also a game you can play more than once. The first round is so fun already, and the facts just get crazier as you play more rounds throughout the year. It’s a great supplement to the student survey!
We All Fit Together
I love this activity for upper elementary and middle school students because it lets us learn about each other while also creating a visual display that reminds us we’re a classroom community. All you need to get started is a blank puzzle piece template like this one. Each student receives one puzzle piece with instructions for what to put on it. It’s up to you what you want students to include. In my class, I had students add this information:
- A place you’ve been
- Somewhere you want to go
- A favorite children’s book
- Anything else that appeals to you
I think it’s a good idea to include any content for the class you’re teaching. Since I was teaching geography, I had students add information about places they’ve been and where they want to go. I love this activity because it’s flexible. You can print the puzzle piece templates and have students decorate them using crayons, colored pencils, markers, cut-out pictures from magazines, personal pictures, images from the internet, or a combination of all of these things! The activity is easily completed online too. Just provide students with a png image (one without white background space) so the puzzle pieces can still line up together.
Once students have completed their pieces, it’s time to cut them out and put them together in one big classroom display. I’ve found it’s a good idea to give students explicit directions about how you want them to cut out their puzzle pieces. If you choose one method (cutting down the center of the line, just inside the black line, or on the outer edge), you’ll be able to fit the pieces together better. Depending on the age of your students, you might choose to cut out the pieces yourself for consistency.
If you choose to have your students complete their pieces digitally, you can collect them and line them all up using software such as PowerPoint. I had students share their puzzle pieces with one another in their base groups before adding them to a bulletin board. Students LOVE looking at each other’s puzzle pieces, and they often find out things about each other that they didn’t know before. The puzzle pieces display is also a lot of fun for parents at back to school night!
Which of these getting to know you activities are you going to try this year? Are there any other activities that you’ve used in the past and absolutely love? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!