Every teacher has the responsibility of not only providing their students with the information and resources they need to progress academically, but also ensuring everyone in the class feels as comfortable and happy as possible each and every day, and this can be very challenging for many kids when they don’t know the people in their class.
Whether it’s starting a brand new job as an adult or entering a new class in school as a student, we’ve all been in that position where we struggle to spark up a conversation with the people around us.
However, an easy way to familiarize yourself with your peers is through icebreakers, and the good news is that there are plenty of games and activities that you can use in a lesson plan to help break the ice between students.
To get you started, here are 16 ideas that you can integrate into your regular classes which will encourage your students to learn more about one another, alongside getting to know their teacher a lot better too so that they can feel comfortable and included in the classroom.
1) Name Chase
If you’ve ever played a game of “duck, duck, goose”, this game is extremely similar, but there are a few minor differences that encourage everyone involved to get to know each other a lot more by starting with the most important part, their name.
Each student sits in a circle along with the teacher, and a student is then chosen at random to walk around the circle and gently tap on each person’s head.
However, as they tap on each person, rather than saying “duck”, they will say the person’s name instead, and when they have chosen who they want to pick as the “goose”, they will instead say the name of the class.
Whoever the person chooses will then have to chase them around the circle before they catch them, and if they do, they then take their role and are now the one who will tap on everyone’s heads before picking someone out.
2) Human Bingo
Start by giving each student a human bingo card full of different statements and descriptions such as “Is very good at math” or “Is practicing to play the piano”.
Rather than the teacher calling out each section of the card however which can end up being quite dull or boring, instead, let the students go around and ask each other which slots they can put the other person’s name down for.
This way, it not only allows everyone to get moving around to multiple different people, but it also enables everyone to have a casual conversation about their interests, which is always a great way to break the ice.
3) Blobs And Lines
The rules for bobs and lines are incredibly easy to follow, all the students need to do is listen to the prompt by their teacher and then organize themselves in either a line or a blob, depending on the correct answer.
So for example, if the teacher were to ask everyone to line up in chronological order depending on the first letter of their name, then everyone in the class would have to do so while standing in a line, but if the teacher asked everyone to separate into blobs depending on how they traveled to school that morning, then they separate themselves into smaller groups.
Not only does this give each student some information about one another right off the bat, but it also encourages them to engage in a casual discussion where they might find some shared similar interests.
4) Wipe That Smile Off Your Face
Gather each student in a circle, and pick one person to be the “smiler”. Their job will then be to produce the biggest, funniest, and cheesiest smile possible while looking around at their classmates.
For every person that laughs or even lets out a giggle, the smiler will earn a point, and after 10 seconds they must “wipe” the smile off their face and pass it onto someone else, making for a straightforward but incredibly fun game that works well with any type of student, whether they’re more talkative or a little more secluded.
5) Two Truths And A Lie
Two truths and a lie is actually a good game to play on several occasions rather than just one time because it allows everyone in the class to learn something new about their classmates, even the ones they may not speak to outside of the lessons, every time they play.
The rules of the game are very easy to understand, each student must write down three facts about themself, but one of these statements must be a lie.
The teacher must then pick a student to read out their facts, and the other students will take turns asking follow up questions to try and get to the bottom of what is true and false.
6) All About Me Cubes
For example, you could put your favorite color, a person you consider special, or even a rough drawing of yourself.
When everyone has customized their own cube, they are all put into a bag or a hat and picked out one by one for everyone to guess whose cube they have picked out just from looking at the information.
This is a fun and incredibly engaging game that allows young students to get creative while also letting them learn more about their fellow students, and once the cubes have been made once, you can easily play it another day by simply handing out the same cubes to different people in the class.
Before getting everyone together in a circle, ask each student to make their own signature.
This can literally be anything, whether it’s a sound, a facial expression, or a simple movement of the hands or legs.
When everyone is then gathered together, start the game off by showing off your own signature move before, one by one, everyone around the circle then shows theirs.
The aim of the game is to not have the same signature as someone else, otherwise, the two people with the same idea are out.
Also, to keep the game exciting, every time the circle lands back on the teacher, everyone must quickly think of a brand new signature to show the class with the circle moving around faster each time someone is eliminated.
8) Classroom Beach Ball
In fact, all the equipment you require is simply a permanent marker, and a blow-up beach ball, though it can often be a good idea to bring a few balls at once.
Write a question on the beach ball to get the game started, but make sure it is something fairly vague so that everyone can answer quickly such as “what is your favorite meal?” or “what language would you love to learn?”.
Then, after you have answered the question yourself, throw the beach ball to a student who must then answer the question and then pass it on until everyone has had a chance to answer.
If your class is a little bigger, you can even split everyone into smaller groups so that each student can explain their answer without the game taking too long.
9) About Me Jenga
Jenga is a great game for developing and improving a person’s critical thinking skills, but by adding in a few questions makes the game a lot more interesting and personal, and that’s exactly what this spin on the classic game does by assigning each block to a number.
Depending on the number a student pulls out will determine the question they are given which they will need to answer truthfully.
To make sure everyone learns at least a little bit about everyone in the class, you can make it so students can not pull out more than one or two blocks, just so that the game isn’t completely taken over by any eager students who might want to answer all the questions themselves.
10) A Great Wind Blows
Musical chairs is a game that many of us will have played at one point or another when we were in school, and while it does encourage competition, it’s not exactly a game that lets students interact too much or have any discussions with one another.
However, this isn’t the case with this game which puts a fun and unique twist on the musical chairs formula, making it a much better icebreaker game.
Arrange a few chairs in a circle and prompt everyone to sit down, except for one child who will be assigned or can volunteer to be the “caller” for the game.
Each round, the caller will say “a great wind blows for everyone who…” before then finishing the phrase off with a statement that at least a few kids in the group can relate to such as “…has curly hair” or “…prefers dogs over cats”.
Anyone who relates to the statement must get up and move to a different seat, but they are only allowed to move to a chair that is at least two spaces away from them.
One chair is removed each round, and the student who sits down on the final seat at the end will be the winner.
11) Icebreaker Hopscotch
If there’s any game that kids can almost always be seen playing on the playground during break time, it’s hopscotch, and while it is usually played with numbers, switching these out with letters can suddenly make this traditional game much more interesting and the perfect icebreaker.
Always remember that you don’t only have to play hopscotch outside with chalk since you can also simply use a taped-off hopscotch board or even just laminated letters for it to be played in the classroom too.
Line up the class in front of the hopscotch and tell them that they can hop as far as they would like, but they have to land on a letter and stop before they reach the end.
When they land on a letter, they must then share their favorite thing that starts with that letter, whether it be a person, an object, a food, or anything they can think of that they like and enjoy.
If they land on two separate letters, then they can give two different answers, or they can simply pick one of the two if they are struggling to think of anything.
12) Rock, Paper, Scissors
Rock, paper, scissors is universally loved because of how simple it is as a game to understand and play, and thanks to this simplicity, it means you don’t need any prior experience or particular skills to be good at it, making it very inclusive and a great way to break the ice.
The best way to inspire a bit of competitiveness between students when playing is to organize a quick tournament where each pair will play for the best of three, and the loser of the game will then sit on the exterior circle.
The tournament will then keep going until it’s down to the final two competitors.
Since rock, paper, scissors can be played so quickly, with a tournament usually being over in just a few minutes, it’s the perfect way to inspire some healthy competition and a great game for breaking up the lesson and keeping everyone engaged.
13) Teddy Bear Introduction Game
While extroverted and chatty students can get along with most people in their class very easily and without much worry, this can be a lot more challenging for quieter students and can lead them to feel more uncomfortable during the lessons and less involved.
This game, featuring a stuffed teddy bear, is the perfect way to allow students to come out of their shells by having some fun portraying the bear themselves.
Here’s how it works: a teddy bear is passed around the circle of students who must all impersonate the teddy’s voice while stating a fact about themselves.
This can be anything from their favorite subject to what they ate for breakfast that morning, but the key is to try and encourage the students to get creative with their voices since it allows them to play a character and not feel as embarrassed speaking in front of the class.
14) Who’s In Your Circle?
The teacher will then assign a different topic for each group which they then must write in the middle of the smallest circle.
This can be a vague topic such as sports, or it can be more specific like bananas or tigers for example.
Once each group has their topic, they must then write “like” in the next largest circle and “doesn’t like” in the biggest, before the students then engage in a discussion where they state how they feel about the topic and why with their name then being written down in the corresponding circle depending on if they like the chosen topic or not.
This is a great way to inspire a conversation among students, but you can even choose topics that relate to the subject you’re teaching to integrate the game into a wider lesson plan.
15) High-Five Competition
While this game is technically a competition, it is more about having fun and taking a break from the lesson, allowing the kids to move around the classroom and involve themselves with the wider group through high-fiving.
The rules of the game are simple, each student has 5-10 minutes to go around and high-five as many of their classmates as possible, but they are only allowed to do so after they have asked the person’s name.
The person with the most high-fives at the end of the time limit will be proclaimed the winner.
Feel free to add some upbeat and vibrant music while the timer ticks down and make sure to get involved with the high fiving too since you are also a member of the class after all.
16) Guess The Animal
Every teacher knows that animals are one topic that is guaranteed to fill young students with a feeling of glee as they get to learn more about the fascinating and exotic creatures that roam our planet, so using them as part of a game is a great way to make it seem more fun and engaging for everyone involved, especially when the students get to tell everyone what their own personal favorite animal is.
To begin the game, ask one student to volunteer to stand in the middle of the circle and imitate their favorite animal which they can only do through movements and noises.
After you say “ready, set, go!” The students on the outside must then guess which animal they are portraying, and the first person to guess correctly then will then take their place in this fast and frantic game.
Further reading: First Day of School Activities
It’s not an easy task encouraging the students in your class to get to know one another, but while this can be done through group work in lessons, it is much easier to accomplish through fun games which can be both cooperative and competitive.
Try out a few of these icebreaker ideas for when you have a new set of students and want to help them feel more comfortable around one another.
Looking for more ideas? How about the best dice games for learning?