Excessive College & Center College Icebreakers That Truly Work
Ask around and you will quickly find that most teenagers consider the first few days of school a waste of time. “All we do is play the same stupid games we did in elementary school!” Or: “My teachers only read the curriculum to me for seven hours!”
How can we make these first days meaningful? Here are real middle school icebreakers that are perfect for high school too! They allow you to build a class community while getting to know your students in a fun and meaningful way.
1. Honesty creates community
Secondary school students are like sharks. Well, not exactly – they can’t smell prey from thousands of feet away, but they can smell outdated lesson plans with shocking speed and accuracy. Instead of doing something you’ve done before, start the year by being honest.
Tell them the first few days will be about getting to know each other. This year is of course very different. That you know they couldn’t say goodbye to their teachers last year.
As part of your middle school icebreakers, say that you want to get to know them and that they need to know you so that you can all have a positive year. Here are a few things you can be honest about:
- Which behaviors / attitudes really get under your skin.
- What to expect from them when they walk into your classroom every day.
- Your hopes and fears for the school year.
- What are your personal goals for the school year?
- What you are looking forward to the most this year.
2. Try a few learning challenges
While you may not want to risk a trust-fall activity just yet, challenges both physical and mental are often really good ways to get to know your students’ personalities. Who will be a class leader or who might need encouragement to speak up? Take a look at who is treating teammates with respect, and see who is frustrated along the way.
This is all really useful information that you will learn as you watch your students complete a challenge. Need ideas for these middle school icebreakers?
- Tarp Flip Challenge: Spread a few tarpaulins on the floor. Get groups of students to stand on it. The challenge? You have to turn the tarpaulin completely over without getting off it. (You will need some volunteers to watch to keep the groups honest.)
- Build a boat: Divide your class into groups or let them choose their own to see who is friends with whom! Give each group a bag of drinking straws and a small roll of duct tape. Tell students they have 25 minutes to build a boat with just the straws and tape. Have a tub or sink in the classroom filled with water and prepare to test the boats and determine the winners.
- Balloon launch: Divide the students into groups of four to six students and give each group a couple of balloons of the same color. Each team should be a different color. Have students inflate the balloons as many times as they want and hold them without tying them up. Have the students stand in the front of the room and let go of the balloons. The team with the balloon that flies the furthest wins.
- Two truths and one lie: Have each student find two truths and one lie about themselves. You can show it off or write it on the board and then the other students will vote on what the lie is!
- scavenger hunt: Group the students and give each group a list of items they will need to find in the classroom. They need to work together to see who can find and show their articles the fastest.
- Would you rather: Have students show thumbs up or down to select their “would you prefer”. Need ideas, check out this list.
3. Try student interviews
Entrusting a student with the task of interviewing another student can be an amazingly powerful tool. As a class, brainstorm a list of unique but insightful questions, then ask each student to choose three or four that they would like to talk about with someone else.
Give students time to interview each other, then write a short article about the peer they interviewed. Display the papers to give students ownership of the class. Potential insightful (but not intimidating) questions could include:
- What is one of the biggest problems in the world today? How do you think we should deal with this?
- Who do you respect most and why?
- If you could be anyone else in the world, who would it be and why?
- What makes you happiest
- What’s hard about being a teenager?
4. Give your students a say, then sit back and really listen
This is often difficult for teachers. We want our classrooms to run smoothly, and we want them to work the way we intended so that handing over control to a group of middle or high school students can feel like an invitation to chaos.
But when we give our students a (directed!) Choice in the way their classroom works, it often increases their sense of freedom of choice and control in the room. Since they made the decisions, they invest more in adhering to those decisions. Here are just a few things you could try to leave the students up to:
- Seating arrangements: With the understanding that the seats can be changed by you if necessary.
- How or when music is allowed: By having this conversation with them, you can raise concerns about the work done while respecting their desire to listen to music at appropriate times.
- Procedure at the beginning of the lesson: Ask them how they think students should enter the room and get to work.
- Procedures for using toilets, water wells, etc .: While they are likely to come up with something you would choose yourself anyway, it’s amazing how much more seriously they take it if it’s their idea.
- What to do with cell phones: You can start by saying that having them on your desks at all times is a resounding no, but you will be surprised how strict they can be on their own.
Middle and high school students want the added responsibilities and privileges of older, more experienced students. When we show them that we recognize that we are promoting a respectful and caring classroom culture on those important first days of class. Take the time to do activities that are interesting and meaningful to make sure we have a great school year!
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