27 August 2015


I've seen a lot of great icebreaker ideas this week so I thought it might be helpful to share some of my favourites here. Most of us will be meeting new classes for the first time next week. I'll be getting a new tutor group - I need activities that will help me get to know my students and help them get to know each other too.

Creeping Death
First, a story about what not do. When I was at university I attended a two-day residential selection centre for a graduate job at Esso. I think there were twelve candidates, all Russell Group, all in smart new suits. Naturally we started with an icebreaker. We were told to say something interesting about ourselves. I had a few ideas for what I was going to say - I used to live in Africa and have a couple of stories to tell - but suddenly I had reason to panic. The other candidates - every one of them - had far more interesting stories than me. They'd met royalty, they'd been on TV, they'd won awards, they were related to celebrities, they'd saved lives. I'll never forget that feeling of impending doom as I waited for my turn to speak, then the embarrassment and feeling of inferiority. It shook my confidence for the remainder of the selection centre.

'Say something interesting about yourself' is not a good way to break the ice, especially with 11 year olds who may well think they have nothing interesting to say. If you must ask a child to say something interesting about themselves, put some suggestions on the board in case they're stuck for ideas (eg number of siblings, what they did over summer etc). Or, even better, use some of the activities listed below.

Me... By the Numbers
Donna Boucher (@MathCoachCorner) shared a lovely idea in this post. Students fill in the template with numerical facts about themselves.
Numbers Quiz
A related idea comes from this post from Sarah Hagan. Ask each student to make a quiz about themselves. The answers should be numerical and students should provide an answer bank at the bottom, like my example below. Sarah completed all her students' quizzes and they marked her answers. Alternatively, if students haven't met each other before, they could ask another student to complete their quiz. This gives them a chance to chat about their answers and get to know each other. Even the shy students should be happy with this activity.
Two Truths and a Lie
When I returned from maternity leave in January I took over a Year 11 tutor group. To get to know them I did 'Two truths and a lie'. I told them two facts about myself and one lie - they had to guess which was the lie. Then I gave them some time to write down their two truths and a lie. I let them volunteer to read their facts out - each time I had to guess the lie. It was a really fun activity (they were surprised by how good I was at detecting their lies!). They all enjoyed it and, because they were confident students who already knew each other well, most volunteered to have a go.

Blobs and Lines
This post Icebreakers That Rock is brilliant - it's full of good ideas. I particularly like Blobs and Lines - students are prompted to either line up in some particular order (eg by birthday) or gather in 'blobs' based on something they have in common (eg how they get to school). Students quickly discover things they have in common.

Who I Am
Dan Meyer's post The First Day Wiki from back in 2007 provides a link to his well-known 'Who I Am' activity.
His post also features a class scavenger hunt, shown below. I plan to use adaptations of both activities with my new Year 12 tutor group next week - my versions are here.

Dan's post also includes a form that students complete while you talk through rules and expectations.

If you're looking for more ideas for communicating expectations, check out the videos in my recent post Behaviour Management for Beginners.

Also, form tutors looking for ideas to fill daily form time will love formtimeideas.com.

First Maths Lessons
In this post I've focused on icebreakers. I've written previously about maths activities for first lessons - see Gems 2, plus the lovely alphabet idea in Gems 34. I also have two posts that might be of interest:

I hope these ideas are helpful. Good luck everyone!

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