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This is taken from the Education World website: http://www.education-world.com/a_lesson/lesson196.shtml

The first day of school are approaching.  Education World has written a wonderful article that has many great ideas for the first day of school.  If you are looking for a new "Getting-to-know-you" activity, look no further!

ICEBREAKERS 2000

Opening-day letter

Stringing together conversation

Animal groups

A tangled web

Student dictionary

Classmate scavenger hunt

Cooperative musical chairs

Hands-on activity

Chain gang

Silhouette collage

Headlines

 

 

Opening-day letter: Write a letter to your students.  In that letter, introduce yourself to students.  Tell them about your hopes for the new school year and some of the fun things you'll be doing in class.  In addition, tell students a few personal things about yourself, for example, your likes and dislikes, what you did over the summer, and your hobbies.  Ask questions throughout the letter.  You might ask what they like most about school, what they did during the summer, what their goals for the new school year are, or what they are really good at.  (in your letter, be sure to model the correct parts of a friendly letter!)  On the first day of school, display your letter on an overhead projector.  Then pass each student a sheet of nice stationery.  Have the students write a return letter to you.  In this letter, they will need to answer some of your questions and tell you about themselves.  This is a great way to get to know each other in a personal way!  Variation: Mail the letter to students before school starts, and enclose a sheet of stationery for kids to write you back.  -- Meg Baker, Harrison Elementary School (South Bend, Indiana

 

Stringing together conversation: Cut string or yarn into pieces of different lengths.  (Each piece should have a matching piece of the same length.  There should be enough pieces so that each student will have one.)  Then give each student one piece of string, and challenge each student to find the other student who has a string of the exact same length.  After students have found their matches, they can take turns introducing themselves to each other.  You can provide a list of questions to help students "break the ice," or students can come up with their own.  You might extend the activity by having each student introduce his or her partner to the class.  -- Stacy Moore, Garrison Mill Elementary School (Marietta, Georgia)

 

Animal groups: On the first day of school, gather all the students from a grade level in a large common area.  Give each student a slip of paper with the name of an animal on it.  Then give students instructions for the activity.  They must locate the other members of their animal group by imitating that animal's sound only.  No talking is allowed.  The students might hesitate initially, but that hesitation soon gives way to a cacophony of sound as the kids moo, snort, and giggle their way into groups.  The end result is that students have found their way into their homerooms or advisory groups for the school year, and the initial barriers to good teamwork have already been broken.  -- Donna Morgan, Avery Middle School (Newland, North Carolina)

 

A tangled web: Gather students in a circle sitting around you on the floor.  Hold a large ball of yarn.  Start by telling the students something about yourself.  Then roll the ball of yarn to a student without letting go of the end of the yarn.  The student who gets the ball of yarn tells his or her name and something good about himself or herself.  Then the student rolls the yarn to somebody else, holding on to the strand of yarn.  Soon students have created a giant web.  After everyone has spoken, you and all the students stand up, continuing to hold the yarn.  Start a discussion of how this activity relates to the idea of teamwork (for example, the students need to work together and not let others down).  To drive home your point about teamwork, have one student drop his or her strand of yarn; that will demonstrate to students how the web weakens if the class isn't working together.  -- Amy Henning, W.C. Petty School (Antioch, Illinois)

 

Student dictionary: Write five questions on the board.  Questions might include the following: What is your name?  Where were you born?  How many brothers or sisters do you have?  What are their names?  Do you have any pets?  Tell students to write those questions on a piece of paper and to add to that paper five more questions they could ask someone they don't know.  Pair students, and have each student interview his or her partner and record the responses.  Then have each student use the interview responses to write a "dictionary definition" of his or her partner to include in a Student Dictionary.  You might model this activity by creating a sample dictionary definition about yourself.  For example:

    Reynolds, Kim.  proper noun.  1.  Born in Riverside, 
    California.  2.  No brothers or sisters. . . .

Have students bring in small pictures of themselves to paste next to their entries in the Student Dictionary.  Bind the definitions into a book, and display it at back-to-school night. -- Kim Reynolds, Warwick Elementary School (Fremont, California)

 

Classmate scavenger hunt: Provide each student with two index cards.  Ask each student to write a brief description of his or her physical characteristics on one index card and his or her name on the other.  (Physical characteristics usually do not include clothing, but if you teach the primary grades, you might allow students to include clothing in their descriptions.)  Put all the physical characteristic index cards in a shoe box, mix them up, and distribute one card to each student (making sure that no student gets his or her own card).  Give students ten minutes to search for the person who fits the description on the card they hold.  (There is no talking during this activity, but students can walk around the room.)  At the end of the activity, tell students to write on the card the name of the student who best matches the description.  Then have students share their results.  How many students guesses correctly?  -- Patricia McHugh, John W. Raper Elementary School (Cleveland, Ohio)

 

Cooperative musical chairs: This activity is a takeoff on the familiar musical chairs game.  Set a circle of chairs with one less chair than the number of students in the class.  Play music as the students circle around the chairs.  When the music stops, the students must sit in a seat.  Unlike the traditional game, the person without a seat is not out.  Instead, someone must make room for that person.  Then remove another seat and start the music again.  The kids end up on one another's laps and sharing chairs!  You can plan this game outside, and you can end it whenever you wish.  Afterward, stress the teamwork and cooperation the game took, and how students needed to accept one another to be successful.  Reinforce that idea by repeating this game throughout the year.  -- Danielle Weston, Willard School (Sanford, Maine)

 

Hands-on activity: Have students begin this activity by listing at least 25 words that describe them and the things they like.  (No sentences allowed, just words!)  Then ask each student to use a dark pen to trace the pattern of his or her hand with the fingers spread apart.  Provide another sheet of paper that the student can place on top of the tracing.  (Since the tracing was done with a dark pen, the outline should be visible on the sheet below.)  Direct students to use the outlines as guides and to write their words around it.  Provide students a variety of different colored pencils or markers to use as they write.  Then invite students to share their work with the class.  They might cut out the hand outlines and mount them on construction paper so you can display the hands for open house.  Challenge each parent to identify his or her child's hand.  -- Veronica Coker, Lanesville Elementary School (Lanesville, Indiana)

 

Chain gang: Begin by asking students, "Who can do something really well?"  After a brief discussion about some of the students' talents, pass out paper and ask students to write down five things they do well.  Then provide each student with five different colored paper strips, then create a mini paper chain with the strips by linking the five talents together.  As students complete their mini chains, use extra strips of paper to link the mini chains together to create one long class chain.  Have students stand and hold the growing chain as you link the pieces together.  Once the entire chain is constructed and linked, lead a discussion about what the chain demonstrates (for example, all the students have talents; all the students have things they do well; together, the students have many talents; if they work together, classmates can accomplish anything; and the class is stronger when students work together than when individual students work on their own).  Hang the chain in the room as a constant reminder to students of the talents they possess and the benefits of teamwork.  -- Kimberlee Woodward, substitute teacher (Waterford, Michigan)

 

Silhouette collage: Stock up on old magazines.  (Your school librarian might have a discard pile you can draw from.)  Invite students to search through the magazines for pictures, words, or anything else that might be used to describe them.  Then use an overhead projector or another source of bright light to create a silhouette of each student's profile; have each student sit in front of the light source as you or another student traces the outline of the silhouette on a sheet of 11- by 17-inch paper taped to the wall.  Have students cut out their silhouettes, then fill them with a collage of pictures and words that express their identity.  Then given each student an opportunity to share his or her silhouette with the group and talk about why he or she chose some of the elements in the collage.  Post the silhouettes to create a sense of "our homeroom."  -- Kathy Juarez, Piner High School (Santa Rosa, California)

 

Headlines: As part of the normal first-day routine, many teachers have each student fill out a card with such information as name, address, phone number, parents' names and work numbers, and so on.  You can use such cards to gather other information too, such as school schedule, why the student signed up for the class, whether the student has a part-time job, and whether he or she has access to the Internet at home.  As a final bit of information, ask the student to write a headline that best describes him or her.  This headline might be a quote, a familiar expression, or anything else.  When students have completed filling out the cards, give a little quiz.  Ask students to number a sheet of paper from 1 to __, depending on how many students are in the class.  Then read aloud the headlines one at a time.  Ask students to write the name of the person they think each headline best describes.  Who got the highest score?  (Bonus!  It seems as if parents are contacted only if there is a problem with students.  At the end of each grading period, use the home address information to send a postcard to a handful of parents to inform them about how well their child is doing.  This might take a little time, but it is greatly appreciated!)  -- Dawn Walkters, White House High School  (White House, Tennessee)