Breaking the ice outside the classroom!

Another school year has started for most of us – that means it’s officially time for some back to school hunting for new ideas and excitement! As a principle, I try to vary my back-to-school tasks every year and include new activities as I want to come up with new ways to inspire and motivate my students. Icebreakers are an essential part of my back-to-school kit for many reasons; they provide a smooth transition to our classroom, give me (and my kids) a chance to know each other and relax and most importantly build rapport and team spirit. This year I was thinking of how we could actually break the ice outside the classroom and start our lessons in a different way. In case it’s difficult to start outside, the ideas below could also work for large classrooms or you could simply adjust them to meet your classes’ needs.

1. Post-it notes on the stairs: I actually got the inspiration for this activity from this amazing Facebook group. If you already know your students’ names, you could write questions about them on post-it notes and stick them on the stairs to your class or tape them on the notice board outside your classroom.
2.First learning mission – Envelopes on notice board: Time for their first missions even before your lessons start! Use the notice board outside or near your classroom and pin envelopes containing your students’ first learning missions. You could also pin an announcement saying “Your learning journey starts here!”. Inside each envelope students should find a getting-to-know them and each other task. Missions could vary depending on your class level and size. A simple mission could be to find 3 new things about a classmate or to write down 3 of their favorite things.
3. Name Treasure Hunt/ Scavenger Hunt: A really fun activity, especially for young learners! Ask them to write their name down in an acrostic poem form and tell them they’ll have some minutes (usually up to 5′ is enough time) to run around the school and find objects starting with each letter of their name.
4. Bringing the outside inside: Connecting your classroom with the actual physical world around us is really important. Gather your class outside and ask them to just notice the weather, sounds, smells of nature without talking for about 3′. Once the time is up, ask them which of the smells/sounds/emotions they experience outdoors they would love to bring into the classrooms/learning.
5. Ziplock Aquarium: An old idea for an alternative back-to-school craft about your students’ summer holidays. To read more about it, click here!
6. Tagging race: This is a game inspired by the tag feature of Facebook which involves a lot of running! Tell your kids that their mission is to run around, catch a classmate and tap them on the shoulder (tapping reminds me of typing on your keyboard 🙂 Each person tagged needs to share something about themselves and remember what the last person shared.
7. Bonding together race: A variation of the tagging race above which focuses on empathy and team spirit. Tie some ribbon around each kid’s wrist. Tell them their goal is to run, catch a classmate and get hold of their ribbon. Once they do, they need to freeze or stop and say “Team Bond”. Now they need to share how they can help each other work as a team and have a great time during the year.
8. Snowball Fight: A popular game, especially in parties! Each student is given a number of paper strips (I think up to five would be perfect). Each strip represents one fact about them which they need to write down. Once they finish writing, they need to crumple their pieces in paper balls and play paper snowball fight for 1′. When time is up, they have to pick up three random pieces and try to guess which one of their classmates wrote those facts.
9. Hands and feet where you belong Use duct tape on the floor of your classroom. Line your class in two rows and tell them they will listen to you reading a list of statements such as “I love cookies”. Tell them that they need to move to the side of the tape where you are if the statement is true about themselves. Inform them though that some statements will have up to 4 parts. In this case, they will also need to use their hands to touch the both sides. For example, if the sentence above is made into”I only love chocolate cookies which I eat in the evenings” you can imagine how the activity can turn out!
10. Stranded on an island – with a twist: Gather several school supplies (I’ll be using up to 10 at the time) and divide your class in two teams. Tell them they are stranded on an island in the Pacific and the only thing they have with them is a chest of school items. However, they don’t have a bag to carry them, so they need to use their hands. Give them 2′ to choose as many items as they can carry with their hands. Once they are done, ask them how they could use each item to survive on the island.

For more back to school ideas, check out these older posts here and here!

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