Starting the school year with fun icebreaker activities can establish a foundation for solid relationships with your students and a strong sense of community in your classroom. It also sets a caring and welcoming tone in those first few days of school and can ease students’ anxiety about meeting their classmates.
Here are five fun SEL-themed icebreakers to help students connect and see what they have in common, while providing you a window into their personalities, hopes, anxieties, and even their academic skills.
1. Who’s In Our Class Jigsaw Puzzle
Draw a jigsaw puzzle on a large piece of poster board or cardboard. Cut out the pieces and give one to each student (and save one for yourself). Have students decorate the puzzle pieces in a way that showcases who they are — i.e. things they like, words that describe them, elements from their families or cultures, etc. Ask students to share about their puzzle pieces and create a wall display with the finished puzzle.
2. Questions of the Rainbow
Grab M&Ms, Skittles, Lego pieces, or any colorful object and gather students in a circle. Have students blindly pick one item and then answer a corresponding question from a pre-made chart. Here are some examples:
- Red – Share your favorite food
- Orange – Share a hobby you enjoy
- Yellow – Share your favorite color
- Green – Share about a cool place you have visited
- Purple – Share about a favorite game you play
3. Circle Up
“Circle up” helps students get to know one another in a semi one-on-one setting. To play, have students form two circles, one inside ring and one outside ring, facing each other to form pairs. Have students briefly introduce themselves to their partners and then discuss an open-ended question like “What is your favorite TV show?” or “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?”
After a minute or two, have the inner circle stay stationary and the outer circle rotate so that each student has a new partner. To ensure students get a chance to pair up with everyone, play again later in the week with new questions.
4. Match That Trait Game
This game helps ease back-to-school anxiety by encouraging students to get to know their peers and make friends. Students are tasked with finding classmates who match different traits, and the student with the most checkmarks wins.
5. Getting to Know You Bingo
This icebreaker is one of the most popular games for getting to know your students. Create a 5 x 5 bingo card that has personal statements, such as “has brown eyes,” “has a dog and a cat,” “likes rock music,” etc.
Give a bingo card to each student and have them find classmates who meet the criteria in each box (classmates can only be used once on their sheet). Whoever completes the grid first wins.
Enjoy these SEL-themed icebreakers! Starting the school year with fun activities is a great way to get to know your students and build community in your classroom.