In addition to my role as Head of History I am a House tutor. I thoroughly enjoy this pastoral role as it provides a great opportunity to build good relationships with my pupils, not just focusing on the academic elements and it allows me to take part in tutor and whole school activities that differ to my teaching role. The start of year is a very important time for teachers to get to know their pupils and as mentioned build those crucial positive relationships. It is also very important for pupils to get to know each other, as well as feeling comfortable and confident in school. Icebreaker activities are always a fun way for pupils to introduce themselves and learn more about each other, developing and forming friendships. These types of activities can also develop a lot of skills such as working with others, leadership and social/communication skills. Here are some tried and tested ideas that I have either created or adapted to use at the beginning of the academic year with my pupils.
Learning line up!
I have clear routines that I like to establish as soon as I meet my classes. However, this is a way to engage the pupils in icebreaker activities before they even enter the classroom. I instruct pupils to line up in different ways. For example, they must line up boy/girl order or line up next to someone they don’t know. Another suggestion would be line up in alphabetical order according to their first or second name. They could line up in order of their age and birthday. This means that pupils have to talk to one another, asking questions and working together to line up correctly. This has got the pupils thinking and talking straight away! This is where you will see those natural leaders take charge too!
These activities do not require any resources or preparation. They are simple, enjoyable and effective. Firstly the ‘Pair Presentations’ – in pairs pupils have an allotted amount of time to exchange information. Telling the other person as much as they want to about themselves, then listening to their partner do the same. The pupils then have to present either in front of the class, or if this sounds too daunting for new students then to another pair, recalling everything they have found out and remember about their partner. So instead of asking pupils to stand and talk about themselves they have to talk about someone else. This is very good for listening and recall skills.
Another oracy task I did with pupils in my previous school in the UK was in the style of ‘speed dating’ but without the actual dating element! All that is needed is a timer and for the class chairs to be rearranged. Pupils will have a set amount of time to talk to each other, this encourages those who have never met or do not know each other well to interact. They can just introduce themselves to each other but this can become repetitive. An idea is to have a theme projected onto the board or said by the teacher and the pupils will have two or three minutes ( time can vary according to class size, lesson timing etc) to discuss that theme. As the pupils move to talk to another person the theme will change to so they have something different to talk about and the theme acts as a prompt to start the conversation. The themes can include food, talking about their favourite food or holidays, hobbies, films, school basically anything that will promote conversation between the two pupils. The changing of partners, moving onto another person adds pace and keeps the activity engaging as well as learning lots about each other!
Finally, two truths and a lie. Obviously I encourage my pupils to always be honest but this game is in the style of the TV show ‘Would I lie to you’. Everyone has to come up with three statements about themselves to tell their partner, group or class. Two of the statements will be interesting and truthful facts about themselves and one will be a lie. People then have to guess which one is a lie. I often model this first myself and pupils try to guess the lie, I try to be as creative as I can and tell pupils to do the same! I would give pupils some time to think about their statements in advance.
This is a nice activity for those students who are new to the school or perhaps have relocated to another part of the building. The idea behind this is similar to a treasure hunt as they will be given different locations around the school they have to find, either using a map or perhaps an older reliable student to help guide them. When they have reached each destination they take a selfie either individually or as a group at that location, using the iPad or own devices depending on the school policy. This activity worked really well recently with the girls in my form. They enjoyed exploring the school and taking funny selfies at each key point. On their return they shared their selfies, that were taken at the Canteen, Library, Theatre and so on. They could also aim to get a selfie with certain staff, house captains etc but be sure to ask them in advance for their permission! Another idea, carrying on the selfie theme which is very popular with a lot of youngsters, is to for them to either take a selfie or draw a self portrait and caption it with information about themselves. This could then go on display in their tutor/form room.
Google doodles are the different designs that Google will temporarily use for the Google logo according to a certain event, theme etc. It is likely pupils will be familiar with different Google doodles. This activity can be used in any curriculum subject, for example my Year 7 class last year created their own Black Death themed Google Doodle designs! Online it is very easy to search and find a blank Google Doodle template. Print and give to students. The Google Doodle has to represent them, as shown with the example below. They add pictures, colours and symbols and that becomes their own personalised Google Doodle design!
If you have your own classroom which is dedicated to a tutor/form group then creating displays is a great way to share the ice breaker activities that you have done and make the pupils feel that the classroom is their base. Pinterest is a great app for searching for classroom displays, as well as lots of teaching & learning resources. Ideas include creating an ‘All about me’ wall. Everyone will write something interesting about themselves, that they don’t mind going on display and that can be there for the rest of the year or term for others to read and they feel like they have made their mark in their classroom. The idea below is from my previous tutor group which was again quick and easy to do with everyone writing what makes them happy. The responses were really lovely and funny, lots of my other classes would often read this display. This activity prompted a class discussion where my Year 9 class, who had already known each other for two years were still learning more about each other and it helped make my classroom a really friendly, positive and welcoming environment. Another suggestion is for pupils to create a flag that represents them, similar to the Google Doodle idea. Their flag can include pictures, symbols, key words etc and they then have to explain to either the class or partner how the flag represents them. These flags can then go on display also.
The start of year can be exciting and daunting. Transition tasks and icebreaker activities are a great opportunity to have some fun. This will also help the pupils feel more relaxed and comfortable at school. In my previous secondary school ‘Circle time’ activities proved to be very popular. Sitting in a circle provides a more informal setting and allows all pupils to see one another, this is ideal for class discussions and games. Here are some of the circle time games that my Year 7 form group often enjoyed!
1. Match and move game. Everyone is sat in the circle but one chair is removed and either the teacher or volunteer is standing in the middle of the circle. The person in the middle of the circle has to make a statement about themselves, this can be anything such as “I have brown hair.” Anyone else that the statement applies to has to get out of their seat and move to another seat. This gives the person in the middle the opportunity to find somewhere to sit and someone else will be left standing in the middle. Again, they will say a statement which can be connected to their appearance, likes and dislikes etc. From my experience some individuals can struggle standing in the middle, feeling on the spot, so to help I might suggest a theme such as sport, film, hobbies etc then they have to say something about themselves linked to that theme. A good game for students to find out new and sometimes unusual facts about one another!
2. Copycat game. This game can be hilarious. Again, everyone is sat in a circle but one person either has to turn around or wait outside the classroom for a moment whilst the teacher selects one person that the rest of the class have to copy. The class are instructed that any action or noise that chosen individual makes they have to repeat. The person waiting outside doesn’t know who everyone else is copying but they have three attempts to guess on their return. The person can clap, stand up, cough etc and everyone else must do the same but once myself and my Year 7 class all ended up copying someone doing the Gangnam style dance! The pupils do have to concentrate copying the person carefully or trying to solve who everyone else is copying but the main purpose is to enjoy themselves with their peers!.
3. Beach ball. I purchased a cheap inflatable beach ball that can be written on with a board pen then rubbed off and used again. The beach ball had different ‘get to know you’ style questions on each section. The pupil would catch the ball and answer the question that was facing them. Then they would throw it onto someone else and the beach ball is a safe option with no worries about broken windows or any injuries! Another quick and easy activity to involve everyone in the class.
Walkabout Bingo is an idea I have previously written about. The idea behind this game is that the pupil will be given a sheet with different questions. They cannot answer those questions themselves they must ask others for the answers. They can only ask someone a question once too, encouraging everyone to interact. On the sheet they write down the answer and the name of the person who has provided the answer. The first person to get all their boxes completed by different members of the class shouts bingo and wins! See my example below, for types of questions asked.
Similar to the Walkabout Bingo is the ‘Find Someone…’ game. Students will be given a list and they have to find someone who matches each of the criteria so the list could include the following;
- Find someone who has a birthday in September.
- Find someone who has a brother and a sister.
- Find someone who enjoys tennis.
- Find someone who likes to eat chocolate.
- Find someone who has read Percy Jackson.
This involves lots of questioning and communicating whilst still finding out more about each other and working together.
Thanks for taking the time to read my post. Good luck with the start of a new academic year! If you’ve been inspired by any of these ideas I’d love to hear from you to find out how you’ve taken them / adapted or remixed them and used them in your classroom. Please feel free to follow my blog and leave comments below or why not just drop me a message on Twitter.