Ice breakers and seating arrangements for the first days of school (or whenever!)
Some of these are variations on activities that I have found through googling over the years and have worked well in my classes. They can certainly be adapted for any subject and can be used at various grade levels. They can be used as a way to group students to go on to a different activity or it could be the activity in itself. Hope you find some of them useful!
- Pipe cleaners: Pre-select how many students you want in each group and how many groups total. Then choose as many color pipe cleaners as there are groups and have one of that color per group. For example, if you have 5 groups of 4, you should have 4 green, 4 yellow, 4 red and 4 blue (or whichever colors you prefer). Meet your students at the door and ask them to take just one pipe cleaner and have a seat. When all students have a pipe cleaner and are seated, ask them to create groups in which there is only one of each color represented. These are the groups and these students should sit together. Once they have formed their groups, ask them to create something with the pipe cleaners in a certain time frame. Once the time is up, ask them to discuss what they made, how they made it and why. This is good for team building and getting students to work collaboratively.
- Puzzles: You can make your own or purchase some very simple puzzles from the dollar store. It is not always important the subject matter of the puzzles unless it is central to your lesson. Put all the puzzle pieces in a bag and greet your students at the door, having them select a single puzzle piece. Once everyone is seated, ask them to complete their puzzles. Once they have completed their puzzles, they have created their group and are ready to go on to whatever activity you have planned.
- Birthday order: As the students come in, I ask them to sit wherever they choose but that the seats will not be theirs for long so don’t get too moved in! I tell them I am going to have them seat in a certain order and when they are seated on their own and are sure of the order, I will take attendance based on this order (requires some prep work on teacher’s part ahead of time). If everyone is seated in the correct order, the class will get some sort of prize (this could simply be high praise or points on a test or a homework pass - it’s up to you). This activity is great for language classes because students can practice asking for information like “When is your birthday?” or “When were you born?” They are also practicing numbers and months of the year. Now, they have to seat themselves in birthday order from oldest to youngest or however you choose.
- Fragmented sentences: Students will each receive a single word from a sentence. They must find other students to make a complete and coherent sentence. This can be somewhat time consuming given that depending on your sentence choices, there might be multiple ways to create a sentence but the caveat is that EVERY group must have a complete and coherent sentence so somewhere, some group will be missing something if it’s not done correctly. This takes teamwork within groups and across groups.
- Vocabulary cards/Stickers: For this activity, you will need vocabulary cards/stickers for different topics. Hand students a card or sticker as they walk in and ask them to form groups. You can plan out how many you want in each group by making sure they form groups with like items or you can tell them to create their own groups and then justify why the chose their groups. For example, if you use animal cards or stickers, they can be grouped by birds, dogs, cats, turtles, etc. or they could form groups on their own justifying them by saying: “These are all animals that fly” or “These are all animals that live in the ocean” or “These are all animals that are loud/quiet.” The second variation will certainly take longer but it will definitely produce some interesting results and may even surprise you with groupings you couldn’t have anticipated!
- Preferences: If you have a certain topic you’d like to introduce, you could have students be seated by their preferences and then further by sub preferences. This will not only introduce some good vocabulary but students and teachers will learn about each other in the process. For example, if I want to review/ introduce weather, I might have the students first create two large groups- one on each side of the classroom by them asking and answering a simple question like “Do you prefer the hot or cold weather?” Now, you have two large groups. Then within each of those two groups, they will subdivide by asking and answering yet another question like “Do you prefer the beach or the pool?” or “Do you prefer to be outside or inside when it’s cold?” After that you will have 4 groups. If you want to go further, you can by breaking down those 4 groups into 8 groups with further questions. Here’s what I might do: If they prefer the beach, break into further groups by asking “Do you prefer to stay on the beach and tan or swim in the ocean like a fish?” If they prefer the pool, ask “Do you prefer to float on a raft in the pool or play volleyball?” If they prefer to stay outside when it’s cold, ask “Do you prefer to ski or snowboard or have a snowball fight?” If they prefer to stay inside when it’s cold, ask “Do you prefer playing video games or watching tv?¨ This activity can be done for a variety of topics and can be tailored for how many groups you hope to have.
I hope that you have enjoyed some of these ideas and that you might use and/or share them. Either way, have a great start to a new school year! If you have some of your own to share, please do!