Planning for next term? Help your students get to know each other.
Any secondary school teacher knows how important helping your students get to know each other is. Moving into secondary school is an exciting time. Students get to experience a whole new environment with the potential to make lots of new friends. However, as we start to think about the next term and plan our ‘Back to School’ activities, we need to consider the impact of Covid-19. There is little doubt that social distancing, wearing masks and everything else that has transformed our society over the last 12 months will still be with us next year. Not only will the dynamic of the classroom continue to look different when we return to school in September, we also need to consider the impact of the last year on our incoming students. Last year was full of disruptions to your student’s social development. Most of your incoming students had little to no new social interactions during the last year. Skills-focused transition programmes have never been so important to help bridge that social development gap that young people are experiencing. The thought of going into a new school and meeting lots of new people in an unfamiliar environment can be overwhelming. Playing fun and engaging activities to help your students get to know each other can be hugely beneficial to their development and mental health.
Here are 10 quick and easy social-distance-friendly ice breaker activities to help your incoming students get to know each other, help them work together, and establish communication and collaboration skills.
Tell a collaborative story with your classmates! Have all the students sit in a circle. Start with an opening line such as ‘Once upon a time’ and have the students add to the story, one by one. Make sure to remind your students that the story needs a beginning, middle, and end.
This is a great teamwork activity that has the whole class listening to each other and collaborating to build a story from start to end.
Describe a friend.
Ask the students to get into groups of 2. Give them a few minutes to chat. Ask them to answer the following questions about their buddy:
- My new friend’s name is …
- They are ________ years old.
- Describe what they look like (choose 3 words):
- My new friend likes to …
- My new friend does not like to …
This is a quick and easy exercise to help your students get to know each other. We created an activity sheet that you can print and hand out to your students. Download to activity pack below to get access to it.
Pair up your class and give each group a piece of paper and a pencil or other drawing utensils. One team member is the drawer, and one is the describer. Have the describer choose a place (for example their house or bedroom). Then, have the describer describe the place and the drawer has to draw it. The drawer should not show their drawing to the describer until the end.
This is a fun, creative exercise that promotes active listening and communication.
Charades is a popular activity that gets the whole class involved and working together. Have your students put their own spin on it by acting out something that they did over the summer. When the class guess, have the child talk a little bit about what they did.
What do we have in common?
Divide your class into groups of 4-5. Tell them that they need to find out three things that they all have in common. Have them chat and discuss as they get to know each other. At the end, each group should present what they found in common to the rest of the class. If anyone else in the class also has that in common, they should let the presenting group know. The more obscure common facts, the better!
Learning names game.
Repetition is a great tool for helping students to remember their classmate’s names. Have everyone stand in a circle. You (the teacher) stand in the centre of the circle and say your name while doing a funny dance move. Have the whole class copy your move while saying your name. One by one, everyone in the class should go to the centre of the circle to say their name and do a dance move.
Solving a maze is a great teamwork activity. Divide your class into 4 groups. Have them nominate an explorer. Project (or copy) one of the mazes in the activity pack below onto the board. The explorer should go to the top of classroom and put on a blindfold. Place them at the start of the maze and have their teammates direct them to the end. The team members need to tell them which way to turn and when to start and stop. Time each group to make it more exciting and take away points for each time they hit the edges.
This activity requires a lot of teamwork and great communication skills. Make sure to remind the explorer to tell their team if their instructions do not make sense and ask them to phrase them in a different way.
Solve a problem together.
Divide the class into groups and set them a problem. You can choose big societal problems, for example, ‘How do we end world hunger?’ or more fun scenarios such as ‘You are stranded on a desert island, how do you get home?’ Have each group come up with a solution together and present it to the class.
If you run this exercise with your class make sure to keep an eye on the groups to check that everyone is contributing. We know that at the beginning of the year it can be difficult to assign groups evenly. You may not be sure who in the class are the most confident and who are shy. If you feel that some students are taking over you can implement a round robin approach to discussion. Explain to the class that each group needs to sit in a circle. When someone thinks of an idea, they each need to make a comment one by one until everyone has had a say. They can then vote on the idea as a group.
Another great teamwork exercise, playing a scattergories game will get your students thinking creatively and working together. Divide the class into teams of 4-5. Each team is given a random letter. They then have to work together to fill in the categories with things that start with that letter. For a list of categories to hand out to your class, download the activity pack below.
Ask each child to finish this sentence: ‘I believe…’ There should be no restrictions put on this, have your students write down whatever comes to mind first. If your class needs some guidance, give them varied examples so as not to focus them on one way of thinking. For example, the end of the sentence could be, ‘I believe that I am a kind person’ or ‘I believe that I will be an astronaut when I grow up’ or ‘I believe in aliens’! Divide your class into groups of two and have them explain to their buddy what they wrote. The goal of this discussion is for each member of the class to find out why their buddy wrote down what they did.
Download 'Getting to know you activity pack'
Download a free activity pack to use with your next students in the new term. Download now and be prepared for the return to school.
These are some examples of quick and easy ‘getting to know you’ activities you can run with your incoming students. If you are looking for a more in-depth programme to help your students develop teamwork, communication and creative thinking skills, Magical Leaders is the perfect programme for your class. The Magical Leaders is a peer led programme that teaches 21st century skills in a fun and engaging way. For more information on the programme and details on how you get bring Magical Leaders into your classroom, visit the Zeeko website today.
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