Starting Again: A New Year, A New School, A New Adventure, and a Few Icebreakers

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Come Tuesday, my new adventure at a new school officially begins as students pour into my classroom at Lanier High School. Last spring I announced my intention to change schools and take a new position. I’ve spent the last five days preparing with my new colleagues for a new school year, and so far almost everything has been amazing. I’m working with some incredible educators and administrators, and there is a certain excitement in the air around the school’s upcoming focus on academies and project-based learning. Pedagogically, I couldn’t be happier about what this year could bring. I’m mindful, however, of what it will take from me personally to step up and take on not just the role of teacher of students but also a leader of fellow educators. Even beyond that, my work with our local community will be critical to the growth and sustainability of my academy. I’m excited. This year will test my mettle and at times my resolve. I can already see, though, that I have people to lean on who are just as excited as I am. Inside today’s post, I’m simply going over what I’m using for my first day icebreakers as well as inform you, my reader, of what my academy is looking for since I’m hoping someone out there might have some great connections I could connect with this year. Continue reading

Time to Break the Ice

Tomorrow is the first day of school. As Shakespeare has so eloquently put it there will be “the whining schoolboy with his satchel/and shining morning face, creeping like snail/unwillingly to school.”  (Not much has changed in 450 years.) I have had a few students and teachers tell me they aren’t ready to go back quite yet. The way I see it you can’t stop the first day from coming so you might as well embrace it. And embrace it I will.

The first day can be a bit awkward. Students are present but not always there; everyone is nervous and uncertain of what class will be like for the year; teachers have to go over the mundane nature of the course syllabus, and the list goes on and on. Inevitably, someone has to break the ice and get the party–I mean year–started.

So in honor of educators everywhere looking to start the year off right, here are some interesting and unique ice breakers you can use in class this week (or in the weeks to come if you’re not starting school quite yet):

Octopus Pyramid Build
Builds: Communication Skills, Teamwork
Supplies: String, Rubber Bands, 10 Solo cups per group
The How: To play, you’ll need to make ‘the octopus’ first. cut six to eight strand of string that are about 6″ each and tie them to a rubber band in a circle. (You’ll repeat this for every group you expect to have.) Have students in groups of six each take one of the strings attached to the rubber band. Students must now work together to grab solo cups with ‘the octopus’ and build a ten cup pyramid. The first group to assemble a pyramid wins.
Wrap-Up: One great way to conclude the ice breaker is have the winning group explain how they they pulled it off and ask other groups what held them back. I like to use this activity as a way to talk about team work and communication.

Yarn Web
Builds: Understanding, Connections
Supplies: Spool of Yarn
The How: Have students stand in a circle, or oval if you’d like, and have one student start with the spool of yarn. You can do this a couple of different ways, but usually I come up three different questions students can ask each other and answer. The questions should  be interesting and unique so students get to see each other in a new light. The first student answers any of the three questions and then tosses it to any one they want in the circle then they ask the person who catches the spool a question. After answering, that person holds on to their part of the yarn and tosses to to someone else and asks a  question. This continues until each person gets the yarn. The result should be a very cool looking web between all the students.
Wrap-Up: I like to conclude this activity by pointing out how the web physically connects us and that we have some interesting similarities. I also try to get feedback from the students about something interesting they learned from the other students.
Twist: You can also have students answer just one question and each person has to remember the previous students’ answers.

Mystery Solvers
Builds: Communication, Teamwork, Problem Solving
Supplies: Get everything from this link: Peter Pappas 
The How: This activity was just shown to me by Suzie Boss of Edutopia. All the directions are on the link above, but basically you randomly split students into groups of five or six and give each student in a group five to six clues. (Each group gets all the clues for the mystery) The students in the group have to work together to solve the mystery through communicating the clues they have.
Wrap-up: I’ll actually use this for the first time tomorrow. I plan on concluding the activity by talking about the keys to collaboration in a group and the importance of different ways of problem solving. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I hope you can find one of these useful. To all those teachers and students starting school this week or next, best of luck, embrace the inevitable, and have some fun. Cheers!