Icebreakers can be a hit or miss in the secondary classroom. And as a secondary teacher, it’s important to have effective strategies to make them a success.

We’ve all been there, scouring Google for ideas, only to have it fall flat in the first five minutes of class. But fear not, we’re here to help you plan a great first day of school. One that builds a strong classroom community and sets you up for success throughout the school year–no matter the number of preps you have.

Start off the Class Period with a Warm Welcome

One of the best ways to start the first day of school is with a warm welcome at the door. Greeting your students sets a positive precedent for the rest of the year. And it’s a great way to make them feel welcome in your class.

From the admin perspective, it also helps prevent discipline issues in the hallway. Your presence is enough to deter negative behavior inside and outside your classroom.

Lead with a Fun Icebreaker

Icebreakers should be fun and engaging. But they can often feel forced and uncomfortable, especially for high school students.

That’s why it’s important to choose icebreakers that allow students to share what they want about themselves in a way that’s comfortable and non-threatening.

“Would You Rather” Icebreaker in the Secondary Classroom

One example is the “Would You Rather” game. This game involves coming up with two different answers to every question. Have students stand up and move from one side of the room to the other, depending on their preference.

This game can be adapted to fit any content area, from FCS classes to English classes. For instance, in a foods class, you might ask students if they prefer cake or ice cream.

This game can also be modified to include pop culture references, such as asking about TikTok versus Instagram. If you want pre-made questions, check out this resource in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The benefit of this game is that it allows students to feel comfortable and engaged. (While also giving you insight into their personalities and preferences.) You can use this information to make strategic decisions about class projects and group work.

PRO TIP: include yourself in answering all the questions. If you’re having students move from one side of the room to the other–move with them. You can form instant connections and become more relatable this way.

“Draw a Line” Icebreaker for the Secondary Classroom

Another fun icebreaker is having students talk about their summer and draw a line to explain how it went. This can be a bit trickier, as some students may not want to share personal information. One modification would be to ask how their day is going instead.

This is a great way to get to know your students and start building a positive classroom community.

In Summary

In conclusion, icebreakers can be a great way to start the school year. They need to be engaging, non-threatening, and adaptable to fit your content area. By starting with a warm welcome and leading with a fun icebreaker, you can set a positive tone for the rest of the year. And get to know your students in a way that helps you plan for success. So, be creative, be adaptable, and most importantly, have fun!

Useful Links

We have all used and experienced some sort of icebreaker in our past, whether it was in a school setting or we are with faculty, but there are some strategies to make it more effective. I have had experiences where literally I have gone Google than I before, and I have searched out what I could throw together for the first day of school.

And then I cross my fingers and hope that it takes the entire class period. And then when I actually show. It takes five minutes. So today we’re going to be talking about some things that you can do to prevent that from happening so that you can actually planned out and you can have a great first day of school, but then also make it so that your.

Icebreaker. Isn’t just a filler, but is something that can build the community of your classroom. And then also allow you to get to know your students better, and that will help you set up your school year for success. So the first thing that we’re going to be talking about is to start your day overall, or your class period with a warm welcome.

I am very big on greeting your students at the door. I think it starts a great precedence that you are going to be welcome into your class. And then from the admin perspective, most issues as far as discipline or anything else happens during passing time in the hallway. So I am huge on getting as many adults in the hallways as possible because your presence just prevents things from happening.

But when you greet students at the door, especially on that first day. And then from then on out, they are expecting that and they’re looking forward to it because they may not get that anywhere else from any of their classes. So starting off with a warm welcome is a great way to start that first day of school.

All right. The next one is we’re going to lead into a fun icebreaker and I know like, I mean, they all should be fun. Quite honestly, you may have been in some that are not fun. And what usually makes it not fun is that you’re uncomfortable. It’s just something that you, you don’t know anyone in there. And the whole idea is to get to know people, but sometimes it feels forced and awkward.

And when you are a high school student, it feels like it’s like exaggerated. So my favorite icebreakers are ones that. Allow students to share a little bit of information with people, knowing that everyone in there is a stranger. So my favorite is to look at games that me and my children like to play at home, or even just me and my friends, and then adapt that to the classroom.

And the reason I like to do that is because they might be experiencing like the same icebreakers in every single class. So they could be doing that bingo thing in every single class. And I’m not knocking the bingo, but once you do it over and over and over again, they’re like, eh, you know, we we’ve been there, done that.

They start filling out randomly and kind of what’s the purpose. So here are some ideas that could change your perspective on these icebreakers. So the first thing. Giving you an example of like a game that I like to play that I’ve modified to fit my content area. And it is. Would you rather, the idea is that you’ve come up with two different answers to every question.

And then you have different sides of the room and you have the students stand up and they move from one to the other and you might have some students stand in the middle and it could be, it may not be that like, would you rather do one thing or the other thing, but maybe if you are teaching an FCS class, you’re teaching a foods class and you’re asking them maybe about their favorite dessert.

Do they prefer cake or ice cream? And so you can really tweak anything to fit what you are teaching or will be teaching and have students go from one side to the other. And while it’s just their personality.

And it’s just things that they prefer, they feel really comfortable in going from one side to the other and you can mix. All sorts of things. You don’t have to stick to your content area. You could throw in any pop culture. Maybe there’s some TV shows. Maybe you are asking TikTok versus Instagram. And there isn’t strategy that can go with this as well, because you could ask specific questions.

And I’m going to tell you later, and I guess I’ll just tell you now, but take some notes on what they are. Doing as far as, like, how are they responding? So maybe you have a question about whether you would rather be the leader in a group project versus you would like to just be someone on the team. And that can give you an idea of possibly the makeup of your class for later on.

So another thing that you could do is you could have students talk about how their summer went and maybe they are drawing a line and they’re explaining how their summer went. You could have some issues with students not wanting to divulge information because maybe someone went to Europe and someone else just sat in their front room the whole day.

And. They just don’t want to share that. But if you’re worried about something like that, maybe if you are teaching a class that’s later on during the day, or you’re the second day of school, if you’re on the block schedule, you could ask them how their day went and they could be. Hopefully letting you know whether like which classes they’re excited for.

So are they excited for science or English or they’re excited because they found out that their locker is next to their crush. They might not divulge that, but you could get some variety of answers, get to know the students, but still on a, a surface level so that they don’t feel uncomfortable getting to know you.

So the challenge that comes with this fun activity is I want you to think of something that you already enjoy. Maybe it’s a game that you really like to play, that you can adapt to your classroom experience. And I want you to think about. Different ways that you can do that. What would be fun? What could be fun?

What could be engaging? And then as you are planning your icebreaker, try to incorporate that. It doesn’t have to be some huge, like, get to know you. It can be simple, and then it makes it less stressful for you when you’re planning. And then it also then turns out to be less stress for your students. My next tip is going to be, to include yourself in that.

Icebreaker. So if you are doing the, would you rather make sure that you step to one side or another, because you’re going to be forging some connections and relationships with students. You don’t want to just be the observer. You want them to see you answering those same questions. So I always used to ask kids the most random questions and they didn’t have anything to do with engineering, but I would ask whether they preferred.

Doritos or like a potato chip. And I would always answer that. And then kids they’d be high fiving and like, yeah, you like the same thing we do or, oh, I can’t believe you like Pepsi over Coke. And it was just always fun and brought some lightness to it and then it allowed them to get to know me. Without me having to show them some PowerPoint, like showing through pictures of my children and things that I’ve done, that usually sometimes they’re engaged, but usually not.

I think they really enjoy having you part of the activity and part of that community. So anything that you do for your icebreaker, make sure that you include your. As a participant, because that will really help your students get to know you and you to once again, get to know your students. Okay. I already talked about this tip.

I let it out a little bit early, but observe and take notes. So take notes of who is naturally doing one thing or another, or what maybe what they’re choosing or possibly looking at the makeup of your class and figuring out. Which students are gravitating towards which students, as far as who’s friends with whom deciding do you want to have them sitting next to each other?

Do you not wanna have them sitting next to each other, kind of observe the basic makeup of each one of your class periods? You know, they are going to be very different from one another, but this is a great time for you to really see them kind of like out in the wild, because you haven’t at this point, really put any structure.

In place, although you could have already had a seating chart ready to go, but maybe you hadn’t. And this is just a really good time to see where their tendencies are. And then once again, if you do ask questions or if you do have some sort of activity that might lead you. To know a little bit more about them and what they know about your content area.

Also take note of that. All right. So here is my last tip and it is going to be about multiple preps and being a multiple prep teacher. So I made this mistake. A few different times. I’d love to say that I learned from my mistakes, but I had my favorite icebreaker activity and it was more of a collaboration activity.

It was called the Lego hotel. You may or may not have heard about it, but the idea is, is that I had a, a figure of a hotel or a house that I had made with Lego bricks. And then they were given the exact Legos to replicate. Hotel. And they had to figure out how to replicate that they had to work as a team.

And then we actually had a challenge where we would find out who could do it the fastest, and it is great. When you have a kid only in one of your classes now with an elective and with CTE, more likely than not, you could have a kid in one, two, or even three of your classes, depending on the number of preps you teach.

And once they’ve kind of like learned the secret to that particular icebreaker and that particular problem. Then they know it for the other times. So here is my suggestion. When it comes to teaching multiple preps is that you actually have a bag of tricks and you have a few different icebreakers or things that you can use, or you figure out ways to adapt the one activity multiple ways so that students are getting different experiences.

Every time they do that. So let’s review and sum up the tips for how to have effective icebreakers on your first days of school. So, first is start with a warm welcome. As you’re welcoming students into your class, make them feel comfortable before you do the icebreaker activity. So they’ll be more likely to participate.

Second, start with a fun activity that students will actually be comfortable in participating in not something that’s going to make them. Have to leave their comfort zone completely, but will help you get to know them a little bit more and them get to know you, which leads to the next thing, include yourself in any sort of icebreaker or activity that you use so that students are also feeling how you want to create a community in your classroom.

Next take notes as you observe how students participate. In these icebreakers make notes of who they are hanging out with, how they’re responding to things so that you can know what to kind of watch out for as the year progresses. And then finally, if you are teaching multiple prep, have different activities that you can do so that you can switch it up so that when you have that student who is in all of your preps, that they can have a different experience, even though there are different students.

But that they can really see the differences and that they won’t get bored and cause behavioral issues starting on that first day of school. And as we are leaving this episode, I want to remind you about the back to school live. Event that I’m going to be putting on. And one of the days we are actually going to go into this first day with more detail and you will actually map everything out so that you will be knowing what you are going to be doing minute by minute, depending on if you are doing a small class or a.

Block class. And then what that could look like in each one of your preps that is going to be one of the live trainings that we go over and how to make that first day super successful, and then also make it so it’s easy for you and doesn’t just completely wear you out. So that you need to sleep for seven days after that first day of school.

So make sure you click on the link in the show notes and share this podcast, or even that link to any other teachers that you feel like would benefit from a back to school event that is going to be specifically for multi prep teachers and specifically for CTE teachers, but share it with those teachers that you feel like.

Would benefit and I will talk to you next week.

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