The first days and weeks of school can be exciting and terrifying, all at once. Arming yourself with a few “getting to know” you exercises can help ease you and your students into the next school year. Below we have listed some ideas contributed by you, our readers. If you have an Icebreaker Idea to share, visit our Contributor’s Page.
First Day of School
For Kindergarten students, have each child draw a picture of their first day of school.
~Submitted by KinderArt®
Ask the children how they arrived at school (car, bus, walking, train, subway, etc.). Graph the results on the chalkboard.
~Submitted by KinderArt®
Ask students to take off one of their shoes and place it in front of them on their desk. Students then write a paragraph to describe the shoe (color, shape, material, etc.). Students might wish to draw a picture of the shoe as well or instead. Collect all the descriptions and have the students put their shoes back on. Later in the day, ask students to take of a shoe again and place it in the center of the classroom for all to see. Then hand a description to each student (be sure students don’t get their own descriptions back). One at a time, students read the description and then try to find the shoe that matches the description. When they get it right, the owner of the shoe puts up their hand and the student who matched the description with the shoe, hands it back to its owner.
~Submitted by KinderArt®
If your students can print their names this is a great activity:
- I give the students a piece of tagboard long enough to print their first names on.
- After they have printed their names I have them cut it into puzzle type pieces. (Not too small!!) I usually say 5 pieces are enough.
- The children then rotate around the room reconstructing each other’s names.
This is a great activity to use to learn spelling or word wall words as well.
~Submitted by: Deanna
A pictorial version of consequences which helps students value one anothers artwork.
- Get large A3 paper and fold into 5 sections, label each section head, shoulders, arms, legs, shoes/feet – photocopy enough for everyone in the class.
- Then get each person to draw the relevant thing in the section, fold and pass it on.
- At the end post the results on the board and discuss the outcomes.
I always find that everyone ends up really laughing and relaxing with one another.
~Submitted by: Sue Bradshaw
All About Me Book
I ask my kids to fill out a mini “All about me” book.
- The front page has a birthday cake and they draw on the candles to represent their age.
- The next page is a a blank picture frame to draw a picture of their family in.
- Then in the bottom it says. I have ___ sisters and their name are___________ same for Brothers.
- My Dad’s name is and my mom’s name is.
- I have a pet, it is a ________ and it’s name is____.
- The last page is a picture of a few crayons and I ask the kids to color them their two favorite colors.
It is a simple book for them to do and I can use it as a reference book for the first couple of weeks. The kids love it when you remember things about them so I can just read up on them and use my knowledge to talk to them about them and their families.
I am a preschool teacher to 3 and 4 year olds and this works great for me.
~Submitted by: Denise
Do the Art Dance
- Hand each student a few scrap papers.
- Give each student different colors and media to choose from.
- Play a few seconds of strange sounds and music and keep switching the songs.
- Tell students they need to keep up with you and at the same time choose a color that reminds them of the sound they are hearing and draw a line to represent it as well.
- I demonstrate it first so they don’t feel intimidated by the strangeness, and I tell them if they hear something funky they need to dance too, instead of using their bodies, dance with their hands!
I do this with every 1st class!
~Submitted by: Kellie Marz-Mele
- I make three shoe templates: high heel, cowboy boot and sneaker.
- Kids become shoe designers – they trace a shoe and decorate it with yarn, markers, etc.
- We look at the shoes and talk about fashion design.
- They LOVE it!
~Submitted by: Lisa
Pass Around is a great icebreaker. Students get in a circle around the art tables. Each has made a small 5X5 frame (or I make them before class. Each student has a piece of drawing paper with their name on the back of the paper. They have 10-15 seconds to make one type line on their paper (wavy, zig zag, curved). No line can go off the paper. After 10 seconds is up I yell, “pass.” The student has 10 seconds to pass their paper to the student on their left and they again put one line of some type on the new piece of paper in front of them. Every 10 seconds the class says ‘pass’. I usually count out loud for them. This keeps going until you see the page being covered fairly well. Say “stop” and each student has to retrieve their own paper. The student then takes their frame and finds the most interesting section out of their paper and crops it down to fit the frame. The design is then colored in and they have an instant, nonobjective, modern piece of artwork. They love the excitement and what they end up with. I have used this with 3rd grade to 8th. Always a hit!
~Submitted by: Janice Allen
I have the students draw self portraits on the first day of class. Kids love to look in the mirror and they have fun trying to draw themselves. It is always a fun way to get to know each other and ourselves!
~Submitted by: Jennifer
Have children sit in front of a long mirror (like those found in many preschool classrooms). Have them sit close enough that they can touch the mirror. Provide an assortment of paints for the children to use and ask them to paint themselves, right onto the mirror — they would paint hair where they see their hair, paint eyes where they see their eyes, etc. Once they have painted their self-portrait onto the mirror, take white 9×12 construction paper and press against the mirror. The self-portrait images will then transfer to the white paper and they turn out so precious!!! They children love to see how their self-portraits turn out — and parents think that they are hilarious!!! Laminate, as these are keepers!
~Submitted by: Beth Benson
I do this with the older students. Put newspaper, tape and scissors on the tables and tell the students to make a hat out of the materials. The hat must be designed so that it represents who they are. For instance: You could try to make a baseball cap if you like sports; You could make a hat that looks like a tree and has branches if you like nature; etc. Give them around 15 minutes and then have a fashion show where they have to tell why the hats represent them. You can also partner the students up and they can make hats for each other. This is a fun activity to shake off the cobwebs. For the older kids, you can play catwalk music too and they can do a model walk. They get really goofy with it. It’s fun.
~Submitted by: Elizabeth Beeson
- Students pair up and interview another student then tell the class about the person.
- Students write several facts about themselves without writing their name. They then are instructed to crumple their paper and they get to have a “controlled” paper ball fight for a few minutes. When the teacher says time is up, they grab the closest paper ball and take turns reading and trying to guess who the person is.
- Students play a game called two truths and a lie. They write down three things about themself, two that are truthful and one that is completely made up – they read their three things and the class tries to guess which one is not true. The teacher should go first with this game to demonstrate how it works.
~Submitted by: Melissa Corry
The children are seated around a table. Each child is given a piece of paper with the name of a school related object or activity printed on the back. A wide array of art materials are scattered in the middle of the table (markers, crayons, water colors, glue, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, etc.) When instructed, each child turns over their piece of paper and begins to create the image described on their paper. They may use any of the art supplies. Music is playing while they begin to create. After 20-30 seconds, the music stops, and the instructor says, ‘freeze!’ At this point, each child puts down the art media which they were using and passes their paper to the child on their right. The music resumes, and each child looks at the new word on the piece of paper which they were passed and adds on to this new creation. The process continues until each child has added on to each creation and the piece of paper returns to the child with whom it originated. At the end, each child holds up their completed creation, and the children cheer each other for their efforts. This is a favorite activity of my students!
~Submitted by: Bonnie
I discuss lines with students: straight lines, zig-zag, curvy, dash lines, etc. I have visuals to show them. Next, I have them stand up and I tell them we are going to play follow the leader. I am the leader and they must put their magic finger in the air and as we go around the classroom we must touch with our fingers all the lines I have discussed with them. I will say, “Oh here is a curvy line on this picture on the wall,” as I will trace the curvy lines with my finger. Then, we all take turns leading the rest of the group through these line gestures. The students really enjoy the movement and describing to eachother the lines they are touching as we walk around the room.
~Submitted by: Jill Hartsell
For name tags for my fourth graders, I provide large blank index cards.
I have the students lightly draw a border (1″) around the index card.
They then write their names in cursive in the middle.
The border is then separated into fourths (with each fourth hugging a corner).
I then have them draw these four different things:
1. their family
2. what they want to be when they grow up
3. their hobbies, interests, sports, etc.
4. what they did over the summer (camping, vacations, etc.).
The kids worked a long time on these, using colored pencils only. When they were done, we went around the room and shared our name tags and talked about what was on them. I then had them laminated and used them all year long.
~Submitted by: Mary
(For primary students) Take students outside if the weather is still bright and play parachute games. For example, lift the parachute up and yell a student’s name. Then you and that child run under the parachute and switch places. Next, the student whose name you called calls a peer’s name and changes spots with that student, and so on. The rules are: you can not call a student’s name who has already been called, in order to give everyone a turn, students who are running to exchange places may also give each other a high five as they are passing by.
~Submitted by: Luisa
Is it Art?
With my older students, grades 6-8, I have them fill out a student stats card with various information on it so that I can get to know them better. I then have the students work in groups as they look at laminated art examples by such non-traditional artists as Meret Oppenheim and Donald Judd, and I ask them to write whether they think the example is art – and why or why not. We then discuss their thoughts as a class and I share my definition of art. Students are then free to look at some of my own art that I bring into the room.
~Submitted by: Kathy Gross
Three = Jump!
Children stand up in a circle and I give them directions to follow:
When I say 1, it means ‘walk around’
2 = stand up in one foot
You can say the directions as you want, for example: 3, 1 ,2 or 2, 1, 3, etc.
Students just have to do what it is expected.
You can also use letters instead of numbers, or use animals, shapes or colors and you can change the directions.
For instance, red = hop, blue = run, green = stop. In this way you can notice what they already know and you can lead them into a ‘following directions’ routine. I have tried this several times and they really enjoy it!
~Submitted by: Andrea
What is Art?
I ask ‘What is art?’ and instead of the students answering with words, they have to draw their definition. Afterwards, we have a discussion about what they’ve drawn, and how their picture represents their definition. It encourages creativity, and the idea that there is no right answer – it’s different for everybody, and that’s okay!
~Submitted by: Alison
Art Room Scavenger Hunt
Before the first week of school, I write down the various art materials and furniture in the room. I then create a checklist of these items and when students come in, it’s time for a scavenger hunt. Students have to have other students sign their sheets to confirm that they found the item. This is a great icebreaker because:
1. It gets students to talk to each other.
2. They find out where everything is in the art room.
There are none of those ‘Where’s the trash can?’ questions.
~Submitted by: Sarah Monge
My Favorite Things
As a new teacher I plan on having students draw a picture of themselves and include their favorite things. Younger students can use crayons, older students can use markers and colored pencils. Students then share these at the end of class and write their names on them. This allows me to see what students enjoy and where they are developmentally and skill-wise and what modifications I need to make to upcoming lessons.
~Submitted by: Michele
Draw Me! (this is a great lesson to introduce yourself)
On a piece of copy paper students draw a funky frame and divide up the frame with lines to give it a stained glass look. In the center of the frame have the students draw you. Have students focus on every detail of you (hair and eye color, jewelry, socks, shoe, etc) Students are really into this and are focused. Plus if you send it home with them, its a great way to introduce yourself to the children’s family.
~Submitted by: Jennifer
On the first day of school/summer camp, I have the kids partner up and get to know each other. Once they have found out a few things, I have them stand up and talk about the other person. It goes something like this: ‘Their favorite color is orange. They love dogs. Their favorite cartoon is Sponge Bob and they can eat ice cream for the rest of their lives. I proudly present to you… Nicholas!’ I encourage them to cheer and go crazy. They love it and it helps me get to know them too. 🙂
~Submitted by: Channing
In order to lighten up the mood after reviewing the rules and procedures, I like to play the ball toss game. Prepare a beachball with different questions on each color. You can really use any soft ball that you have room to write on. Example questions are – “What was your favorite then you did this summer?” “What is your favorite art project you’ve done so far in school?” “Who’s your favorite sports team?”. Toss the ball to a student – the student must say his/her name and then answer the question that is facing them. Then they can throw the ball back. The teacher must repeat back each student’s name before throwing the ball to the next student. So, at the end you’ll have to say all the students name in a row. It’s fun and an amazing way to put names and faces together.
~Submitted by: Molly
For the first lesson, students design the front cover of a sketchbook they will use for the rest for the term/year. The image could be drawing or painting a self portrait, a favourite animal or toy, sport they like etc., or just patterns they choose.
~Submitted by: Vicky Mckay
Get in Order
If its a small class, give them each a number. Students then have to put themselves in numerical order without communicating verbally or holding up their fingers. This can also be used for shoe sizes & calender months.
~Submitted by: Samantha Bourd
Treasure Hunt of a Different Kind
This is another take on the treasure hunt. To prepare, I divide a piece of paper into 20 sections. In each section I write examples of places students may have gone or descriptions that might describe them. Some of the questions may be: Find someone who has been to Disney; Find someone who’s favorite color is red; Find someone who has 3 siblings; Find someone who knows who Picasso is; etc. I make enough copies for all of the students in the class. The task is then to have the students find someone who fits each box without doubling in any boxes. They have the person who fits the description write their initials. I let each student use their own initials once and they may include me in the hunt. I always have an “art related” prize for the one who finishes first. Of course you can shorten the time needed by reducing the number of questions to 10 or 15. I have found this works with student in 4th grade on up pretty well.
~Submitted by: Julie
Show children the magic of mixing secondary colours from primaries: Have 6 clear plastic beakers set in a circle. Have children add drops of food colouring in red, yellow and blue to 3, leaving a clear one between. Then have selected children then combine drops of red/yellow, red/blue and blue/red to the remaining beakers between. The resulting orange, purple and green should bring ooohs and aaahs! If doing this outside, give the children some straws and add a little dishwashing liquid to the beakers. They can then have a turn at blowing bubbles from the beakers, creating pastel shades of the tints.
~Submitted by: Julie Duell