This is a great question that probably many teachers are asking as they begin a new school year.
The Professional Development area of the Thinkfinity Community has a discussion on icebreakers The specified item was not found. which you may want to read. It refers to ways trainers can engage teachers to use Thinkfinity, but some of the suggestions refer to Thinkfinity resources which are suitable to use as ice-breakers for students of various ages.
I have 2 activities that I used with high school students that would also be good ice-breakers for 8th graders. I used to get a beach ball or some small ball that would not hurt people or property and let the students toss it to one another. The person with the ball had to make a statement about himself/herself that was either true or false. Then the rest of the class had to guess if the person was telling the truth or not. I asked them to try to think of things that were not obviously true or false. That was a fun way for students to take turns introducing themselves.
I also used a scavenger hunt format with each student having a copy and all students moving about the room trying to find students who matched the questions. The students would have to enter the appropriate student name and complete the information in the question. I would ask questions like--
Who has traveled to a country in Europe?
Who was born in a state other than where you presently attend school?
Who has worn braces on your teeth for at least one year?
Who say the movie (insert a name)?
Who has won an award for entering a contest?
Who has a dog for a family pet?
Who has at least 50 friends on Facebook?
Who owns an ipad?
Who prefers downloading books and reading them on a Kindle or Nook ebook?
Who sends 20 text messages on your phone in a day?
Who is participating on the school soccer team?
Who works on Habitat for Humanity houses?
I'm sure you can think of questions that target your classroom students. My students always enjoyed this activity and it took at least one class period to finish. Then we had a second day to share information. It's amazing how much the students learned about each other and this helped build team spirit among the class members. It is a great activity to use the first 2 days of school when you are getting to know the students, class periods may be shortened due to long homerooms, or students don't have textbooks yet.
Hope some of these ideas help jump start your school year with your students.
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Darlene, I realize that you’re an English teacher, so the suggestion I included below won’t fit exactly, but perhaps you could modify this idea for your classroom—share and analyze an excerpt from a novel you loved when you were in middle school but that they may not cover in class, or a piece of your own writing from that period in your life, anything that will tie into the content you might teach down the line but that also starts the process of sharing ideas and experiences…
For anyone teaching history/social studies, a teacher shared with me a fun history-based ice breaker for elementary and middle school students that you might like to try. The first is an icebreaker between the teacher and students, and the second is meant for the students.
At the start of the year, the teacher brought a document or artifact from her own life (her favorite was her 4th grade report card) and asked the students to tell her anything they could about the person who owned it. Using the report card, the kids could say the basics, including her name and where she went to school and when, but they also pointed out character traits (some common ones were “I bet she was nice; her teacher said she worked well with the other students” or “oh, she didn’t spell very well.”) Since the teacher went by her married name, the kids didn't realize they were talking about her (there is, I think, the possibility of the conversation veering critical or silly, but she kept is short and positive). When she revealed that the report card was hers, they had a nice laugh, but also realized they knew a little bit about her—and, because she had shared something about herself with them, she was suggesting to them that she was the kind of teacher that they could share things with, too, and that she was going to make a safe space for them.
She also used this as an opportunity to introduce the concept of a primary source. After this activity, the class could talk about what constitutes a primary source, the kind of information they can find from different sources, and the kinds of questions they ask to better understand it and its context.
The teacher then asked the students to bring in one primary source from their own lives as homework. This was anything the students felt comfortable sharing—a photograph with their family or friends, a letter, a favorite game or possession, etc. She then paired the students, had them exchange sources and asked them to examine it and determine anything they could about the other person from the source. The pair could discuss, then tell the group what they learned about each other.
So, in the end, the class felt more comfortable with the teacher, got to know each other a little more, and learned some basic skills in primary source analysis in the process!
I use the "Truth or Lie" icebreaker and the students really get actively involved. I make sure that everyone says their name loudly when they "share" their information. It is best with groups less than 25.
Materials: each person needs a piece of paper and a pen/pencil
1. Divide the group into two teams.
2. All participants are to write down three facts (two truths and one lie) about themselves on a piece of paper. Encourage them to write really fun facts about themselves. (allow about 5 minutes)
3. Then the first team sends their representative forward and faces the other team.
4. The student reads out the three facts and the other team is supposed to guess which one of the facts is a lie.
5. If the team guesses correctly, they score a point. If not, the representative’s team scores the point.
6. The team with the highest score after all participants have gone forward wins the game.
Edutopia just put out a great resource that includes ice breakers using digital tools, called Back-to-School Guide: Jumpstart Learning with New Media. Might be worth a look!
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