This year I decided to try a new "ice breaker" activity with my students to help get them interacting with each other on the first day. I handed out a 3x5 index card to each student in the class. The kids divided the card into four sections by making a line down the middle in both the x and y direction. In the top left they wrote their hometown and their dorm. In the top right they wrote their favorite subjects in school. In the bottom left corner each student wrote a word to end the sentence "I'd rather be...". And the most challenging part of the card was the bottom right: a random fact about yourself. Students did not put their names on the cards at this point.
When all the cards were completed, I collected them, shuffled the deck and passed them out randomly to the kids (only one person got his own card back all day; it was a lucky day!) Here's where the kids had to get up and mingle; they were charged with finding the person represented on the card. Once they found the correct student, I asked them to introduce themselves and talk about the facts shared on the card. My students looked around the room for a few moments, wondering if they really had to stand up to do this activity. I encouraged them all to get out of their chairs, mingle and begin the search for the mystery person described on their card. With a little prompting, my students stood up and began talking to each other. In about five minutes, the kids had all identified their mystery person. At this point, I asked all the students to write their names in big letters on the back of their own card.
The final part of this activity was to use the cards to find two other students in the class with similar interests. Each self-selected group had to have something in common, using the information on the cards as a launching point. As the kids divided up into groups, I checked in with them to learn what they had in common. One group of three boys teamed up because they were all the youngest siblings in their family. Another group formed because they all played musical instruments. Three girls formed a group because they all love the beach. I really enjoyed watching kids try to find common interests to form a team. Once all the students had identified a group with similar interests, I announced that this was their first lab group of the year. The teams each received a sample of a mixture — iron, salt, sand and rocks — that they had to separate and determine the percent mass of the mixture. They were excited to learn that their group was staying together for a lab project.
Over the next few days, I used the cards to practice the kids' names while they conducted their experiment. I took advantage of the information on the cards to ask questions about each student's interests and hometown. It was so nice to have a conversation starter to begin developing a relationship with each student.
On the first quiz at the end of the week, I used their cards to make a "Who Am I" extra credit question. Using the cards once again, I wrote a statement describing each student in the class.
I included a clue about myself as well. Everyone got at least their own clue correct on the quiz, but more importantly, the kids asked around to identify their classmates from the clues after the graded quizzes were given back.
Using this simple 15-minute get-to-know-you activity started the class off on a positive note. The students got a chance to learn about each other, and I laid the groundwork for a positive learning environment by taking time to meet each of my students.