The COVID-19 pandemic will likely put a different spin on the traditional "say your name and one thing you did over the summer" icebreakers. Some students might have complaints about all they missed out on, while others may have tales of new adventures they would have never embarked on had it not been for the lockdown.
But if you're ready to try some new "get-to-know-you" activities this school year, we have some suggestions that will help students connect and see what they have in common while giving you a window into their hopes, dreams, anxieties, fears, and even their academic skills. And you and your class will have a great time along the way. These fun back-to-school icebreaker activities for elementary school will do the trick, whether you're teaching in a classroom or remotely.
Fun Elementary School Icebreakers
1. Book Talk (Grades Pre-K-5)
A read-aloud of the right book can help calm first-day jitters and ease students into making friends. Try Pa Lia's First Day (Pre-K to Grade 3). Students will relate to Pa Lia's worry over her first day at a new school. In the first six pages, the author paints a vivid picture of how Pa Lia feels:
- "Her mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton . . ."
- "Her stomach felt like it was filled with a thousand fluttering butterflies . . ."
- "Pa Lia felt like a teeny-tiny minnow in a huge giant ocean."
Challenge students to describe how they are feeling on the first day using similes, just as the author does in Pa Lia's First Day. Tell students a simile uses "like" or "as" to compare two unlike things. For example, the author compares Pa Lia at school to a tiny minnow in an ocean. Have students complete one of the following prompts to help them write a simile describing their first-day emotions:
- My mouth feels like ___________ .
- My stomach feels like ___________ .
- The first day makes me feel like ___________ .
A couple other first-day-of-school picture books: The misadventures of everyone's favorite monkey in Curious George's First Day of School (Pre-K to Grade 1) will get kids giggling. A fairy's fun-filled experience in Fairy's First Day of School (Pre-K to Grade 3) will help reassure the littlest learners.
And here are some back-to-school themed picture and chapter books that are sure to get kids talking:
- Countdown to Kindergarten by Harry Bliss and Alison McGhee (Pre-K to Kindergarten)
- Rain School by James Rumford (Pre-K to Grade 3)
- Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break if You Want to Survive the School Bus by John Grandits and Michael Allen Austin (Grades 1-4)
- Guinea Pigs Don't Talk by Cheryl Taylor and Laurie Meyers (Grades 5-7)
- The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles and illustrated by Dapo Adeola (Grades 3–7)
2. Describe Yourself With Emojis (Grades K-5)
Invite students to introduce themselves using emojis. If you’re teaching online with Google Classroom or Zoom, students can share information about their families, pets, hobbies, and more using emojis in the text feature. See example below. No computer access? Have students design their own emojis.