Monday, July 16, 2012

Back to School: Building Classroom Community with Icebreakers!!!

Why icebreakers?
Icebreakers help to build community in the classroom- they are important when helping students socialize and connect with their peers. In addition, icebreakers promote and encourage cooperative learning/group work. They are great for pairing students and encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone. Most importantly, they can stimulate meaningful classroom dialogue. 

I personally love icebreakers because they: 
  • help students to get to know each other.
  • help to a create sense of comfort.
  • encourage cooperation
  • encourage students to communicate with the entire group- not just their "buddies".
  • help to build social skills
  • are great for creaing an environment conducive to promoting higher order thinking driven by student voice
Your Role

Students are not always eager to socialize and move around in a new setting. It is important that you (the teacher/leader of the group ) serve as an enthusiastic faciliator during each icebreaker activity. You should be willing to hop in and move the dialogue around  when necessary. Make sure that when you call on students to share out, you choose carefully. Try to avoid "putting someone on the spot". Here is a rule of thumb: If it is a general non-personal response, you might want to gently nudge a student to share out. When it is a more personal response, requiring a student to answer based on feelings or personal experiences, it is best to wait for them to feel confident/comfortable to share. The goal is to make not of the more shy students and begin pairing them in the future with the more outgoing students. Eventually (hopefully), they will begin to open up more. 

Icebreakers should be short (20-45 minutes). Typically, they should not run more than 45 minutes. If the students are excited and engaged, cutting it off keeps them looking forward to the next time you do icebreakers in class. I use icebreakers as "back to school activities" because it is a good way to get the students warmed up. I also use them throughout the year as team building/ community building activities. Here are three cassic icebreaker games that I have used in the clasroom for years! Feel free to download them : )  If you like them, head on over to my TPT store and purchase my, "Back to School: Building Classroom Community Two COOL Icebreakers!".