Games provide a fun and effective way for new students to get to know one another at the beginning of the school year. The games can range in complexity from simply learning each student's name to learning detailed facts about each person. This also helps the teacher get to know each of her students while letting the kids have some fun in the classroom.
This game helps students remember each others' names while also improving their information retention skills. Grab a small ball and sit in a circle with the students. Say your name and pass the ball to your left. Have that student repeat your name and recite hers. When she passes it, the next student recites the two previous names and his own before passing. When the list starts to get long, encourage the students to help each other remember forgotten names. After the ball makes it back around to you, mix it up by tossing or rolling it to a random student. After he repeats your name and his own, he passes it to another random student to continue the activity.
Introduction Hot Potato
Arrange the students in a circle and grab a small ball. This game works well in conjunction with the "Name Chain" game. Explain that whoever has the ball gets to ask a question and toss the ball to a classmate, who answers the question about themselves. For example, if you start with the ball you could ask "What is your favorite movie?" and toss the ball to whomever you want to answer. After answering, the second student asks a question and throws the ball to another classmate.
Create a 5-by-5 grid, like those used to play Bingo. Get one unique fact about each student to populate each square, while labeling the middle square as "Free." The Introduction Hot Potato game works well for collecting these facts and lets you tie both games together; otherwise, have each student fill out a brief questionnaire to garner the facts. Pass a game board out to each student and have them interact with classmates to try figuring out who matches each descriptor. When a student finds the person described in a box, he'll have that student sign her name in that box. The first person to fill a row or column correctly wins the game.
After the students get to know each other a bit through the previous games, this one lets them freely interact with one another and have fun through a guessing game. Write each student's name on a name tag and attach the name tags to the students' backs, but give each student the wrong name tag. Pair the students randomly and have them each read the others' name tag. Each student gets to ask three yes or no questions to try figuring out whose name tag he has on his back. If he doesn't guess correctly after three tries, he switches partners and tries again. Once they correctly guess whose name tag they have, each student returns the name tag to the right person. When a student correctly guesses whose name tag he has, he may go around and offer hints to those still guessing.