On the first day of school, excitement mixes with nerves as a new group of students comes together. In middle school, establishing a sense of trust and community is especially crucial to creating a positive, safe setting for learning. Icebreaker activities can help students get to know each other and begin making your classroom a comfortable environment.
Now Playing In Theaters: Your Life
Nearly all teenagers have favorite movies, actors and music. To bring their enthusiasm for entertainment into the classroom, ask them to take a few minutes to brainstorm what the movies based on their lives might look like. They can identify the genre, cast famous people in the roles of themselves and their friends and state what song is playing over the opening credits as the lights go down in the theater. Students can then introduce themselves by sharing their movie ideas with the rest of the class.
Show and Tell Remix
While Show and Tell is typically known as an elementary school activity, middle-schoolers will welcome the chance to talk about themselves through this old favorite. For homework, give students a paper bag with a list of items inside, such as a family photograph, a memento from summer vacation, a lucky charm and gift from a special friend. Students must then assemble these items in their bags and bring them to school the next day. You can then sit in a circle on the floor and have each student show their items to the class and tell the stories behind them.
The Great Student Scavenger Hunt
In middle school, social cliques are often well enough developed that getting students to talk to different people can be challenging. Make a handout with a variety of facts that could be applied to students in the class, such as "Speaks another language," "Went to Florida" or "Has a cool collection." Then, send them throughout the room to find people who fit these requirements and write their names next to them. Each student's name can only be used one time, forcing them to talk to as many students as possible. You can then discuss their findings as a class.
Interview a Classmate
Randomly pairing up students can also help them get to know their classmates. Before class, assign partners for the icebreaker activity and have the pairs sit together. Then, ask students to brainstorm interview questions for their partners. These might include their favorite kinds of music, any pets they have, what activities they're involved with at school or what their favorite subjects are. The students can then take turns asking each other their questions. As a class, they can each introduce their partners to the group and share the responses to their original questions.
Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.