Back to School Activities: 5 Getting-To-Know-You Games

a secondary school student sitting at a desk with books and pencils

Back to School Activities: A great way to get to know your students!

One of the fringe benefits of school life – for teachers and pupils alike – is that each year represents a fresh start and back to school activities are great for getting to know a new class. Even if reputations precede a few, there is still the chance to make a strong first impression. Those first lessons can be intimidating though – again, for teachers and pupils alike – so here are some sociable ice-breakers that help all in a new class to learn a bit (more) about each other…

Two Truths and a Lie

Pupils might already be familiar with the concept popularised by the BBC comedy panel show Would I Lie to You. Someone has to tell three things about themselves, two of which are true and the other false. Others then get to ask questions, forcing the story-teller to elaborate on their fiction and non-fictions (give advance warning that it helps to make the untruths believable) before guesses as to which is the lie and the big reveal.

Could be played in pairs, small groups or even as a whole class. Identifying those who are good at fabrication might also prove useful when it comes to homework deadlines.

Speed Dating Debates

Speed dating might be a tad passé these days but it can still prove a useful concept for the rapid exchange of personal information.

Arrange the room so that pairs of chairs are facing each other and pupils take seats at random. Once paired, they are set a conversation topic. It doesn’t necessarily matter if this is school-related or not: ‘Love Island represents the pinnacle of television drama’ is as good as ‘School should be cut to a four-day week’ depending on the make-up of the class and what you want to discover about them.

After a set time (three minutes is a reasonable length for both participants to put some points across without falling silent), one chair moves a set number of places to the left and the other to the right, where they are confronted by a new partner and a new topic.

To disseminate learning, finish the session with every individual reporting back something that has stuck with them and the reasons behind it. This helps to ensure that equal emphasis is placed on the listening side of the speaking and listening process.

Catch Questions

Buy a mini-basketball (cheaply procurable from bargain stores across the country) and use a permanent marker and the space between the standard dividing lines to write eight short searching questions such as ‘Favourite subject?’, ‘Happiest memory?’, ‘Biggest fear?’ or whatever it is that you want to elicit. The ball is passed (with care) around the class. Whoever it is passed to has to answer the question in which their thumb rests before passing it along.

Name Planes

Another one of those back to school activities involving throwing. Whereas even a mini-basketball can do damage in the wrong hands, it would take a seriously raucous class to wreak havoc with the paper materials required for Name Planes. Both this and Catch Questions could be taken outside if the weather is fine and the space available, although it takes a relatively brave teacher to take a class of unknowns outside the comfort zone of the classroom.

Each person has a sheet of paper on which they write their name before folding it into a paper aeroplane. On your command, planes are launched across the room/schoolyard. Picking up the plane nearest to them, pupils write a question on one wing. At this point, it might be a good idea to warn them that they will be grounded if questions are inappropriate!

Again on your command, planes are launched, picked up at random and a second question written on the other wing. They are then launched one final time. This time, pupils pick up the plane, unfold it to find out who it originally belonged to, then they need to seek that person out and find out the answers to the questions set by others. Once everybody has fulfilled this task, they can report back to air control (i.e. you and the rest of the class) what they found out on their reconnaissance mission.

Superlatives

Among the less-common back to school activities, but certainly a good one. Split the class into smaller groups, ideally five to ten. If pupils choose their own groups then they naturally gravitate to those they already know best so you may want to assign groups at random.

Starting with easy categories such as height and age, instruct groups to arrange themselves in ascending order to show who is the tallest/oldest before asking students to agree upon categories of their own. For an extra challenge, have them order themselves without speaking, relying on body language only.

What back to school activities do you rely on? Let us know with a comment or reply on Facebook!

Subscribe to Beyond for access to thousands of secondary teaching resources. You can sign up for a free account here and take a look around at our free resources before you subscribe too.

You might also want to read: 
Back to School: How To Beat the Dread

Leave a Reply