Elementary school-age students are a unique mix of intellectual growth, growing curiosity, and a desire to go, go, go. This makes classroom management in the elementary classroom quite different than middle and high school, to say the least.
This is where icebreakers come in. Icebreakers can be used in a variety of ways. Like the count to ten team-building game, the following icebreakers for kids provide an opportunity for students to relax after testing, refocus after recess or field trips, re-energize after lunch, or get to know one another at the beginning of the school year.
Research has explored the relationship between attention, temperament, and academic achievement. The research study cited indicated that “children’s attention and activity level were associated with children’s third-grade reading and mathematics achievement, and classroom emotional support was associated with children’s third-grade reading and mathematics achievement.”
Further, classroom emotional support “moderated the relation between children’s attention and reading and mathematics achievement” and clarified the importance of understanding “how children’s temperament and classroom emotional support may work together to promote or inhibit children’s academic achievement.”
Below are ten simple icebreakers for kids–well, elementary school students in a classroom setting more specifically.
10 Simple Icebreakers For Kids: Elementary Students Edition
1. Alphabet Name
Example: My name is Apple Anna, Bobby Banana
Students introduce themselves with a word that also shares the same first letter as their first name. Other students then have to repeat the name and the word of each preceding student as they introduce themselves.
2. Share a picture
In this icebreaker for kids, the student will bring a picture of who lives in their house and share. (Note: You should definitely take a quick skim of each picture before allowing the students to share.)
A great first-week-of-school activity is for students to bring in a picture of who lives in their house with them. If students don’t have access to a photo to bring in, you could have the class draw a picture of the people who live in their house. Some students may have more than one house to draw if they live in a family that shares custody of them.
Not only is this a way for students to proudly share who is in their family, it gives the educator a better understanding of what life at home is like for that student.
3. My favorite
This icebreaker is simple enough: Students simply identify something that’s ‘their favorite.’ (Younger or hesitant students might require prompting with stems like, ‘My favorite pizza topping is…’ or, ‘My favorite game to play with friends is…)
4. Pick a superpower
If they had a superpower what would it be, draw themselves as a superhero
Superhero stories are always popular. Give students a paper cut out of a child and ask them to decorate it as themselves as superheroes. On the back, they can list what their superpowers would be. It’s a fun way to see what is important to students and to learn about them in ways you might not easily get to otherwise. I had a student write that his superpower was to always have enough food. That helped me see that he suffered from food insecurity and was worried about having enough to eat. It might have taken me months to learn this but with this activity, I learned it the first week we were together.
5. “Something I like…”
In this icebreaker, your elementary-age student will tell the class something they like or that they’re good at.
Students often hear ways they need to improve, what they need to work on to get to the next level in academics or sports. That’s not inherently bad but it can mean that students do not recognize things they are already good at doing. Being a good friend. Sharing. Singing. Being kind. Dancing. Having them write down and share a skill they have can build their confidence exponentially.
6. Introduce a partner
In short, you pair two students up and they then have to introduce the other to the class. Students are assigned another person to interview then introduce to the class. This takes the pressure off of them to brag about themselves but teaches them to ask questions, remember information, and speak in front of others.
7. “When I’m a grown up…”
Here, your elementary students will share what they think life will look like when they are big.
Taking advantage of young students’ active imaginations, let them create what they think the world will look like when they are adults. They can draw, build with legos, create a story, or just make a list of the things they think their life will look like in twenty years.
8. Sense game: “I can see, smell, taste, feel, hear…”
This icebreaker for kids is an easy way to help calm anxious students down and learn about each other. For a calming activity, ask students to close their eyes and think of their favorite thing to see, smell, taste, feel, and hear. It helps ground students into the moment and into their bodies, quieting anxious minds. For an ice-breaker, students can share their answers with the class or with a small group.
9. Improve Something
Have a student improve something. It could be anything–a video game, sport, song car, school playground, or even classroom jobs.
Though not purely an ‘ice breaker for elementary students,’ asking students to select a classroom job and somehow ‘improve’ it–make it more efficient, more fun, simpler, etc.–can encourage open-ended thinking and creativity while giving students a chance to personalize the prompt for their own background knowledge.
Side note: Assigning daily jobs to students in the class helps them build responsibility and gives them leadership experience. Jobs can include line leader, caboose, turning off/on lights, pencil sharpener, paper collector, fish feeder, etc. Not every student needs a job each day but it is amazing how students can blossom with a little bit of responsibility entrusted to them.
‘Freeze!’ can be applied to any activity–lining up, writing, playing a sport, or even a quick dancing session before class begins.
This never fails with young students! Find some fun (clean) music, clear some space, and let them burn off energy by dancing. It’s great for their bodies and brains. You can even select music that goes along with the lessons you are doing that week, using different genres or from different time periods. When the music stops, the students stop dancing. Anyone still moving is out of the game.