21 Social Distance-Friendly and Virtual Icebreakers Students Will Actually Have Fun With

21 In-person and Virtual Icebreakers for Students That Are Actually Fun

Many kids are entering classrooms more nervous and apprehensive than ever before. The 2020/2021 school year is scary for most of us – students, teachers, and parents alike. Everyone is returning to learning after a traumatic six months of learning to live in a pandemic. There are still so many uncertainties and unknowns. Building a school community is going to be extra important this year. Here are some suggestions for virtual ice breakers and in-person getting to know you activities to help build connection no matter what your classroom looks like this year. 

Quick activities for in-person or virtual icebreakers:

Sometimes you need a quick activity to use as a brain break or transition. These are great opportunities to help students get to know each other.  

1. How are you today? Emoji style!: Invite students to share how they’re feeling today with an emoji. Remote learners can post the emoji in the chat. Students meeting in person can draw their emoji on paper and hold it up. (This is also a great option for students in a video classroom.)

2. Tell a story about something within reach: Have students share a few sentences about an item they own that is within reach. This might be a quick story about their shoes, pencil, bottle of water, or lunchbox. Encourage them to get creative and make up a wild story if they want!

3. 30-second dance party! Tell students that whenever they hear music, everyone needs to hop up and dance! This is fun for students virtually and physically in your classroom. 

4. Favorite memes: Give students a couple of minutes to find and post their favorite meme to the chat. (Share some guidelines for what makes a meme inappropriate first.) If the students are with you in person, have them act out their favorite meme. 

5. If I had a million dollars: Ask students what they’d buy if they had a million dollars.

6. Virtual high fives! Instruct students to find students they can see they have something in common with, such as they’re both wearing Nikes, have on green shirts, or wear glasses. Tell students to point out the similarity to the fellow student and then exchange virtual high fives. The high five should be touch-free even if students are in person.

7. Collaborative story: Throw out an intro such as, “Once upon a time,” and have students take turns adding to it by each adding a sentence. 

8. Two truths and a lie: Students share two facts that are true about themselves and one lie. It is up to everyone else to guess the lie. 

9. Take a joke break: Encourage students to tell their favorite joke.

10. Gratitude break: Go around and each share something you are grateful for. The benefits of recognizing gratitude include less aggression, stronger relationships, better health, and improved mental function.

In-person or virtual icebreakers that be turned into deeper learning opportunities

Getting to know each other can lead to exciting learning opportunities. Use the interests you discover to guide curriculum. Classroom activities and virtual icebreakers can be the beginning of extensive lessons.

11. Intro speeches: Ask students to prepare a speech about themselves. They can share info about their interests, pets, family, goals, etc. These can be presented in person, live in a virtual classroom, or as a video upload.

12. Five nouns: Have students use five nouns (or adjectives, verbs, etc.) to describe themselves.

13. Collages: Have students make collages with 5 – 10 photos that best describe themselves.

14. “Me in a word”: Students choose one word that describes them best and create a presentation around it. This could be artwork, a poem, a song, etc. that explains why they chose the word. 

15. “What do we have in common?” Ask questions as prompts for students to find out how much they have in common. What’s your favorite sport, color, food, TV show, musical artist, etc.? What’s your birthday month? How many siblings do you have? What kind of pet do you have? Extend the in-person or virtual icebreaker into a math lesson by graphing the responses and making charts. 

16. KWL: Put the tried and true KWL method to use! Ask what do you know about your classmates? (We’re all in third grade. We all have the same teacher.)  Then ask what do you want to know? Give students options for exploring those questions. Then review the favorite or most surprising things they learned about each other.

17. Rank it!: Have students rank 10 things from best to worst. Use the activity to get ideas for further discussion and lessons. (For example, students can also chart or graph these answers.) Suggestions for things to rank include pizza toppings, holidays, Disney movies, and vegetables. 

18. Where do you wish you were? Have students share where they’d be if they could be anywhere right now. Use the answers to inspire research and writing assignments. 

19. Question of the day: Pose a question each day for students to write their responses. (Younger students can draw their responses instead.) They can then share their answers with the whole class, in small groups, or with a partner. Here are some example questions: Who is the funniest person you know and why? What skill would you like to learn this year and how can you make that happen? What food could you eat every day and how would you prepare it?

20. Introduce a classmate: Have students team up in pairs to interview each other. Brainstorm questions to ask in advance. Give students time to conduct their interviews. Then they introduce each other to the rest of the class.

21. Show and tell: Show and tell is great for all ages! Give students notice so they have time to show up to class with their items.

Make sure you also participate in these activities whether they are in-person or virtual icebreakers. Your students need to get to know you as well in order to build connection. Engaging with students in a personal way shouldn’t be limited to the first week of school. Keep the exploration going all year. Kids learn best when they feel safe, and connection is a keep component of that. We can all use that sense of community and connection even more than usual these days.


21 Social Distance-Friendly and Virtual Icebreakers Students Will Actually Have Fun With

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed., an editor at Bored Teachers, is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She's been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga. Connect with her at rachael.m@boredteachers.com
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