Virtual Icebreakers – Back-to-School with Distance Learning

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Virtual learning is not something we all thought would be happening, but it is new, real, and happening now! As summer is slowly coming to an end, it’s time to revamp some of our icebreakers for the beginning of school to make them ready for a virtual environment!

8 Virtual Ice Breaks for a Digital Back-to-School

The icebreakers may look a little different, but they are even more important to build that human connection and community. It is definitely true that students learn better when they like their teacher and when they feel like their teacher likes them!

Check out some of these virtual icebreakers for the new school year to start your year off right!

1. Make a Selfie

There are some amazing ways to use technology today and we know kids of all ages love to take a good selfie. Teachers of course can model by making their own first! This process can be as detailed as you want.

Start by having students use their devices to take pictures of themselves. From there you have a few options. First, you could simply have students insert their picture into a Google Slide and add images that represent them. Photos can be from their home or digital images that they find online. Each child could have a slide, and then you would have a great class project to build community!

Other options are using the Selfie feature on Flipgrid or using Canva to decorate their selfies.

If you have a Bitmoji classroom, it would be a great place to “hang these” and also help you get to know student names!

For information on how to create a Bitmoji classroom, take a look at this YouTube video or this blog post. Be sure to keep teacher sellers’ and clipart copyright in mind as you create and share these digital classrooms!

If you want to take this icebreaker to the next level, have students make inferences about the teacher or classmates based on their selfies!

2. Two Truths and a Lie (or a wish for younger kids)

This classic, getting-to-know-you icebreaker, can easily be done virtually!

Model the activity by making two truth statements and one lie about yourself. Students will vote to decide which is the lie!

Use pollingeverywhere.com, a simple polling feature, for students to vote. Google forms are also a simple way to see the results quickly!

Another option is to use Padlet for students to create their own two truths and a lie and have other students respond! Even better, jump on Flipgrid, do a video of your two truths and a lie, and have the students do one as well. They can share their videos with their classmates and have some fun while doing it!

3. Scavenger Hunt

Learn a whole lot about your students and the environment they live in by doing a scavenger hunt while at a group meeting!

A really easy version of this is using colors. Go find something blue, red, orange, etc.

Students can explain what they bring and it will give the teacher insight into how they live! Make it a race and learn student names as they bring their items back!

Another option is a show and tell. Each student could share something they have at home that they love. This would be a great community-building and sharing!

4. Roll a Die or Spin a Wheel to Select a Question

Number a list of open-ended questions, roll the die, and have students answer the question associated with the number that was rolled!

Use virtual dice! Check out this one on Google. A spinner would work too! Here is one called Wheel Decide.

You could do this in breakout rooms, also allowing for smaller groups to get to know one another. This could also easily be used to interview each other, collaborate, and introduce one another. Asking open-ended questions opens up endless possibilities when getting to know one another.

Depending on the age of the students, these would make great writing prompts to share or they could make drawings and snap a picture for you to save!

Here a few questions you could include:

Would you like a few more questions? Here are 67 to Build Community in an Elementary Classroom.

This one is so fun! Have students create 3-4 clues about themselves and have classmates use their inference skills to try to guess who!

Flipgrid has this awesome pixelate tool that works great for this activity. Go to the “Disco Library” and search for Guess Who! Other options include using Google Slides, Google Classroom question tool, or Padlet for a discussion board!

6. Write a Story

Another great icebreaker that could easily be done virtually is students writing a story together! Google Docs is great for this! Splitting up the class into smaller groups would be ideal. Start with a story starter or picture prompt! This gives you a great piece of writing to determine where students are in writing!

In fact, writing a group story is one of my 80 Sponge Activities or Brain Breaks. Many of these activities are great for small bits of time you might have while waiting for students to join you online. Most of them can be done virtually!

7. Time Capsules

Time capsules are pretty great tools to see how students grow and change through the year. Asking questions like, what is your favorite food or what is your favorite song are simple ways to get to know you students and fun to look at in the future.

Time capsules are also a great opportunity to do some goal setting to help students prepare for their growth for the year! Scaffold the goal-setting for younger students by providing sentence frames and templates. I have a free one you can download to use with your students.

Time capsules can be done in a few different ways virtually. Flipgrid videos work and can be saved to view later. Google Slides can be done with minimal setup.

If you want a simple time capsule with just writing, try Padlet and save it for the end of the year! This would be a great reflection activity for students!

8. Kahoot!

Kahoot is a great and easy game tool for students. You can create your own or use a premade Kahoot and kids love them! You can easily share your screen and students can split their screen to be in the virtual classroom and Kahoot at the same time!

Make one about you and see if students can match your answers!

Whatever icebreakers you choose, just remember this is an important part of our new school year, even when virtual! Choose tech tools that will help you build routines for the year and give your students a chance to try them without pressure.

Make sure to remain positive, roll with the bumps in the road, and have an amazing virtual year!

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