10 Tips for Teachers: Creative icebreaker activities

Fun, quick and creative warm-up activities to kick off the new term & meet your new class

2 August 2022

It's back to school season and time to meet your new class! Why not try these simple icebreaker or tutor time activities? Taken from our Teaching for Creativity Taster Cards these icebreaker activities focus on your class getting to know each other (and you getting to know them!) while also setting up a learning environment that fosters creativity.

The new school year is a great time to start new routines and form new habits – so if you and your class enjoy these activities, you can continue to use them in different subjects and lessons throughout the school year.

For more Teaching for Creativity resources, check out our other Taster Card sets or our full lesson plans.

1. Reflect on summer while practicing collaboration

Use ‘Pause for thought’ to share reflections on the summer break creatively, with pupils dancing (or in the very least, listening) to a piece of music for inspiration. You will need to pick a song appropriate for your class - we recommend checking the lyrics and considering whether at their age they would respond better to a modern song - but some ideas are:

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2. Use this debate staple to set up class rules and spark their curiosity

‘Four Corners’ isn’t a new routine for most teachers, but it can be used in so many different contexts and really get students thinking. To use it for a framework to establish your classroom environment pose a topic such as ‘Talking in the classroom is disrespectful’ – this can lead to a discussion about when it is appropriate to talk in your classroom and when it might be unhelpful or rude, what respect looks like to your students etc. ‘You should do your schoolwork yourself’ could help students reflect on good times to work together or ask for help. If you are brave enough, you could try ‘Learning isn’t supposed to be enjoyable’ to hear what would make school engaging for them (and find out what your students really think about school!) – although that statement is probably one for a class you are more familiar with who are used to debate.

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3. Find out their hopes for the future to spark their imagination

‘There’s a First for Everything’ is a good way to hear about your students hope and aspirations, and for them to get used to sharing their thoughts with each other. You could use the example of the England women’s national football team winning the Euros for the first time this summer.

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4. Learn how your students handle challenge while meeting new classmates

If your students are new to each other, then activities like ‘Freestyle Portraits’ are great for getting over the awkwardness in a safe way – everyone’s drawings will look strange and the point is trying out something new and sticking with it, even when it is hard! You will get to see which students are perfectionists and who is already persistent. Give them simple topics to discuss with their partner while they draw, like their favourite hobbies, what types of books they like to read and why, or what a perfect day at school looks like for them.

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5. Try some team building while reminding them to have a growth mindset

Another well-known favourite, this card comes from our Early Years and Foundation Stage (EYFS) set, but it can be used for all ages - Primary, Secondary and even adults! Not only will your students get a chance to work together and remember that sometimes tasks need a bit of work to figure out, but you will be able to see the type of roles your students are adopting in this situation to help you plan seating arrangements, talk partners and future group work.

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6. Use dance to practice working together

‘Mirror Me’ is taken from one of our sets for SEND settings, however it can be used for all students and is a great quick way to warm up without having to talk - or think too much - if they are tired from an overwhelming first day/week back!

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7. Write some poetry while thinking about the year ahead

Use ‘Behind the Door’ to write some easy and quick poetry – ask them to focus on their door leading to the school year and what they want to see behind it. This activity encourages students to tolerate uncertainty while hopefully helping you all to get to know each other.

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8. Do some show and tell

This card is another from our EYFS set but again, with a bit of tweaking can be used of any age. For older students, they can make their own heritage bag as an easy first week homework – and then show and tell to their table / group / partner. Make sure to discuss afterwards what sort of things they learned about each other – was any of it surprising? Which objects sparked the most conversation?

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9. Get your students used to hearing each other’s opinions and asking questions

‘See, Think, Wonder’ can be used for literally any topic – the one below suggests a picture form pride, but why not try a photo of something that happened this summer? For example: the heatwave, the Commonwealth Games, a fan watching the Lionesses win, photos from the James Webb Space Telescope, the art exhibition at Hadrian’s Wall etc.

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10. Use teamwork to give their imagination a warm-up

After a summer of playing in the sun (or perhaps playing computer games very much out of the sun) your student’s imaginations might be a little rusty. Give them a jump start with activities like ‘Alternative Uses’ – a simple way to get them thinking again and remember how to talk and share ideas with peers. You can do this activity more than once with different objects too - they will get better at it the more they do it!

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For more Teaching for Creativity resources, check out our Taster Card sets and full lesson plans.