Starting middle school can be quite the nerve wracking activity for a child. For most, it marks the first time that they are exposed to broad changes in their educational environment; the curriculum, students, teachers and buildings are all new. The first day of middle school presents a great opportunity for ice breaking activities in order to calm the students' nerves and to get them in the right frame of mind for learning.
Prior to the beginning of school, it is not uncommon for teachers to send a letter to the students and their parents detailing the basic information for the upcoming academic year. Along with this information, include instructions for the students to place a few key mementos in a lunch bag, such as favorite CD, baseball card or special photo. Using candy in the classroom works too. Allow everyone to grab as many pieces as they like, but let it be known that they have to share a bit of information about themselves for each piece they take.
Go beyond the mere sharing of names, as it is often a mere formality without any activity to cement the introductions. Instead, conduct name games. One activity, similar to the game Memory, begins with each child's name on her desks. After performing verbal introductions, have the children turn around their name labels, and call on a student to attempt to recall names from a certain area of the classroom; the person who recalls the most names wins.
Adding a physical activity on the first day gives kids an opportunity for extra recreation, making the transition from summer freedom to fall coursework that much easier. Plus, it helps reinforce the children's memory of names and facts about each other. Try playing a simple tossing game; each time a student gets thrown a ball, he has to reveal his name. The next round, it becomes favorite soft drink; the next, a favorite movie, and so on. Using this method, almost any traditional physical game can become an icebreaker game.
Activities that encourage friendly competition and teamwork get the students interacting with each other. Try a scavenger hunt. Scatter objects throughout the room or school, and then make copies of a list to hand out. The key is to divide everyone into groups and not have any individual hunters, since the point is for them to get acquainted. Have prizes on hand for the teams that finish the fastest; giving them incentive reinforces the principle of teamwork.
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