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How Teachers Can Make the First Day of School Less Agonizing

We all know what to expect the first day of school. Students slumped in their desks, eyes glazed as the teacher pours over the syllabus, droning over due dates and classroom etiquette. Some pupils even skip class, anticipating the one-way conversation will quickly turn dull. Fortunately, savvy teachers are delaying the stale first-day syllabus reading for something a little more appealing.

Icebreaker questions are a great way to engage students and get them excited for the semester right away. Here are a few examples to get you started.

What did you like or dislike about last year’s class?

This questions offers students a chance to share their previous classroom experiences without judgment, and help you cater to each classes’ specific inclinations. Do they prefer in-class discussions? Maybe they’d like more time to complete assignments or a greater focus on group work?

While some courses have strict curriculums, others may be flexible enough to accommodate your students’ suggestions.

What are your goals for this class/this semester?

This question may seem a little dry, but it offers students an opportunity to see the big picture and understand their place in the classroom. Be sure to tell them your goals for the year as well. After all, education is a two-way street.

What are your favorite guilty pleasure reality TV shows?

As far as icebreaker questions go, this is a silly one. But it’s a great way to excite students and get everyone talking. There’s no shortage of reality TV programs, so you are bound to get a plethora of different responses.

What are your talents and hobbies?

Let’s face it, students aren’t just students. They are individuals with lives outside the classroom too. Show an interest in where their interests lie and see what happens. So whether your classroom is filled with musicians, track stars or cooking aficionados, everyone is bound to feel warm and welcome when they are seen as a whole person.

If you could choose anyone, living or dead, whom would you most want to be like?

This can be an entertaining question because it allows students to share the qualities they most admire in celebrities, historical figures or even family members.

If you could go back and visit any time period, what time would you travel to and why?

Ever wanted to live in the groovy 1970s? Or maybe medieval Europe is more your style? How about New York during the 1920s’ Harlem Renaissance? This question is especially well fit for history classes.

What’s your quirkiest habit?

This icebreaker is totally open ended. Responses can range from putting butter on both sides of the toast to wearing yellow shoes on Tuesday. Join in the fun by sharing your quirky side as well.

What’s the weirdest food or drink you’ve ever tried? Did you like it?

Everyone’s tastes are a little different, and our understanding of what’s weird is entirely dependent on our experiences. Answers to this question will differ wildly and can be a lot of fun, especially when the whole class debates the merits of deep-fried Oreos.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Presto! You are now a superhero. While the ability to fly is undoubtedly the most popular, you will likely get some off-the-wall answers such as “cheesy vision” or “laser feet.”

What’s your favorite book?

This question is a classic for a reason. It’s super easy to remember and to answer. Especially useful if you are teaching a literature class.

What’s the most embarrassing song you really like?

We all have a favorite song that we don’t typically play when our friends are in the car. Nevertheless, it may be the karaoke tune you sing in the shower.

If you could teleport to anywhere on earth, where would it be and why?

Who wouldn’t love to travel across the globe in the blink of an eye? Cloud it be stunning pyramids of Egypt, the romantic beaches of southern France or the best doughnut shop in Los Angeles?

The More You Know

If you’re worried about classroom engagement, especially in response to some of the quirkier questions on this list, consider using software that sends the icebreaker questions to your students’ mobile phones. As your students answer the questions via their phones, all answers display on your main classroom screen so everyone can see each other’s responses and thus interact through their curiosities. Even though it sounds contrary to improving classroom engagement, polling in the classroom will keep your students engaged during class.

Now that everyone is a little more loose and upbeat thanks to these icebreaker questions, it will be easier to talk about the syllabus on day two. Here’s to a remarkable semester!

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