Those first few days of middle school are awkward. New faces, new hormones, new anxieties. Middle schoolers grow up at different rates, and some reach social maturity a little earlier, making that awkwardness even more obvious. Your whole year will run more smoothly if your students break some ice right now. But kids find getting to know you games so cringy – they’re out of their comfort zones and feeling vulnerable and will do anything to avoid them. You know an ice breaker is important to give your new students an opportunity to build relationships and begin to work together, but you also know you have to protect their delicate pre-teen sensibilities.
Here are 8 Getting to Know You Games that your middle schoolers won’t find too cringy!
Two Truths and a Lie – In this game, everyone comes up with 3 statements about themselves, but only 2 of the statements are true. Each student reads their 3 statements and the other students guess which one is the lie. You can make this even less threatening to your middle schoolers by playing it in small groups of 3-4 students. The great thing about Two Truths and a Lie is that students can reveal as much or as little about themselves as they want. “I have a dog,” is fine, and so is “I live with my step sister.”
Getting to Know You Bingo – Create a bingo board with 25 boxes. In each box, write a characteristic that is likely to be shared by only 1 or 2 students in your class. Some good statements to write could be “Has 2 siblings,” “Traveled toa different country this summer” or “Has a pet other than a dog or cat.” Make a copy for each student and give them time to walk around and have each other write their names in a square that applies to them. I have a copy of Getting to Know You Bingo in my TpT store if you want to save some time.
Unique and Shared – I use this as a Bellringer on the school day when I first want students to work in lab groups. Once seated with their groups, I ask them to talk to each other and come up with 1 characteristic that everyone in the group has in common and 1 characteristic that each person in the group has alone. For example, a group might all be 12 years old, but each person has a different birth month.
Heads Up! This is a fun app based game. One person uses their phone to access the app and holds the phone up to their forehead so that the other people in the group can see what the phone says. The other people in the group give clues to the player to try to get him or her to guess what is written on the phone.
Line Up – In various versions of this game, students have to line up in some order, perhaps birthdate or height or alphabetically, without talking. The debrief afterward – “What leadership skills did you see today?” “Who had great communication?” – is the best part. Line Up is one of the 9 activities in my 1st Day of School Ice Breakers resource on TpT if you’re interested in saving yourself some time.
Would You Rather – I play Would You Rather probably once a week as a Bellringer with my students. They love having the opportunity to voice an opinion without vulnerability. I have a pack of 180 Would You Rather questions on TpT that are organized according to theme.
Escape Room – I can’t think of anything that builds teams more quickly than an Escape Room. My kids beg for them, and they work on the first day of school just as well as on the last day. Try a simple digital escape room that encourages students to work in groups and can be completed in under 20 minutes. Three of my favorites are The Disappearing Professor, Who Stole the Owl’s Nest, and The Pet Shop. An alternative might be to design your own escape room (digital or with a locked box for each group of students) using clues around your classroom like the location of the safety equipment.
Rock, Paper, Scissors – Pair up students. Each pair plays 3 quick rounds of rock, paper, scissors. The winner moves on to play against another pair’s winner. Keep going until you have one champion and put that person’s name on your white board for 24 hours under a giant “RPS CHAMPION” title.
What Getting to Know you games do you play with your middle schoolers?