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Icebreakers to Get Back Into School 

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Back to School

Written by Courtney DeYoung, Registered Behavior Technician and Applied Behavior Analyst at Manhattan Children’s Center. 

When I was younger, I used to love the first day back to school following a nice, long break. I was able to tell my teachers of all the fun things I did and goals I may have for the upcoming year. As we kick start the new year and return to our classrooms, many of our students are filled with the same joy as they return to their classroom with their friends and teachers. How can we utilize this excitement and channel it into a lesson that will actually help our students in the long run with maintaining friendships, engaging inappropriate conversations, formulating long-term goals, and utilizing technology outside of the classroom? A great way to engage our students in discussing their break is running an icebreaker activity with the students.

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What’s an Icebreaker?

An icebreaker is a facilitated exercise intended to help students form groups, interact with peers and help the students “warm-up” in a group setting. There are many different ways to approach icebreakers. Icebreakers can be as simple as drawing your favorite animal and explaining to the class why you love it so much or something more personal where the student is required to interact with all their peers one by one.

Icebreaker: Bingo

Digitability has created a comprehensive bingo icebreaker that encapsulates the material in which the students have been familiarizing themselves with throughout our curriculum. We will begin by telling the students, “We are going to participate in an interview activity where you will ask each other questions.” You will then hand out a bingo board to each of the students and explain the instructions,

“With your Bingo card in hand, you will be moving around the room looking for someone who matches a description on your Bingo card. Once you have matched the person you are interviewing to a statement on your Bingo card, you will move on to interview someone else. Someone may not sign your card twice until you have collected a signature from everyone else.You will then prompt the students, “We will have 10 minutes to collect as many signatures as you can. Remember, once you get a signature, find something new for the next square. Stand up with your card. Begin.”

This type of activity promotes independence and peer interaction in a regulated setting with the support of the teachers in the room if they are needed. Many of the spaces on the board discuss general technological activities such as texting with friends, using social media, watching a movie, and liking something online.

Free Icebreaker Resource

Download this icebreaker activity to do with your students.

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These are all concepts that have been incorporated into the Digitability curriculum and the students have been familiarized with over time. By having the students go up to one another we are preparing them and providing them with the skills for social interactions that they will face in the world outside of their classroom.

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Icebreaker: New Year Resolution

New Year Goals can be great to discuss whether you are starting a new school year or coming back after winter break in a new calendar year! For the New Year’s resolution icebreaker activity, we are encouraging the students to think long-term. We will instruct the students, “Use your Goal Setting page to set goals that you would like to achieve in the year. You will also think of ways you will be able to track your progress.” This activity helps us identify what our students want for themselves and how we can help them achieve their goals moving forward. This activity can be applied to our curriculum or to personal goals that the students have for themselves. Digitability provides material that can be altered depending on the needs of the students within the class.

Icebreakers in the Real World

These icebreakers are more than a fun activity for back-to-school. Icebreakers shape us for the real world by helping students with self-monitoring, goal setting, accepting feedback, interaction with peers, appropriate social interactions, and communication skills. When we utilize icebreakers, we are encouraging independence. We facilitate appropriate interactions within the classroom that can be transferred into the world outside the classroom. Most importantly, we are listening to our students, their highs, their lows, their passions, the things they want to do for themselves, and who they want to become. We teach them to communicate the things that matter to them in an accepting, supportive environment where they will then become self-advocates outside the classroom.

About Digitability

Digitability is an award-winning comprehensive life skills and transition curriculum that continues to be recognized as an innovative solution to the unemployment crisis facing a large — and growing — population of those with disabilities, such as autism, intellectual disability, Down syndrome and more. Students graduate with a work-ready portfolio and the skills to showcase their experiences, as well as a self-advocacy plan for any workplace. Teachers access an easy to use system that reduces planning and progress monitoring time.

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