The first day of school can be nerve-wracking for teachers as well as students. That is no less true if it’s happening virtually. While getting-to-know-you games and activities may be different in an online setting, they are no less important when classes are conducted virtually than when classes are conducted in person.
- Introduce yourself and clearly communicate how you want your students to address you:
Many of the best practices for an in-person class still apply to a virtual setting, and many first day of school activities can still be done in an online classroom. Scholastic recommends teachers write their name on the board or in another clearly visible place and this is true in an online setting as well. Make sure your name on Zoom or other meeting software shows what you want your students to call you.1
- Establish the rules for your online classroom:
Establishing rules and routines in an online class is just as important as establishing them in an in-person class. As some students may not have participated in online learning before or may have had a negative or confusing experience, make sure to be clear about expectations and rules from the beginning. Also, try to be consistent, but understanding, as students adapt to what may be a new environment for them.2 Use props and gestures when explaining expectations and encourage students to repeat gestures and important phrases. When showing what supplies students are expected to have, hold up the objects, and encourage students who have them to hold up their supplies to the camera as well. Asking what a student’s favorite color is and asking if they have supplies in that color can be a great way to both get to know your students and confirm that they are prepared for class.
- Review how to use the online platform with students and explain how to get your attention virtually:
Most students are used to raising their hands in class. This action may be adapted in a virtual classroom. Show students what they should do if they need your attention and teach them how to know when it is their turn to talk. Most meeting software has features that will assist in this by allowing you to highlight specific students while muting others. Testing and confirming students understand and know how to use these features can be turned into a game.
- Give students a tour of the virtual classroom:
Just as in a physical classroom, you will want to show students some of the things in their virtual classroom. This can include both features of the meeting software and decorations or props you may have. This activity can be a great time for a team ice breaker game as students can race to find things in the virtual classroom.
- Use get-to-know-you games and ice breaker questions to familiarize yourself with your students and vice versa:
A variety of other icebreakers are also well adapted for a virtual setting. Having some getting-to-know-you questions for kids prepared can help ease everyone into a fun first day of school. Make sure you answer the questions, too. Students are often curious about their teachers, so participating in getting to know you games can both model answers for students and help them learn about you.
Get-to-know-you games for younger or less fluent students can be as simple as showing them two toys or food items and asking which they prefer. Make these questions more complex for older students by asking them to discuss why they like something. The game “I’ve never/never have I ever” can also be adapted for students at this age. Questions can be chosen to focus on school or academic topics. In addition to discussing who has or hasn’t done or learned about something, students can also be prompted to discuss something they are interested in doing or learning. “Two truths and a lie” can also be used to get to know students and their interests.3 The first day of class is the perfect time to get students interested and excited about the school year. While this school year is less predictable than in previous years, there should still be some activities and topics that will excite and interest students.
- Ensure that students know how to review the lesson:
Make sure students have a good way to review any material from the class and know how to access it. Most meeting software has a way for students or their parents to rewatch lessons. In some settings, making additional documents with rules, expectations, and other information available can also be helpful.
- Get to know your students’ parents as they are your allies when teaching online:
As you are not physically present with the students, it can be especially important to involve parents or guardians with online education as they are the ones who can physically interact with the students and help them. Make sure parents understand expectations as well. You may want to involve parents in the icebreaker games and questions.too. This can also be an excellent way to learn what parents’ expectations are for the class and the school year.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so having an engaging and fun first day of class is an integral part of starting the year on a positive note. By using icebreakers and other get-to-know-you games, you can ensure that the classroom can still feel like a community even when you and your students are socially distanced.
Citations for Get To Know You Games & Questions For Online Teachers
1, 2 Shalaway, L. (n.d.). Tips for New Teachers: The First Day of School. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/top-tips-first-days-school-grades-1×965/
3 Friedman, J. (2020, May 26). 17 Get to Know You Games to Try this Year – Fun-Attic. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://funattic.com/get-to-know-you-games/
Lauren Krystaf has been teaching with ALO7 since 2017 and loves having the opportunity to teach English from anywhere with an internet connection. She enjoys traveling, reading, hiking, and spending time with her family.
Lauren has a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from SUNY Buffalo and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Drexel University. She also has a 120 hour TESOL certificate. Lauren is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Beta Phi Mu honor societies.