Back to School: Break the Ice
Get to Know Your Fellow Classmates
Back to School is a three-week series here on Asmodee, exploring great games to get you, your kids, or your students ready and excited for the coming school year.
In this first article, we will get started with some icebreaker games, perfect for introducing students to one another in their new classrooms, after-school programs, or residence halls. Then, next week, we’ll dig into some educational titles, encouraging children of all ages to master their knowledge of notable events in history, learn all about famous folks who did amazing things, and even explore the untold stories that lie in each student’s own imagination. Finally, in the last week of the month, we’ll pick out some games for those moments when you need a little break, but want to keep your mind sharp, get to know your friends better, or get on your feet for a bit.
For Students of All Ages
The first day of school can always be a little bit intimidating, especially if you don’t know too many people. Many teachers have amazing strategies and games for easing that tension, giving students an opportunity to get some face time with the others in their class. To shake things up a bit, try this Spot It! spin on the old favorite Rock-Paper-Scissors icebreaker.
Give every student in the class one Spot It! card, instructing them not to look at it and to find a partner in the class. It’s alright if you have an odd number, the group will flex and change rapidly! In each pair, the students are tasked with flipping their cards simultaneously and finding the matching symbol between them before their opponent does. The student who finds the match first then takes their opponents card, becomes that pair or group’s champion, and the other takes on the role of cheerleader going forward. Each champion then dashes around the room in search of another champion to face, and the process begins again. As each champion progresses, their group of cheerleaders will grow exponentially until there are only two champions left, half of the class cheering for one and half for the other. When all is said and done, your class will have a Spot It! champion for the day and everyone will know each other just a little bit better! Another bonus: this shouldn’t take more than five minutes, but if the students are enjoying themselves, there’s nothing stopping you from playing again and again, or playing throughout the year.
With over two dozen Spot It! variants, we have different options available for every classroom, and you can choose whichever one works best for you! Spot It! Alphabet and Spot It! Numbers and Shapes are perfect for young children who are still learning the basics, while Spot It! Hip has a silly pop culture theme to humor older students. If you’re in a Spanish class or teach at an immersion school, we even have Spot It! Spanish, which helps students practice matching symbols to their Spanish words.
Elementary to Middle School
Another icebreaking option is Dixit, the artistic and creative word-to-image association game. To play, one player draws a card and chooses a short phrase or sentence to describe the card. The other players then each secretly choose a card from their that may also match the description, placing them facedown on the table. Then, you shuffle the cards, flip them, and everyone in the group votes on which card they think was the original. If everyone gets it correct, the original storyteller doesn’t get any points, so it pays to be crafty and subtle. If you submitted a card that receives votes, however, you steal some points for your own.
Traditional play of Dixit supports six players, but if the desks in your class are sorted into pods or rows, you can include the whole class by creating teams and using a projector to display the cards. One team becomes the “storytellers” for the round, and each other team submits a card for the round. For voting, each team can elect a spokesperson or switch off amongst themselves. This will give each team a chance to discuss the reasons they think it is or isn’t each card, get some low-pressure experience speaking in front of the class, and develop smooth lines of communication with the people they will be sitting with all year!
High School and College
With older students, you may want to dive into a deeper game experience, and this one will work especially well for smaller classrooms or dorm hall meetings. Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow is a social deduction game, where up to eighteen players each take on the identity of a werewolf or a townsperson, quietly establishing secret teams. The goal of the game is for one of the two groups to eliminate every player in the other group. The werewolves learn the identities of the others on their team when they wake up in the middle of the night and decide on a townsperson to eliminate, but the less informed townspeople have some tricks up their sleeves as well, with a variety of special abilities. Werewolves is a great game to develop camaraderie between students or residents who don’t already know each other or aren’t otherwise well acquainted. It is in each player’s best interest to defend their teammates in an attempt to save their fellow werewolves or villagers from in-game death.
Time to Hit the Books…and the Cards
The sun has begun to set a little earlier, the air is starting to feel a little bit crisper, and stores are busy stocking their shelves with pencils, notebooks, and locker accessories. While you’re filling up your backpack or filling out your lesson plans, don’t forget to include some fun, social, and educational games. Not only are the products listed above great for groups, but they are also portable, affordable, and they’re a great way to step away from the books for a bit and develop the skills and relationships that you can’t get just anywhere else!