Here are 15 quick classroom games, timefillers and icebreakers you can use to get your students excited about learning, get their brains and bodies moving before the next lesson, or when you want to start your school year with a bang.
2 players of any age use their strategic thinking skills and just a pen/pencil and paper in this quick and quiet icebreaker to see who can claim the most Doritos!
The first player puts around 30 dots on a sheet of paper at random places.
The other player starts the game by drawing a straight line from one dot to another. The first player then draws a straight line on another two dots; can be different dots or using one of the dots of the other player.
Players take turns drawing lines which do not cross over any other line and form triangles, or ‘Doritos’, with no dot inside them. When a player completes a triangle, using three of their straight lines or in combination with the other player (cheeky!), that player writes their initials inside it.
When no more triangles can be made, it’s time to count how many triangles each player has completed. The player with the most Doritos wins.
Pebble Jar Subtraction
2 players of any age use their subtraction skills to see how many pebbles it will take to make a partially filled jar of water overflow and win the game.
Add water to two clear jars until they are about two-thirds full. Place a jar on a paper towel in front of each contestant and a pile of little pebbles in the space between the two jars. Place a deck of cards face down next to the pile pebbles, with the face cards taken out and explain that Ace equals one.
Play begins with each player taking a card. The player with the highest card will subtract the value of the opponent’s card from theirs and place that number of pebbles in their opponent’s jar. For example, the higher card is a 10, the lower card is a 7; so the player with the 10 will place 3 pebbles in the opponent’s jar.
Keep playing until one of the jars overflows and makes the paper towel wet due to too many pebbles inside the jar.
Heads Down, Thumbs Up
This is one of my favorite timefiller classroom games from my elementary school days.
Make sure everyone puts their books away and sits quietly. Select three students to come to the front of the class.
The rest of the class must now fold their arms on the table in front of them, with thumbs sticking up towards the ceiling and their heads resting on their arms. Eyes MUST BE closed.
The three students at the front of the class will now walk around the classroom and gently press down the thumbs of one person each and quietly return to the front of the class.
Tell the class to open their eyes and lift their heads. The three students whose thumbs were pressed down will now guess which of the three pressed their thumbs down.
If a student guesses correctly, they can now take the presser’s place at the front of the class. If not, then the presser stays put. After all three have guessed and the new presser team is finalized, you can now play another round of this fun classroom game.
To settle the class when your students are getting a bit too noisy, tell the class you are now going to play one of the coolest and most secretive class games ever called ‘Dove’s Message.’ But for this game to be fun, everyone needs to sit quietly.
Tell them that you want everyone to pass on a very top secret message to each other.
Use a low voice to whisper a short sentence to the first student. Add a little fun into the sentence and it will get them giggling as they pass it along.
The student will then whisper the message to the student sitting next to them, and it continues along the line and around the whole classroom until it’s passed to the final student.
When the last student receives the message, ask him or her to speak it out loud for the whole class to hear. This sentence will likely be incredibly hilarious and nothing at all like the original.
Now reveal the original sentence to the class and compare it to their version. Note which parts of the story remained the same, which parts were changed and which details were omitted.
Go for another round with a new sentence and pass it the opposite way round the class.
Who Am I?
Who Am I is a quick, simple, and hilarious icebreaker for kids. Organize a pile of post-it notes or self-adhesive labels for each child in your class.
Write the name of a famous person – someone the kids will know – on the post-it note. This can be current sportsman, actor, musician, TV personality, celebrity or a historical character. The list should comprise a good mix of men and women.
While preventing the kids seeing the names, stick a post-it note on the forehead of each child.
One by one, they must then ask yes or no questions to the class to find out the identity of the person on their post-it note. For example, Am I male? Am I over 40? Am I in a band?
Remember: Only yes or no questions can be asked!
If the answer is no, their turn is over and the next student can start asking.
If the answer is yes, they can ask another question and keep going until they get a no, or guess who they are.
Keep playing until everyone has guessed.
Find The Lie
Hand out a large sheet of paper to each student and a marker pen.
Tell them to draw three images that reveal information about themselves on the piece of paper. BUT … two of these bits of information must be true while the other one is a lie.
For example, they can draw a boat to signify they own a boat (true), the flag of Japan to signify they have traveled to Japan (true), and a dog to signify they have a pet dog (lie). In fact, they own a cat!
Tell the students to stand up and to hold their pieces of paper in front of them and describe what the images are.
The rest of the class will listen and then see if they can guess which statement is a lie.
To begin with, you are the executioner and students are the guessers.
Draw simple gallows on the whiteboard and write out all the letters of the alphabet above the gallows. Think of a phrase and mark out little lines for each letter of each word within the phrase. Separate words with a forward slash. Then student will take it in turns to guess a letter.
If the letter they guess is in the word then you write the letter above the corresponding line in the whole phrase that it would appear, and remember to cross out that letter in the alphabet above so students know it has been guessed already.
If the letter isn’t in the phrase then you draw a body part on the gallows. Start with the head, then a line for the body, then the left arm, then the right arm, then left leg, and finally, right leg.
Students continue guessing letters until one of them states that they can solve the phrase, or unitl all six body parts have been drawn on the gallows.
If a student can guess the phrase correctly before the person is hung, then that student wins and can come up to the board to draw their own phrase for the next round.
Declare to the class, “You are on holiday on a deserted tropical island for a whole year! You can take only three non-essential items with you. What would you take and why?”
Now, in addition to the essentials, the children must think about three items they would like to take with them to use on the deserted tropical paradise.
You can make the items more specific by telling the students that one item must be a favorite music CD, another a favorite beach toy and finally, one luxury item, which of course can’t be a plane ticket to leave the island and go home! There will be electricity on the island so technology is not a problem.
Give the children a piece of paper and crayons to draw their three items for a few minutes.
After making their three items, they will now share their choices with the rest of the class. You might decide to showcase what you would take with you to get everyone started.
Pick & Perform
Pick & Perform is a hilarious drama game that’s a bit like charades.
Kids select a piece of folded paper from a hat or a bag and silently act out the scenario given on the paper. The rest of the class has to guess what scenario the player is acting.
To make this a really fun class activity, make sure you write down some wacky, wild and wonderful scenarios. Here are a few examples you can use:
– You just found $20 on the street
– A bee is flying around your head and won’t go away
– You are washing a car
– Your best friend just invited you to go to Disneyland together
– There’s an ice cube down your back and you can’t get it out
– You just sucked on a really sour lemon
Kids have 30 seconds to perform their routine with as much enthusiasm, full-body movement, facial expressions and exaggerated gestures to help the audience guess the correct scenario being performed.
Increase the laughter by getting 3 students to act their scenarios at the same time. The audience can guess the scenarios one by one.
TIC TAC TOE
Draw a tic tac toe grid on the whiteboard and split the class down the middle to make two teams.
Ask the first team a question on any topic of your choosing. For example, you can ask a vocabulary question, an arithmetic equation, or a problem solving riddle.
The team can confer among themselves to think of the answer. One member of the team will respond.
If correct, they can enter an X or an O in one of the free spots on the tic tac toe grid and it passes to the other team to answer a question.
If incorrect, then they miss their turn and it now passes to the other team for their question.
Continue in this fashion until one of the teams manages to get three X’s or three O’s in a row from left to right, top to bottom, or diagonally from corner to corner.
As a variation, you could make a set of nine flashcards and stick them on the free spaces of the tic tac toe grid facing the board. A team will then come up with a strategy to select which card they would like to answer and try to complete their row.
We’re The Same But Different
Split the children into groups of four or six depending on your class size. Make group selection easy by counting off 1, 2, 3, 4 as you go round the room. This also ensures you have groups of children with a diverse range of backgrounds and upbringings.
As a group, the children must come up with 5 things that they all have in common. For example, they could be all born in the same country, all like watching the same TV show, all have the same hair color, etc.
One at a time, ask the groups to tell the rest of the class the five things they have in common.
Now repeat the group exercise within the same groups, but this time they must find 5 things that is unique to each person. This is harder than it sounds as at least 2 kids in each group will have the same things in common.
After 3 minutes, ask each group to report what they found different from each other to the rest of the class.
Pairs Memory Game
To play this kid’s memory game, all you need is a deck of playing cards, one for each pair of students.
Take out all the face cards from each deck, leaving you with 40 cards for each pair of students. Shuffle the cards and place them face down on the desk in front of the two students in five rows of eight.
Student one will randomly select one card from the set and turn it face up. Then they will select another card and see if it matches the same number as the first card (different colors don’t matter).
If the numbers match, then that student keeps that pair of cards.
If they don’t match, then that student turns the two cards face down in their original position and the second student repeats the steps.
Play continues back and forth until all pairs have been found.
Count how many pairs each student has and declare that student the winner.
Create a deck of cards with the names and addresses of imaginary school children from around the world written on them.
Be as creative as possible with the names and locations as they can be useful in reinforcing content from a geography or foreign language lesson.
Alternatively, if you are an ESL teacher looking for ways to teach English practice to students, write the names and addresses of imaginary people in USA, Canada, UK and Australia.
Hand out a card to every student along with fancy paper, an envelope and colorful pens.
With their new friend’s details, the kids will write a brief letter to their new pen pal introducing themselves and their country. Encourage the children to draw little pictures if they want.
On the board, give an example of how the address should be written on a letter and the envelope so the kids can learn the correct way to post a letter.
Finally, kids should seal their letter in the envelope and hand them in to you for “posting”.
You could team up with a teacher in a foreign country and post the letters for real so that the kids get a response and start learning about new cultures.
Time capsules are great quick class activities for kids to commemorate an event or to capture a moment for the future.
First find a location to bury the time capsule and ask your students to design and create a commemorative sign to place at the site of the time capsule.
Now ask them to think of who will open and look at the items in the time capsule. This will help them think of what to include.
They should also think of things that will help the people in the future know what it was like to live during this period as well as items that include the current date like newspapers or something similar.
The kids can write letters to school children of the future and say hello as well as put in their favorite toys and fun school stationery.
A few photographs and video recordings on DVD or memory card are perfect to remember who put the time capsule in the ground. Hopefully the technology in the future will be able to play memory cards! Ask the kids to think of alternatives just in case.
Now place the time capsule in a dug out hole in the ground and set a date on the sign for when the time capsule should be excavated and opened.
Name That Theme
Name That Theme is a quick classroom game that requires great perceptive skills.
Select one of your students at random to leave the classroom and wait just outside the door.
Meanwhile, you inform the rest of the class that they must act out a certain theme. Make sure the student outside can’t hear what you tell the rest of the class.
For example, tell the class to imagine that they are now 100 years old and to move and walk around the class as a person of this age would.
Now call the student standing outside to return to the class and try to guess what the other students are doing.
Other fun examples include walking like catwalk models, playing in a rock band, and for extra hilarity, being a teacher.
Give the student three guesses. If correct, or after three incorrect guesses, the class will stop and a new student will become the guesser.