Set a friendly tone in your classroom with these 30 “Get to Know You” games perfect for back to school or when welcoming a new student.
Welcome back to school! Your primary students are so excited to get to know you because you take the time to get to know them. You know their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad, and you withhold any negative judgment from their precious minds so that they will continue to love learning just as much as they love you.
It all starts with how you set the tone that very first day, with your welcoming smile, your enthusiastic vibe, and your ability to set high expectations in a safe space.
Get To Know You Games
How do you get to know them? Here are 30 get to know you games for the classroom that will help you learn more about your students, and they learn about each other!
The main idea surrounding gallery walks is that you hang up pictures (a la an art gallery), and kids walk around, looking and talking about what they see and what they like. In getting to know them, you can have them walk around to see their choices. Then when you call time, they have to go to their favorite. Conversations will occur while students are walking, then when they choose, and you have them explain why. They could find a kindred spirit in their love of dragons or of Mo Willems’ Pigeon.
There are many ways you can put these to use in your classroom:
- Book covers — Share covers of popular titles like Curious George, Elephant and Piggy, Clifford, and more.
- Actual art — Introduce your students to the masterpieces of Dali, Monet, and Picasso.
- Animals — Share photos and pictures from the mythical creatures to elephants or even puppy dogs!
- Quotes — Choose easy to read quotes from books and inspirational figures that relate to your students.
“Get to Know You” Bingo
Bingo is a popular get to know you game, but there are many variations. Fill the card with items and words, then have your students walk around finding a classmate to sign a square. It makes the perfect “Get to Know You” game! Once again, you could use this in many ways:
- Pre-fill the card with every student’s name — Students need to find their classmate with that name.
- Images of household pets, colors, local attractions, clipart of family members — The goal would be to find students with that household pet, who likes that color, has been to that attraction, has a sister, etc.
- Use words instead of images, and follow the rules from above.
- Distribute blank Bingo cards — Provide guiding questions to your students, and have them fill in the squares then find someone with the same interest. Because of the increased difficulty, maybe create your card with fewer rows.
Get to Know You Games for Introductions
These get to know you games have one common denominator — they ask students to state their name and answer a question.
- Hot Potato – Have an object that you pass around, and when the timer goes off, the student with the potato speaks.
- Musical Chairs – Place chairs in a circle facing outward (but make sure there is one less chair than students), play music, and when you stop, the student without a chair speaks.
- Move If – There are many names and variations of this game. Once again, have chairs in a circle – enough so that all students but one get one. Have the chairs facing inward with one student in the middle. The student says something like “I have a dog,” and all students with a dog have to get up and move to another chair, leaving another student in the middle, who may have a hamster, and the movement continues.
- Don’t Get Stuck – Set up chairs similarly to “Move If,” but give the student in the center a ball. The student calls out another student’s name and puts the ball on the ground. All students have to move to a new seat (make the rule that it can’t be right next to them). The elected student has to go and grab the ball. If everyone is, then they are “stuck” in the middle and have to call a new name. If not, the person can call out a new name of someone not in a chair. The round is over when everyone is seated except for the “stuck” student.
Many of the easiest and most engaging forms of get to know you games involve art! Check these out.
- Spiderweb – Bring in a skein of yarn and have your students sit in a circle. The person who begins has to say something about him or herself. If another student has the same in common, the skein of yarn is rolled/tossed to that student, who then says something new. C until every student is holding some of the yarn, symbolizing that the class may be full of differences, but they all have a common thread to unite them.
- Paper Dolls – Cut out paper dolls of similar sizes, anything from life-sized to 6 inches tall. Each student will color their doll. You can have them be life-like drawings, or you can have them attach symbols of what they like. Then take the finished dolls and hang them up attached at the hands to represent that they are unique but united.
- Museum Exhibit – Gather a slew of magazines and cut-outs. Provide these to your class and give each student a poster board or a bigger sheet of paper. Students are to create an exhibit from these items expressing their likes and dislikes and more information about them.
- Get to Know You Lunch – Provide each student with a lunch-sized brown bag. The student takes it home and returns the next day with items that represent them. You may want to include rules such as how they shouldn’t bring in any living things or food that can spoil. I say this from experience!
- Questioning Beach Ball – There are two ways to do this. First, though, you need to get a beach ball. Write questions on the beach ball. Toss the beach ball, and students have to answer the question their right-hand touches. Ask one guiding question that all students respond to when they catch the ball.
- Four Corners – Have questions with four potential answers, such as red, orange, purple, or pink as a favorite color. Students have to move to the corner that has their favorite color. If they have a different favorite color, then they either have to choose their favorite of the four mentioned or wait in the middle and say what it is.
- This or That – This is very similar to Four Corners, except there are two options. For example, go to one side of the room if you like cats, the other if you like dogs.
- Partner Cards – Create a set of cards so that each student gets one card; however, this set is different. Each card has a partner. For instance, one card would be a picture of peanut butter, and the other would be a picture of jelly. Different sets could be a washer and a dryer, toothbrush and toothpaste, rain and lightning, and so forth. Students walk around the room looking for their partner, talking about their pictures and themselves the whole time.
- Scavenger Hunt – Create a scavenger hunt with the main parts of your room from different learning stations, to the calendar, to the art supplies, etc. Have something at each station, such as stickers or stamps, that they put on their card to mark things found.
- Card Tower of Commonalities – Divide students into small groups and give them a set of index cards. The end goal is to build the tallest card tower. The catch? Before they can use a card, they need to find something in common and write it on the card.
- Jenga – You can buy small sets of this game at most dollar stores. If they are out of stock, I’ve read that you can take sponges and create a cheaper version. Kids play the game as instructed. However, each block has a question on it OR a number to correspond with a question. Post questions on the board or a sheet.
- The Nutty Name Game – State your name with an adjective or another word that starts with the same letter. Go around the room repeating each name and their word.
- Interview and Report – Have a set of questions to have your students ask one another, then have the students report what they learned. Variations: Have kids create the questions to ask.
- Why/Why/Why – For each answer, the student has to ask “why” at least once and up to three times. This way, we get beyond the fact that Jane likes cats, but we now know that she loves them because her neighbor had kittens who were soft and sweet, and she got to play with them regularly.
- Wordsearch – Create a word search with all of your students’ names on it and have it waiting at each desk. As they enter, they can begin working on it. Eventually, they won’t be able to resist helping one another find words, exclaiming who they are and whatnot. Great time-filler for that first day as you are waiting for everyone to appear!
Luck of the Draw
- M&Ms or Skittles – Have students grab a handful of this yummy candy. Assign each color a category such as favorite animal, family information, etc. For each piece of candy, a student has to share information from that category.
- Toilet Paper – Students take as many squares of toilet paper as they want. You can tell them to grab a few or say to grab enough for them to survive a hike where they’ll go potty. For each square grabbed, the student has to share something.
- Dice – Create six guided questions that correspond with the numbers 1-6, or 2-12 if you want to use two die. Have students roll the die and answer the question associated with each number. It can be done as a class or in smaller groups with a shout-out of what was learned in the end.
There are so many fun ways to get to know your students this year! Try these 30 get to know you games for the classroom at the start of the year or as icebreakers throughout the year.
Back to School Community Building Resource
Help kids get to know each other and build important social and emotional skills with the back to school social emotional learning resource, the perfect companion to your start of school lesson plans. It includes mini-lesson ideas and engaging activities that build connections in the classroom and teach important social and emotional skills to children during the most important time of year!
The mind+heart SEL back to school resource and activities will support kids as they learn to be positive members of the classroom community, develop self-awareness, build new relationships, and act with kindness and empathy. Click HERE to check it out!
More Ideas for Back to School