Beginnings and Endings

Telling Stories

We all love telling and hearing stories.  One way that you can begin the semester is to have students share a story.  Since we all have limited class time, you should ask students to keep the stories short. How short? 6 words, short!  SMITH Magazine’s 6 word memoirs are a great way for students introduce themselves to the class with stories.   If six words is still too long, you can always have students follow Good Morning America’s “Your Three Words” format.

“Ice Breakers That Rock”

I always have trouble trying to figure out what I will do on the first day of class.  I like to start with an activity that establishes the classroom environment as one that fosters community, so not just any ice breaker will work.  I also want to make sure that the ice breaker is meaningful; I don’t want to just do an ice breaker just to do one.  As I prepare for the beginning of a new semester, I find myself trying to weed through hundreds of ice breakers, but this year I stumbled on this article on Twitter.  3 ice breakers! Now, that’s something I can handle.  I’m looking forward to trying some of these techniques very soon.

Preparing Students for Learning

When class begins, there are many challenges that we face in our classrooms:  hungry, tired, stressed-out, scared, frustrated, and disinterested students.  If students enter our classes feeling even one of these things, how likely are they to be focused on what we are trying to teach them?

I have found that the beginning of class is more important than the lecture itself. How we start a class sets the tone for the lecture and learning that will take place.  So, how do we do this?  With a warm-up.  When I’m teaching my students, I tell them that there are two purposes of the warm-up: to introduce the topic we are teaching or to prepare students for learning.  In this post, I will provide a few ways that we can accomplish the latter.

It is important to note that when we use a warm-up to prepare students for learning, the warm-up is not related to the topic. Instead, this is an opportunity for us to get the students’ attention and “wake them up” so that they will be alert when the lesson begins.  Here are a few ways to prepare students for learning:

  1.  Share an interesting video clip that promotes thinking or discussion.  There are several sites you can use for this like TED or Big Think.
  2. Start class with a riddle like “Can you Solve the Prisoner riddle,”  “The Locker Riddle,”  or “The Frog Riddle.”
  3. Give them a brain teaser.  Rebus Puzzles are great examples of brain teasers.  Click here to access examples of these puzzles.

Build Classroom Community with Ice Breakers


Many of us find an ice breaker for the first day of class.  We do this to get to know our students and so that they can begin to know each other.  I believe that ice breakers can be used beyond the first day of class.  If we want to really establish a collaborative classroom community, it is important that we continue to provide opportunities for our students to get to know one other.

Ice breakers make great warm-up activities.  Many times our warm-ups are reviews, but I think that the warm-up is an opportunity for us to prepare our students for learning.  A good ice breaker gets the students’ attention and gets them thinking so that their brains are actually turned “on” and they are invested in the class before you begin teaching.   Ice Breakers are great for those 8am and 12pm classes. They even reinvigorate students after a long break.   I’d like to encourage you to try a few ice breakers this semester

If you’d like to try out a few ice breakers, or if you’re just interested in finding a new ice breaker, here is a list that I use:  40FreeIceBreakers .  You can also search online for icebreakers.  Feel free to leave a comment and share your favorite ice breaker.  If enough of us comment, we may be able to create our own list!



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