Whether you're leading a retreat before the start of the academic year or you're in charge of freshman orientation, icebreakers can help introduce new social relationships while reducing awkward first-day jitters. For 14- and 15-year-old incoming freshman, the icebreakers should be engaging and entertaining, without being overly physical or so silly that teens will dismiss them as completely juvenile.
Icebreakers that encourage freshmen to choose between several items highlight commonalities between students who may not see the common ground between them. Start with everyone in a line and ask questions like, "Do you prefer dogs or cats?" or "Would you rather take a vacation in the mountains or on a beach?" After each question, ask each member of the group a followup question such as "What's your favorite thing to do at the beach/mountains?"
This icebreaker encourages kids to share information about themselves, but on their terms. Have each teen take a handful of candy or beads from a bowl and ask them to share one personal fact for each bead or candy they took. Assure them that any information is acceptable, from "I have a beagle named Moses" to "I don't like wearing wool." Even in the most comfortable of circumstances you'll most likely need to start, particularly if the group is completely new to each other.
Asking and Ordering
Sharing information can be unnerving for teens, especially if they've never met anyone in their orientation group. If the anxiety level seems particularly high, try an icebreaker that only requires them to share and ask the most objective information. Ask the teens to arrange themselves in order of their birthday or according to their favorite color. For a more challenging version, have them order themselves using only hand signals.
Group Scavenger Hunt
Make teams of three or four freshman who must scour the school grounds looking for someone who is "wearing a hat" is "holding a water bottle" or "eating something." However, not every school allows this level of unsupervised freedom, in which case you can also have a scavenger hunt within the group itself. Provide the students with a list of questions they must discuss as a group to get an answer, such as who lives the furthest or closest from the school, who has the most pets and whose family has lived in the area the longest.
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