Here are even more ideas that teachers are sharing for the beginning of the school year:
The British Council offers suggestions for getting-to-know-your activities for the beginning of the year at http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/language-assistant/teaching-tips/activities-first-lessons-1
Tomorrow, I'm putting a bunch of really random items in a box and telling each kid they have to pick one out of there and explain why they picked it. I'm doing this with my homeroom and not my language classes, but it is a fun activity and it is interesting to hear the reason behind why some kids pick certain items. Some will be literal - like 'I picked this toothbrush because I want to be a dentist' and others will be more creative like 'I picked this fan because I'm really cool'. I suppose you could turn it into a language activity by choosing only items they have learned the vocabulary for and if they are upper level, having them tell their reasoning in the target language.
Thomen, L. Re: [FLTEACH] Ice breaker activities. FLTEACH listserv (FLTEACH@LISTSERV.BUFFALO.EDU, 21 Aug 2012).
Here's one I use every year:
It's called Meetball (by Marianne Torbert).
1. Divide class into groups of 8. Give each group a ball-type object (I have several yarn-balls/ "pom-poms" pre-made).
2. Step 1: Each time you catch the ball, say your name loud enough for everyone to hear. Once you've caught the ball twice, put your hands behind your back so that people know who still needs a turn.
3. Step 2: All hands in front again- this time, when you catch the ball, don't say anything. Everyone else says your name. Again, once you've caught it twice, put your hands behind your back.
3. Step 3: All hands in front again- call out the person's name first, then throw it to them. Once you've caught it twice, put your hands behind your back.
4. As you see fit, start combing groups. Ideally, in a class of 3 circles, break 1 circle in half. Send half to circle A and half to circle B. Start over, cutting back on repetition if students are catching on quickly.
5. In the end, everyone's together- hold the ball over each person's head and have the class name each person.
This lets me learn everyone's name in about 10-15 min.
I list on the board 5 numbers that are significant in my life (i.e. 11 since my husband's birthday is in November; 2 because I have 2 daughters). The students then try to guess each number's significance.
Once that's done, students do the same thing in pairs.
After everyone's done, partners introduce each other to the class. If you're short on time, just reduce the numbers that they're describing.
B. Hsu-Miller. Re: [FLTEACH] ice breaker activities. FLTEACH listserv (FLTEACH@LISTSERV.BUFFALO.EDU, 22 Aug 2012).
I have had great success playing a Latin version of "I Spy" as a way to "practice classroom rules and Latin pronunciation" on the first day of class. Students get to speak some Latin, learn some terms for items around the classroom, and visually explore the class room as they look around for the "aliquid."
Holec, B. Re: [Latinteach] First day of class. Latinteach listserv (email@example.com, 27 Aug 2012).
Teacher Larry Ferlazzo does a speed-dating activity in which students learn about each other. See his example of the poster he does about himself for the activity at http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2012/09/07/the-who-am-i-poster-i-use-as-a-model-for-students