Ice Breaker Activities for Older Students in Speech Therapy
Trying to think of an ice breaker for the first day of speech therapy with a group of older students? Finding a back-to-school speech activity for middle school and high school students is about as easy as, well, actually breaking a block of ice with your bare hands. You need something that achieves your goals of:
getting to know your students (and vice versa)
facilitating connections between the students
helping students feel comfortable
eliciting speech and language... naturally
maybe taking a little initial data?
not be perceived as totally lame by your students
That’s sort of a lot, right? While I don’t necessarily use the phrase “ice breaker” with my older kids (it just doesn’t have a good connotation for any of us, does it?), I do want something that will get the same results. Something structured that will elicit conversation naturally with middle and high school students, and set the tone for the rest of the school year.
The first week of school is challenging and chaotic enough, so I’ve got a few easy activity ideas you can use. These work great for small groups of older students, even if they already know each other.
This game may be simple, but it is effective. I’ve used it for years as a kick-off to speech therapy in the fall, when a group gets a new student, or as a winter break recap. I've mostly used the digital version, but it can be printed!
In this strategy-filled game, students take turns asking each other questions in an attempt to create a path of circles from one end of the game board to the other. It perfectly keeps the session on track while still allowing students to naturally converse about all of the topics of shared interest.
Another fun way to encourage students to talk about themselves (in a way that doesn't feel awkward) is by doing a personality quiz! Centering activities around them is always a helpful strategy for older students.
I mean, who wouldn’t love to find out which pet or historical hero they are? National Geographic Kids has tons of free personality quizzes! Many of these quizzes also bring some comic relief, such as determining which famous prank best suits their personality and why. Anytime you can talk about whoopee cushions on the first day of speech therapy is bound to be a success, right?
Another activity for facilitating some "get-to-know-you" conversation among a group of older students is to ask lighthearted opinion questions.... keyword: lighthearted. This resource has over 100 poll questions across many popular topics for adolescents and teens (such as food, video games, sports.... did I mention food?).
It gives students natural opportunities to share their opinions and ask for (and accept) the opinions of their peers. In addition to casting their “vote” for the poll question, students can add more information by telling a story or giving some personal insight on the topic. In short, the activity integrates tons of pragmatic skills in a way that actually interests older students!
Baamboozle is one of my favorite websites for older students. A quick search on the site (using phrases such as "would you rather" or "this or that") yields tons of pre-made games to choose from. I especially love the ones with gifs since my students find them very relevant (aka "cool" 😆)!
Two Truths and a Lie is another versatile get-to-know-you game that you can do with any size group of older students. This website explains how to play. It also gives examples of truths and lies to help students think of some, for those that need it!
Any of these activities will help you and your students ease into speech therapy in the first week of school… without the usual sound of crickets that traditional ice breakers might cause. You now have a plan that allows you to really focus on establishing a connection with your students right out of the gate and have some fun with your students... even if they won't admit it 😉
For younger students, check out these back-to-school activities for speech therapy!