New Year Ideas & Ice Breakers

Whether it’s the start of the year, or the start of a new job or contract, or you are returning from a break, ice breakers are a wonderful way to get to know the students, and for them to get to know you too.

Here are some fabulous ideas from teachers all over Australia. Thank you to these dedicated and passionate teachers for sharing;

  • I had my kids draw a red circle in the middle of their page lesson 1 this year. In it, they wrote everything they could think of to do with Japan (2 mins) Then, they had 4 mins to share with a partner and write the new facts their partner had on the outside of their circle. We then shared as a class – and discussed traditional vs modern Japan.
    Then I introduced 日本, and we talked about the land of the rising sun, and the kids wrote it in Kanji
  • I always do a ‘What could this be? ‘ with some.of the wonderful Japanese inventions out there and really try to build a positive relationship with the students, so when it comes time to do work which they get stuck on you have the relationship and positive attitude already establishedI often show my classes this clip (below), then proceed to brainstorm everything they know that is Japanese – food, companies, sport, computer games etc – we easily cover the whiteboard – it’s a great positive way to show them that Japan is already part of their lives

  • At the very end they bow – you can link it nicely into greetings/meeting people for the first time
  • This year with my Year Sevens I gave them a colour in page of mixed Japanese things. We had a competition on who could name the items. Then we wrote a list of what they wanted to learn about. The page became part of their front cover. I was worried it would be a little childish but it worked a treat. The front cover of their exercise books looked good too and this started a good norm to show pride in their Japanese work. The colour in page I got online. Things on there; Pikachu, Godzilla, Temple, Tori, Samurai, Sumo, Baseball, Hiragana, Sakura, Sushi etc. Included traditional and pop culture stuff.
  • I used to get my new Yr 8s to write fact about Japan or something they THINK know about Japan on a sticky note. Then we go through はじめまして and bowing and the fact get said to their partner and given with a どうぞ. The partner receives and says ありがとう . They then say and give their fact. (The whole conversation is on the board with colour coded speech bubbles) We swap our facts with three other people then “meet the 先生” (私・ぼくの名前は。。。。です。) with the one they got left with. They all go on a “what we know” board they add to throughout the semester
  • I start each lesson by speaking to the students in Japanese but with hand gestures to show what I mean.
    I use the basic teacher talk as listed by Japan Foundation
  • I show them some items from Japan and ask ‘何ですか’ and get them to guess what the items are – some unusual things like the large peg you hang your futon over the railing with, no one can guess it but it’s a good point for discussion. Daruma, fans, dolls, furoshiki , teru teru boozu , chopsticks, sake pot and cups, mini hinamatsuri prince and princess. I have many items from when I lived in Japan , kids are always fascinated and promotes lots of discussion
  • It doesn’t matter what you do, but your goal in your first couple of lessons may be to DEMYSTIFY Japanese for many students. As long as you present it in a passionate way with conviction, kids will certainly come around and be like, ‘WOW, even though I don’t like Japanese, sensei is an awesome Japanese teacher! etc’. Demystify away and enjoy!
  • Language Teacher Support is an amazing blog full of many wonderful ideas 

Thank you Shannon for this site.

  • Calligraphy at the beginning of the year is another great way to start.


Participants write at a New Year’s calligraphy contest – “Kakizome” (first calligraphy of the year) is a cultural tradition in Japan. (Reuters photo)



Some of the phrases included “日本の春” (“Japanese spring”), “わか草” (“fresh grass”), and “かきぞめ” (“first calligraphy of the year”).

Other phrases included “ひので” (“sunrise”), “生命の力” (“life force”), and “真の勇気” (“true courage”).

Bookmarks (しおり)using colourful origami and chiyogami, tape (any craft materials you have) are fun. You can add the students’ name in Japanese or they can add the zodiac animal for the year.

  • With so many schools actively goal setting, a daruma activity can be a good ice breaker as well. As students set goals, you can get to know each other. Things as simple as a daruma image colour printed and stuck on a paddle pop stick can be easy and minimal preparation for that hectic start of year. Students set a goal, colour in one eye and the other one once they attain their goal. Click here for the link to Culture and a daruma clip.