Yearn to Learn is having Get to Know You Linky Party! I love the Memory Tray idea on the Yearn to learn website. You need to check it out! I think I will try it out this year.
I am a big believer in class community and do many Kagan cooperative learning/class building activities throughout the year but the one I do every year on the first day of school and it never fails me is a race! Many times students come to school on the first day quiet and shy and even stressed (the quiet part is usually gone by the second day LOL!). The first day of school is usually as stressful for the teacher as it is for the students (or even more!). We get 22 new students and a ton of paperwork! In my school we have to fill out what we call AGR cards before 9:00am (school starts at 7:45) with everything else going on the first day. I, of course, welcome students and get them settled in and then tell them we are going to have a race!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, I get some dirty looks from the little girls who are in their frilliest first day of school dresses.
I have my student desks in groups of 4s or 5s. I ask the students to put their hands on their laps. I give each group the same 100 piece puzzle (purchased at the dollar store). I tell the class there are only 2 rules......they must talk A LOT but only with their own group members and everyone MUST participate in the talking as well as the puzzle making.
When I say "Go" the groups get to work and the talking begins and I have a good 15-20 minutes to get some paperwork done. Since it is small group work even the shy students feel comfortable interacting. It's also a competition and who doesn't want to win? The winners get to keep a small plastic trophy at their desk.
This seems to be a good ice breaker...the kids may not really get to really "know" each other but they do get to feeling a little more comfortable with each other which makes the rest of the "get to know you" activities a little less stressful for the shy ones.
By the way, all students (or groups of students) have many opportunities throughout the year to "win" the trophy to be displayed at their desks by behavior, neatness of desks, other competitions, etc.