Icebreakers

Icebreakers help students work better together, ultimately leading to fewer issues within groups. This saves the lecturer time that might have been spent resolving those issues, and also leads to better assignments!

Icebreakers should

  • create a positive group atmosphere
  • help people relax
  • break down social barriers
  • energise and motivate
  • help people "think outside the box"
  • help people get to know one another.

Finding the right icebreaker can be surprisingly tricky -- here are a few things that will help identify suitable icebreakers for students and tutors.

  • no/minimal props necessary (avoids preparation time and the possibility of technical difficulties)
  • engages all the students at the same time
  • gets lots of students talking at the same time (e.g. small group conversations rather than everyone listening to one student talk)
  • involves movement (physical activity, even getting up to talk to different people, will get students more engaged)
  • encourages students to talk to many different people
  • doesn’t take more than 10-15 minutes
  • involves students learning something about each other, including names.

Warmups, energizers, and deinhibitizers

Group juggle: Requires balls or other items that can be passed easily

  • arrange participants in a circle, including yourself
  • explain that you are going to throw a ball to someone - pick someone out and ask their name
  • then say "Hi 'X', my name is 'Y'" as you throw 'X' the ball
  • 'X' then asks another person's name and continues the process until all have participated
  • it can be made more challenging by speeding it up, or by introducing more balls/crazy objects.

Categories: no props required

  • ask everyone to stand up and walk around; explain that you will announce a category and that participants should then quickly organise themselves into smaller groups, based on the category to which they belong
  • once everyone is organised into their groups, ask each group to identify itself
  • (optional) Make a brief comment or ask each group a question
  • keep things moving by asking participants to walk around before announcing the next category
  • categories can also be used as a fun, simple way to organise people into smaller groups for other activities.
  • list of categorie
    • Fold your arms across your chest. Is your right or left arm on top?
    • Which side of the bed (left or right) do you get out of in the morning?
    • How many siblings do you have?
    • What colour are your eyes?
    • What's your favourite colour?

2 truths and a lie: no props required

  • students are given 5-10 minutes to think of two facts and make up one thing about themselves
  • students then pair off and tell each other their three ‘facts’, and each has to guess the other's lie -- they can keep guessing until they get it right. Encourage students to introduce themselves before they start guessing
  • both students then form pairs with other students and repeat the process
  • this game can run for a while depending on the number of participants, and it usually needs to be cut short.

Review, and motivator activities

Marooned

Form the students into groups and explain the following: You are marooned on an island. What five (you can use a different number, depending upon the size of each team) items would you have brought with you if you knew there was a chance you might be stranded. Inform the students they are only allowed five items per team, not per person. You can have them write their items on a flipchart and discuss and defend their choices with the whole group. This activity helps students learn about other's values and problem-solving styles and promotes teamwork.

Human Bingo

Make a list/table with a different human attribute in each square. Students go around the room to find someone with that attribute, or who has done that thing, until they have found someone for each. This can be changed to involve course content; e.g. have a question related to the past week’s lecture in each square and get students to find someone who can answer that question -- at the end you could go around and find out who can answer each question.

Hidden hands

Requires a comic strip from a newspaper (duplicated so each work group has a copy); one envelope for each subgroup.

Preparation

Photocopy enough copies of the comic strip to provide one for each work group. Cut each strip into separate panels and place the panels in an envelope.

Process

  • Instruct the participants to form work groups of three to four members each. Distribute one envelope containing a set of comic strip panels to each team.
  • Direct the members of each team to open the envelope, place the panels of the comic strip face down without examining them, and shuffle them around the table.
  • While the panels are on the table face down, hidden from view, members of each team take turns drawing a panel (without showing it to others), going around until all panels have been chosen.

Team members are allowed to describe their own panes as fully as possible, but they are not allowed to look at the panels of the other participants or to show their panels to others.
- When the team members have agreed on which panel is first in the cartoon, (based on the participants' descriptions of the panels), they place it face down on the table. After they have placed all the panels face down in the order they have determined, they then turn them over to see if they have sequenced the comic in the proper order.

Discussion

Lead a discussion on the communication process used to describe the panels and the means by which group decisions were made. Explore ways in which members of the group could have improved their team's performance.

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