Favorite Ice Breakers?Looking for some fun/interesting first day ice breakers for college level (fresh/soph) students. Kind of tired of the ones I've been using. 

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

OK, I'll admit it. I love ice breakers and have used them in both high school and freshman college classes. I'm surprised by the comments about students reacting negatively. I've never experienced that. My students, even in college classes, seem ready to "play," and no matter how "sophisticated" they appear to be, they are often really quite shy among each other in a new class with a new teacher.

I have two favorites among several I have used. I will ask them to write down 5 unusual facts about themselves, collect the papers, and read one of the most unusual facts from each student's paper. After some responses from the class--which usually express surprise, admiration, interest, or respect--the anonymous student "claims" the fact. One interesting fact I remember from a student ice breaker is this one: "I once met Angelina Jolie in a ladies room in Los Angeles." True story, and one that generated a lot of class discussion!

My second favorite is really an exercise in critical thinking. I ask students to pair up and place an object from their pockets, purses, or backpacks on their desks, the more unusual the better, but ordinary is okay. I usually have some fun with this and advise them not to come up with something that tells us more about them than they really want to share.

When each pair of students has two objects to work with, I point out that the differences between the objects are easy to observe, but what are their similarities? I ask them to make a list of all the ways they can think of that their two objects are similar. Finding similarities, for instance, between a lipstick and a calculator or a set of car keys leads to some discussion. At the end of the exercise, the team with the greatest number of similarities on their list presents their findings.

Students seem to enjoy this activity, maybe because it has an element of competition. They also like seeing what objects are dug out of hiding around the room. For some really shy students, the exercise gives them a way to get acquainted by focusing on a task instead of themselves.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't love icebreakers, especially at the college level.  When I was a student I just wanted to be taught -- I didn't want to do some kind of artificial bonding thing with the other people.  So I tend to be ambivalent on this -- I'll feel like I should and then (especially when I'm teaching adult students) I'll feel like it's a waste of time.

Anyway, when I do do them, one of the ones I like better than others is "Would You Rather."  This is one where you have people come up with "would you rather" questions to ask of one another.  They can be on topic (would you rather have lived in the 1950s or today; would you rather spend the next 4 years as President of the US or in prison) or they can just be for fun (would you rather be an eagle or a dolphin).

You can at least get people to say something about themselves this way and you can have a mix of serious and playful so hopefully people like me won't be completely turned off...

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I, too, am not a huge fan of icebreakers--even my high school students get tired of them because they seem to have so many on their first days of class.

One that I have used (I teach English) is to have my students fold a piece of paper into three parts (a triangle shape). They write their names on one side, and then three adjectives which describe them and which begin with the first letter of their names on the other side. We then go around the room and discuss how those adjectives apply to them. Most teens like to talk about themselves and to show off their "impressive" words; so this usually catches their attention.

Again, though, I have found that if I begin with a simple introduction of myself and the class and start right into content and skills, my students appreciate that and do better throughout the semester.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I, too, am not a fan of traditional icebreakers with older students, but I usually have the students complete an information sheet where I ask questions about their perception of the their past strengths and weaknesses in English classes.  I then ask them to tell what they thought was the best or favorite book they have read for school, and what they have read and would highly recommend from their out of school reading.  I usually go around the room to hear their answers.  I tell them it is OK is say they don't like to read, or that they only read Internet news sites or a particular magazine.  I can learn quite a bit about the type of student I will working with for the semester when I hear what they have to say about their reading habits.  It is most interesting when students respond to each other's opinions about various books.

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two things I usually do to break the ice. First, I have students alphabetize themselves to find their seats. Whichever row is first, wins. They become very competitive, speak to old friends and meet new faces.

The second is more traditional. I provide each student with a grid on paper, containing specific question about something they did over the holiday, along with a free space. I include in different boxes things like: "name of a movie you saw," "name of a book read," "a vacation location," "beach visited," "sport tried for first time," etc.

There is mayhem, but a friendly sort. And from time to time, I'll holler a question and ask if there is someone who can answer it. You can choose to be part of the game if you wish. The kids enjoy it and it's nice to see how they work together.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The little biopoem that one can write about him/herself introduces the students to one another.  It is short and simple, but allows for originality and creativity.  In many years, only a few are reluctant to recite theirs whether they are high schoolers or college students.

Models for this biopoem can be found on the internet through a search engine, but it goes something like this (with any variations you want):

I am------------

Who is the -----------of --------------------

Who loves --------------- (name 3)

Who detests ------------(name 3)

Who fears---------------

Who desires -------------

and who feels --------------

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've made a switch to only breaking the ice about myself.  I find that the more open I am about myself with my students, the more open they are with me... which I just let happen with time.

I created a true false quiz about myself (which you could easily do at a collegiate level).  It is kind of cheesy (as all ice-breakers tend to be) but it takes some of the pressure off of the self-interview which kids often don't pay any attention to.

I also enjoy finding out what kind of a reputation I have among students.

trophyhunter1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You can have students sit in pairs and one interviews the other to learn about their partner. Then, when everyone finishes, the interviewer can share out what he or she learned about the student he or she interviewed with the entire class. It is a way of actually listening and paying attention to what the other person is telling you. However, on the college level, I actually think students are there less for socializing and more for gaining knowledge. Socializing should be done on their time outside the classroom.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not a fan of ice breakers for upper level classes, as students often find them boring and somewhat juvenile. I have, on occasion, paired students together, given them five minutes or so to interview each other, find out something of each others interests, future plans, etc. and have each student "introduce" his/her partner to the class. It seems to be not quite as trite as playing "name games," etc. and the students don't object nearly as much. If at all possible, however, I forego icebreakers altogether. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For college classes I like to begin by having students tell three things about themselves: their favorite color, their favorite book and one thing you wouldn’t know by looking at them.  The first is kind of silly and tells us something about a person’s personality in a noninvasive way.  The second lets us a little bit more into a person’s soul, and gives us something to have in common.  The third allows us to get to know a person better and look beyond the outer shell.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to say I tend to use icebreakers with my younger classes, but I give each child a sign-up sheet and they need to collect autographs from the class for different categories - who has been to Europe, who can roll their tongue, who is also doing Chemistry, etc, etc. Sometimes I sneak in questions about books they may have read to gather my own information, and often I take part myself.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Have never used ice breakers on a regular basis. However I have used one similar to the one mentioned by kiwi in post #4. It can really be interesting if you can find out some unique information about each student before the first day.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am with clairewaite on this one. True/false about me at least gives them some insights about what may be ahead for the semester, which may not seem like such a waste of time to them.

Wiggin42 | Student

Freshman orientation was full of icebreakers. I'm not a huge fan of them in a large random group setting but they're super fun for clubs. 

In one icebreaker we all stood in a circle and the first person said their name and an adjective that describes them and starts with the same letter as their first name. Then the second person would say the previous person's information and say theirs. We'd go through the whole circle. It forces you to remember people's names but in a fun way. 

thewanderlust878 | Student

One of the most awkward experiences I ever had was freshman orientation for college. 90% of the orientation was ice breakers and get to know you stuff. I am also the type of person who was there to do my work, learn something, and maybe make some real friends along the way. Not do awkward ice breakers with people I will never see again. However, some of those ice breakers allowed me to meet some of my very best friends. And with that, I believe my favorite one is a name game where everyone thinks of a word that begins with the same letter as their first name. 

ik9744 | Student

My personal favorite Ice Breaker is similar to crystaltu001. The difference is you have to say, "I'm sorry honey, but I can't smile for you right now." Same concept about the smiling or not, and the person would need to continue to do it to different people if they don't succeed in doing it so. Another Ice Breaker that is played a lot is where you put an Oreo or any other snack on your nose and try to move it into your mouth. It is competitive since you're racing the other person, yet you can't move too fast or it'll fall off. I'll try to search for the name of the game, since I forgot. Human Knot is also a very fun game. It's where you hold hands in a large or small group doesn't really matter, and you're suppose to tangle yourself. Then you guys need to untangle yourself to win. It's a very fun ice breaker since everyone in the group needs to work together in order to succeed. Once in my elementary years, in the first week of school, my teacher made us play an ice breaker. I'm not quite sure of the name either since I think my teacher made it up. It starts by passing one roll of toilet paper around and telling everyone to rip off how much you would usually use to whipe... She didn't really tell us what it is for until everyone is finished ripping the paper off. Then she told us to tell one fact of us for every since square is on the paper. It's a very good ice breaker that works fast, and lets your student introduce one to another. I usually don't play this a lot with big groups, only in small groups it's called, Two truth and a Lie. My math teacher introduce me this one... So you would need to think of two truth and one lie. Then you would need to tell another person. Then they or him/her will have to guess which one is the lie. It's a very simple game that most age can play. Yet it is so simple and fast. The game could be ended any second or even start in any second. The last game that I'll mention is called Ultimate Fighting Ninja or just simple Ultimate Ninja. If you play the game, "Ninja" before in your childhood you will get this game in a blink of a second. This is how you play, you get into a big group, and you try to hit another person's arm/hand. If you get hit then you're out. You can't just go full ham on people, since you take turns. While a persons turn you can't run away but you can dodge it. The exception to this is that you are playing in a group of 5-10. I'd say no more than 7 since it'll be chaos and you'll be likely to miss someone's turn. Over all this game is very fun! The problem is you'll probably need a judge to watch over since a lot of people cheat in this. Saying, "No, you missed!" Overall this game is super fun! Try it out!

Short Answers:

Honey, I love you

Human Knot

Oreo game

Ultimate Ninja

crystaltu001 | Student

There is this great and useful ice breaker I know of. It's called Honey, I Love You. Everybody makes a circle and someone goes to the middle. The person in the middle has to walk up to someone and say, "Honey, I love you." The person being told this can not laugh and has to say, "I'm sorry, but I don't love you back." If the person succeeds in saying this without smiling or laughing, then the person in the middle stays in the middle and has to embarrass him/herself further. However, if the person rejecting the confessing person does laugh, they must switch places.

udonbutterfly | Student

A great ice breaker I did for my assignment a couple years ago was to place every one in a circle and make them say their name while doing a gesture while the next person said that person name while doing that gesture then they say their name and do a gesture as well. This continues until you get to the last person in the circle who will have to do all the following people before them haha. It's a great game and everyone loved it and had fun.

arrellbelle | Student

Personally, I never liked ice breakers because i'm a rather shy individual and also I trained myself in the same mindset that I would rather get everything done without associating myself with anyone when unnecessary. Also, I get terrified when being paired up with just one person because it feels like forced contact and communication. I think it's fine when you're paired in a group of 4 with someone of similar interests. I remember in the movie, "Freedom Writers", the teacher taped a line down the middle of the classroom and divided the classroom into boys and girls, she would say something that a student can relate to, and the students would step on the line. This showed that the students weren't all that different and could relate with one another.

lmasters8 | Student

Modeling first helps icebreaking. I have a few that the kids like. Give out a notecard to each- tell them you will keep these on file

Ask: Name/age( if college) on one side

other side: major- candy- music- movie- rank in family ( 2nd born)

don't give names but read aloud - students are curious and definitely interact afterward

or ask after what type of candy would you like to be in a project with.  Light and fun:)



intel2003 | Student

I have young adults or teens blow up two balloons.  We all get into a circle.  I assign a topic question.  For instance, in a high energy health class I taught, I asked the person holding the balloon to state something in their life that was stressing them out.  Once the person made a statement, they could bounce the balloon to another person in the circle. At this time, the next person with the other balloon would make a statement.  I find this to be fun and it can also be humorous.  You can pick games from an alphabet game to a name the person who has the other balloon activity.  HAVE FUN!!!!

kbarsamian | Student

As a high school teacher in a small school, I do a lot of team building and ice breakers. One simple thing I do in the very beginning of the school year is an easy game that really gets them to laugh and loosen up, but also understand the importance of cooperation.

I have them all stand in a circle with their heads bowed down looking at their feet. I start by saying: A and then ask someone to follow with B. The point is to get to z without anyone saying the same letter at the same time. Each time this happens they must start over. I have never had a group capable of completing this task in the first few tries. After a few tries, I tell them we will try again in a few weeks and see if we can do get to Z. It makes everyone laugh a little and ready to settle in!

jls8195 | Student

I like to utilize the foundation of structure called "Quiz Quiz Trade" from Kagan Cooperative Learning. This can be adapted to all ages; I ran it during staff orientaton at a summer camp for gifted students (my audience ranged from college students to public school teachers to college professors).

For however many participants there are, create an index card with a question or directive on one side. The more creative, the better! Examples: "If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?" or "Tell about an embarrassing moment." These can be simple, silly, serious, thought-provoking...whatever matches your audience.

Each person gets one card. When told "go," they must pair up with a partner. Each partner reads their card aloud and the other responds. Then, they trade cards. At this point, they put their hands up and find a new partner (putting hands up helps participants locate a new partner). This excercise continues for 5-10 minutes.

In general people don't like ice breakers, but after doing this one I actually got several unsolicited compliments and people saying things like "When I heard we were going to do an icebreaker, I was dreading it, but this was actually enjoyable." What's great about it is that because you can make the questions to be whatever you want, it allows you to adapt the activity to fit your audience.

wfpkalumna | Student

I teach a college class that requires students to do several presentations throughout the semester. For their first presentation, which takes place the second day of class, the students do a "Me" bag speech. They bring in a bag decorated and filled with items that represent who they are. They share their bag with the class in a very non-threatening, informal atmosphere, which allows them the opportunity to get to know their classmates while practicing being in front of the class.

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