Ice Breaker Activities
Here is a list of ice breaker activities you can use to start out session. Feel free to adapt these as you see fit.
Just for Fun
Meet & Munch: Prior to session, buy fun size packets of m&m’s, enough for one for each student. Split students into small groups and have them open their m&m’s and count how many of each color they have, but don’t eat the candy yet. Have students learn about each other by sharing one fact in each category for the number of m&ms in that color that they have. Here are some ideas for categories students could talk about:
- Red: What is your favorite food?
- Blue: What is your favorite book?
- Orange: What is one goal you have for this year?
- Green: What is something you can’t live without?
- Brown: What’s one fun memory from your childhood you’d like to share?
- Yellow: What’s one of your strengths?
Tattoo Parlor: Give students a few minutes to draw out a tattoo that they feel represents who they are as a person, however students choose to interpret that. Collect all the drawings, and post them around the room. Have students walk around the room and guess who is represented in that drawing by putting guesses into bowls or a pile by the drawing. After, reveal which tattoo belongs to which student.
Touch Blue: Have the students all stand up and space out around the room. Call out a color and have students move to touch something in the room that is that color, not including their own clothes. If a student is unable to find something in the room of that color, give them the chance to call out colors.
Commercial: Split students into groups of 3-4 and assign them an item. They then have 5 minutes to come up with an original commercial to sell that item to the rest of the class.
Fishbowl: Give each student small slips of paper (1-2 for bigger groups, 2-3 for smaller groups). On each slip, students will need to write down a noun. Collect the slips of paper. Split the group into two teams. Explain that this game will have three rounds. For each round, one person from the first group will give clues for a minute and their team has to guess what is written on that slip as fast as they can so they can get as many points as possible in one minute. Then the next team will have one person from their group give clues for one minute. Once both teams have given clues for one minute, move on to the next round.
Round 1: The person giving clues can say anything or do anything to describe what is on the slip, as long as they do not say the exact words on the slip of paper. (ex. Lamp-Something you put on your desk to shine light)
Round 2: The person giving clues can only say one word or make one noise to describe what is on the slip. (ex. Lamp-light)
Round 3: The person giving clues has to act out the word without saying anything. (ex. Lamp-holding arms out diagonally to look like a lampshade)
The words will not change from round to round, so students will need to pay attention and remember the words so they have a better chance at guessing once the rounds get harder, even when they are not actively guessing. Make sure a different person from each group is giving clues for each round. If students guess a word correctly, take it out of the pile and move on to the next word. If students do not guess the word correctly, the person giving clues can move on to the next word, but keep it in the pile. Make sure each team gets the full pile each time they are giving clues. Keep track of how many words each team gets right for each round. The team with the most points after round 3 wins!
Pass the Face: Have everyone sit in a circle. Appoint one person to start, and have them turn to a person on one side of them and make a face. The person who receives the face has to then turn to the next person in the circle and copy the original face. Compare the original face to the ending face once it makes it all the way around the circle. Repeat a few times depending on the size of the group.
Object Stories: This activity will let students practice their creativity! You will need a bag (preferably one that you cannot see through) and enough everyday objects (cell phone, pens, forks, keys, etc.) for each student in the cohort. Gather the students in a circle and pass the bag around. Each student will reach into the bag and grab an item without looking. Select a student to go first and have them start out a story in one or two sentences incorporating the object they grabbed. Then go around the circle and have each student continue the story incorporating their object. Once everyone has contributed to the story, come up with an ending.
Two Truths and One Lie: Each person thinks of two truths and one lie about themselves. Next, take turns listening to each person share their two truths and one lie. The challenge for the group is to figure out which one of the speaker’s statements is the lie. (Encourage speakers to make the lie believable so they are not too obvious among the truths).
Bucket Lists: Have students share out to the group two or three things that are on their bucket lists. Then challenge the group to come up with one more thing for that student to add to their list based on the things they shared. Use this as an opportunity for students to learn more about their peers and connect with others who have similar interests.
Group Trivia: Give each student a slip of paper and have them write down a trivia question about themselves on the slip with their name included as the answer. Ask the group the questions and have them write down their answers for each question on a piece of paper. After all the questions have been asked, go over the answers and have students tally their correct answers. The student who answered the most correctly wins!
Either – Or: Ask an either-or question such as: “Are you more like a river or an ocean?” Allow a minute or so for each person to answer and explain their response. This is a fun, light-hearted activity where there are no right answers and lots of goofiness!
Other examples might be: Are you city or country? Saver or spender? Lion or fox? Heart or brain? Hot or cold? Cadillac or Volkswagen? Baseball or bat? Brain or muscle? Pizza or lobster tail? Leader or follower?
String Toss: Set up small groups of eight to twelve players and have them sit in a circle for this icebreaker. First, one person is given a ball of yarn and finds the end of it. Second, that person tosses the ball of yarn to someone else within the circle while he or she is still holding the end of it. Third, the person who threw the ball of yarn asks the person who caught it one or two questions. Some questions to ask might be: What is your favorite color? What is your favorite music group? What person has influenced you the most? What are you afraid of? What is your favorite food? What is your favorite time of the year? Keep questions light and non-threatening. Note: if group members are new to each other, have them introduce themselves first before answering the questions at the beginning of the game. Fourth, the person who just answered the question(s) posed then holds on to part of the yarn and tosses the ball of yarn to someone who has not yet received it. Repeat this process until everyone has had the ball of yarn. Notice that the group has created a unique web that connects all the players together. The ball of yarn can go around again (and again) again to ask one or two (or more) questions from each player depending on time and group interest.
Who Am I?: In advance of this activity, prepare name tags where each tag has the name of one famous person on it. Choose famous people that group members are likely to know but that are not so obvious as to shorten the game. These famous people may be historical figures, actors, singers, writers, etc. Next, place name tags on the back of each group member as he or she arrives, but make sure that the person wearing the name tag does not know what it says! Once participants have their tags they should walk around the room asking questions of the other participants as to who they might be. The goal is for group members to help each other figure out who they are on the tag while interacting in a light-spirited way. However, each person can ask only one question of each person such as “Am I a singer?” or “Am I dead or alive?” or “Am I a man or a woman?” Once they have asked their question, they can make only one guess before having to move on to ask another person. After they have asked a question of everyone in the group, they can repeat the process over again until they have solved Who Am I!
Famous Pairs Game In advance of this icebreaker, prepare name tags in two’s where each of the two tags has the name of one half of a famous pair. Use the following list as a guide: Fred and Wilma Flintstone; Bill and Hillary Clinton; George and Judy Jetson; George and Martha Washington; Dawson and Joey (Dawson’s Creek); Mickey and Minnie Mouse; Jack Dawson and Rose (Titanic); Aladdin and Jasmine. Next, stick the name of the famous person or character to the back of each participant. Option: hand participants note cards rather than sticking tags to their backs. Note: an even number of participants is needed for this activity. Each person is to find his/her match without directly talking to each other. For example, each person may give a description of who they are (once they figure it out) or say a common phrase but cannot ask direct questions.
The Big Wind Blows: Group members should form a tight circle, standing shoulder to shoulder. The group leader begins by standing outside the circle and saying “The big wind blows for everyone who____________(fill in the blank).” For example, “…everyone who was born in another state,” “…everyone who is wearing black,” “…everyone who has a brother,” etc. Each person who fits the criteria along with the group leader who began the game must then get up and move to another space within the circle. There will be one person who ends up without a place to sit in the circle. This person continues the game by saying “The big wind blows for anyone who___________” and the game continues on.
Stand Up Sit Down: Prepare for this activity by generating a list of get-to-know-you statements that will help the group learn about each other in a fun, non-threatening way. Begin this activity with the group sitting down in chairs. Explain that you are going to make a series of statements and if the statement applies to the participant he or she is to stand up. These can vary from basic get-to-know-you statements such as “Stand up if you have any siblings.” or “Stand up if you were born in January.” to serious statements relevant to social issues: “Stand up if you’ve ever been followed in a store.” “Stand up if you have ever felt discriminated against.” “Stand up if you have ever not been able to tell your family about someone you were dating.” Note: leaders for this activity should remain sensitive to areas that might make members especially uncomfortable or embarrassed or single people out.
What You Don’t Know: Hand out small slips of paper and ask participants to write down something about themselves that they think nobody else in the room knows. Then collect the sheets, shuffle them, hand them out again (making sure no one gets his own). Next, one-by-one, each person reads out loud what is on her slip and the group tries to guess who wrote it.
Guided Meditation: A good way to get students to relax, center in, and reflect.
Team Building Activities
Back-to-Back Drawing: Prior to the session, print out pictures of shapes, everyday objects, or symbols (car, laptop, star, etc.). Once in session, divide students into pairs and have them sit back to back. One student in the pair will receive a shape and the other will get a marker and paper. The student with the marker and paper must draw the shape using only verbal descriptions from their partner. The student giving the descriptions cannot see their partner’s paper or say any part of the image’s name in their descriptions. The pair to correctly draw their image first wins.
Perfect Square: Divide the students into groups of 4-6. Once in their groups, have all the members face inward in a tight circle. Give the group a rope and place it by everyone’s feet so it forms a circle. Blindfold the group members and have them work together to turn the circular rope into a perfect square. After about 5 minutes, have the students take off their blindfolds to see the results of their and other teams’ work.
Name that Tune: Before session write some common songs/nursery rhymes on slips of paper, enough for two or three per student. Students will be finding groups or pairs, so only a few songs are necessary. Have each student grab a slip and inform them that they will need to find their classmates who have the same song only by humming or singing the song on their slip. No talking allowed! Once students have grouped up, repeat once or twice more.
Treasure Hunt: Prior to session, gather some items and hide them in around the classroom. Develop a list of clues for the locations of the items. Split the class into small groups or pairs and have them discuss what they think the items are and where they think they’re located. Once the students have their guesses, have them check the classroom and find where the items are. The group that had the most correct guesses wins.
Count to 20: Students can form a circle or stay seated for this activity. Explain that the goal is for the group to count to 20. Sounds simple, right? Well, there are a few rules. Students must say the numbers in increasing order, they cannot say anything other than numbers 1-20 during this activity, only one person can speak at a time, and if two people speak at the same time, the group must start back at one. If the group accomplishes this easily, you can make the task more difficult by telling students that cannot gesture with their hands. Still too easy? Ask everyone to close their eyes.
Newspaper Fashion Show: Split students into groups of 4-6 and provide them with newspaper, scissors and tape. Have each team construct an item of clothing out of the materials in 7 minutes. Once the time is up, have one person from each group model their piece and another describe the features and how it was constructed.