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Unusual Ice Breakers--Not Just for Day One


Ice breakers...Did you know?


When people lived in colder climates, often times they had to break through the ice of rivers or ponds to draw water. Additionally, boats saw the need to use an ax or other tool to break the ice. Thus, we see breaking the ice was a means to remove an obstacle that prevented progress to a destination. Our students have entered our classrooms on a destination to success. Ice breakers are one way to help create a warm, inclusive environment.

Some faculty only use ice breakers for the first day. I use them every week.


In Faculty Focus, Maryellen Weimer posits some first day activities; but, think how you can modify and use these later in the semester. I have listed two below that would work with large groups.


Be Well,


Engaging Essie


First Day Graffiti -- This is an adaptation of an activity proposed by Barbara Goza in the Journal of Management Education in 1993.


Flip charts with markers beneath are placed around the classroom. Each chart has a different sentence stem. Here are a few examples:

  • "I learn best in classes where the teacher ___"
  • "Students in courses help me learn when they ___"
  • "I am most likely to participate in classes when ___"
  • "Here's something that makes it hard to learn in a course: ___"
  • "Here's something that makes it easy to learn in a course: ___"

Students are invited to walk around the room and write responses, chatting with each other and the teacher as they do. After there are comments on every flip chart, the teacher walks to each one and talks a bit about one or two of the responses. If you run out of time, you can conduct the debriefing during the next session.


Syllabus Speed Dating -- Karen Eifler, an education professor at the University of Portland, designed this activity. Two rows of chairs face each other (multiple rows of two can be used in larger classes). Students sit across from each other, each with a copy of the syllabus that they've briefly reviewed. Eifler asks two questions: one about something in the syllabus and one of a more personal nature. The pair has a short period of time to answer both questions. Eifler checks to make sure the syllabus question has been answered correctly. Then students in one of the rows move down one seat and Eifler asks the new pair two different questions. Not only does this activity get students acquainted with each other, it's a great way to get them reading the syllabus and finding out for themselves what they need to know about the course.

Valued Contributor

These are great icebreaker tools. After the first week, perhaps the syllabus icebreaker could be replaced with a quick question related to the weekly reading assignment. 


It's been referred to in other writings as Pair Share where the instructor posts a question (sometimes related to a core learning objective) and teams of students discuss for 2min then share for 1min. 


This is is a great way to start the class ensuring that even students who may not have fully understood the reading have a chance to share what they did understand and ask questions about what was less clear to them. 


I've found that students are much more likely to share their concerns or confusion with one or possibly two other students than they are with the whole class. As I wander around the classroom eavesdropping on conversations I get a sense of what common interesting or confusing points surface and I can address them generically with the class. 


It's only a few minutes, but it can really set the tone for the class. 





Frequent Visitor

I love this activity and your adaptation, Eugene. Typically, students don't always read the assigned material in textbooks, and this gives them an engaging reason to do so!

Frequent Visitor

I love this activity and your adaptation, Eugene. In my experience, students don't typically read the assigned textbook material, and this gives them an engaging way to obtain that information.


For some more icebreakers, check out Shawn Orr's webinar!  I'm pasting the post below from @mbritt


What Do Old Polar Bears and Great Teachers Have in Common? They Know How to Break the Ice!

Polar bears break the ice to survive. Teachers break the ice to thrive. Join this interactive, high-energy webinar and explore ways to use icebreakers and topic starters to socialize, stimulate, motivate, and prime your students for success. Participants will leave with practical strategies they can immediately implement to move students from passive observers to active participants in their education.



Attached to this post (right side of the page) are both the slides and a Q&A for this presentation.




Presenter: Shawn Orr, Director of the Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence, Professional Instructor Communication Studies, Ashland College


Shawn Orr has worked in higher education for over 25 years as a Business and General Education professor, Department Chairperson, academic advisor, Dean of Faculty and Director of College Success courses. She’s taught more than 20 different courses in the business, management, composition, humanities and communication areas. 


Shawn was the 2011 North Central Educators Association Educator of the Year and has been actively involved in working with accreditation, assessment, online learning, curriculum design and curriculum redesign in higher education. She has prepared, developed and delivered over 200 workshops, webinars, presentations, training seminars and keynote addresses across the country on student success, advising, online and hybrid learning, portfolio development, retention strategies, service learning, technology, generational teaching and learning, flipped classrooms, apps to engage students, active teaching and learning strategies, experiential learning and 21st century skill development.


Hello All,


I am placing an additional twist on the Speed-Dating Icebreaker I mentioned earlier in my post. In class next week, my EDUC 1300 class, students will pull out of my huge purple plastic container questions from the Study Skills Toolkit (On Course Textbook). Yes, they should have read the chapter and I will definitely find out who has read. I have created 25 questions and will give students 5 minutes to find the answer to their question slip. Next, I will have them to line up, read their question and give an answer to their classmate. Each student will have a different question. Then when they move to right, the process is repeated. Little do they know that this will be a review for their 1st test. After class, I will e-mail students the questions.


Check back later this week and I will let you now how the active learning activity turned out.


Engaging Essie

Frequent Commenter

Introductions - Lights, Camera, Action


Assignment Description

Class is beginning so I hope you are ready for your close-up! The activities in this course will give you lots of opportunities to interact and get to know one another.

To break the ice let's have some fun and design a movie poster that reflects our personality.

The purpose of this activity is to:

  • introduce yourself and get to know your classmates and
  • use and familiarize yourself with the LMS Discussion features.

Assignment Instructions

  • Visit Big Huge Labs,, and create your own movie poster. This movie poster should reflect something about you. Include the following elements in your poster:
    • Image (Pick an image that reflects you or something you aspire to.)
    • Movie Title (What do you want your movie to be called?)
    • Tagline 1 & 2 (What is the main theme or catchy phrase for your movie?)
    • Acting Credits (Who is important to you at home, school, work, etc.?)
    • Production Credits (What is important in you at home, school, work, etc.?)
    • Note: Share only what you are comfortable with sharing.
  • Save the image to your computer.
  • Reply to this post with the following (instructions for replying in Canvas Discussions😞
    • Your name, occupation and program/major you are studying (or interested in).
    • Describe why you chose the image, title and acting/production credits for your movie poster. Explain what it reflects about you?
    • If you want, share your favorite links and other relevant information to help us get to know you.
  • After completing your own post, interact with TWO of your classmates and help us all get to know one another.
  • For full points you must thoughtfully respond to at least TWO other classmate's posts.

Movie Poster.jpg


Really unique ice breaker @miahcc. Is this kind of activity right for just about any kind of class - or is it more relevant if you're teaching Media, Communications or a course like that?

Frequent Commenter

Any kind of instructional methods. But, I'm using it for Distance Education only to see how the students can maneuver the LMS.


I teach business and medical courses. Concentration on DE learning specifically. 


ThankÜ for the questions .



I like this ice breaker and it's not just for those in theater..:)

Frequent Commenter

This is correct.

Thank you Sandy!


Welcome Mia to the Community and thank you for attending my focus group!

I love, love, your idea. The buzz words are all about community building and being inclusive. This activity will foster both. I look foward to reading more of your posts.

Engaging Essie


Mia ~

I love this idea!  Thank you for sharing.....  I could use this in my class.  I'm going to play with this over the summer and see what I can figure out.  Very fun and new.

Frequent Commenter

Thank You JS, let me know how it goes.



Fun idea, Mia! i think I could use it for my nutrition and culinary students. I'll let you all know what I come up with!