Icebreakers are a great resource in the adult educator's toolkit and can serve a number of purposes when working with all kinds of groups. Usually, icebreakers are used when a group meets for the first time, yet we have been using them regularly in our literacy groups in DALC (Dublin Adult Learning Centre) to:
• Help develop confidence with listening and speaking in a group
• For encouraging the group to get to know each other better
• Develop creative thinking and using your imagination
• As a prompt to the work you may do in the classroom, a reading text or writing exercise
• A chance to try something different if you reach a stalemate in your teaching and learning
• For fun!
We have made a comprehensive list of icebreakers we have used in the classroom during the year. They can be adapted to suit the level, pace and interest of the group:
Name and Introductions icebreakers
- Gestures name game - stand up and say your name and make an action or gesture: 'My name is Tom and I like to play football' while doing the action of kicking a ball. Everyone in group must remember the name and also the action.
- Adjective name game - Think of a positive adjective to describe yourself with the same sound as the first letter of your name, eg. 'I am fantastic Frank!', 'I am easygoing Elaine.'
- Throw object/beanbag name game pattern - Everyone stands in a circle and throws a beanbag/soft toy/juggling ball to one person. Say the person's name as you throw it to them. See if you can remember the pattern of who you threw it to and repeat the same pattern.
- Toilet paper game - Handout a roll of toilet paper and encourage the group to take as many sheets as they like. Once the toilet roll is handed back to facilitator, the facilitator asks the group to tell us as many things about themselves based on the number of sheets they took! For example, if you took three sheets, say three things about yourself.
- Introduction Icebreaker – Choose a letter from the alphabet to describe something about yourself – your hobby, what you like/don’t like, something you have done in the summer, your hopes and dreams.
- Find someone who - Make a list of details about someone and walk around the room and tick which of them applies to anyone in your group!
- Memory / Kims game - Put a number of objects (usually about 12) on a tray in the middle of the room. Allow the group to look at it for 2 mins. Cover the objects and see who can remember them all. More importantly, how did you remember all the objects?
- Tell the person beside you one thing you like about them. Share in larger group
- One thing true – one thing false about yourself! We have to guess which are truths and which are lies! For example, 'I have two children and I went to Australia last year' - two children is true, the Australia trip is a lie.
- Finish the story starting with one word. For example, facilitator says 'tomorrow...' and next person picks up the story by adding one word or phrase.
- Chinese Whispers - One person in the group whispers a sentence and each person passes it on to see if the message gets delivered.
- The lighthearted debate or either/or icebreaker - A fun exercise but can be used before exploring a more serious debate or discussion. Here are some lighthearted debate topics are: Tea of Coffee? / Spicy or Mild? / Hot or Cold? / North or South? / East or West? Water or Wine? / Bath or Shower? / Standing or Sitting? / Apple or Orange? Classical or Rock? / Comedy or Drama? / Take Out or Eat In? / Shoes or Bare feet / Ocean or Pool? / Hotel or Camping? / Books or Magazines? / Email or Snail Mail / Drive or Fly? / Country or City? / Mobile Phone or Landline? / Pants or Shorts? Meat or Vegetarian? / Dog or Cat? / Pepsi or Coca-Cola? / Man United or Liverpool? / Chocolate Cake or Cream Cake?
Categories and concepts icebreakers
- Name a city, name a fruit, name a county, name a city, name a day of the week, name a month, name a food, name a piece of furniture, name something you wear, name a type of transport
- Favourite food icebreaker - Go around the room and ask everyone to describe their favourite breakfast, dinner, snack, dessert, drink.
- Riddles - Write out riddles on paper and encourage group to read them. Everyone else has to guess the answer. Some examples are: What has a single eye but cannot see? Answer: A needle / I'm light as a feather, yet the strongest man can't hold me for more than 5 minutes. What am I? Answer: Breath / I can travel around the world while staying in a corner. What am I? Answer: A stamp
- Opposites - Make a list of opposites (hot/cold, open/closed, etc), cut them out on card and ask the group to walk around the find their opposite!
- Alphabet icebreaker – everyone lines up in alphabetical order with first letter of your name
- Birthday line up icebreaker – everyone lines up in order of when your birthday is during the year (January birthdays at start of line, December at end and so on)
- Rhymes - write a list of words on separate card. Put words in a box or envelope. Each person picks out a word and must think of a rhyme for this word, for example, if they picked out the word 'night' the rhyme they may come up with is 'sight', etc.
If I was.....
• If I was a day of the week, I would be….
• If I was a famous person, I would be……
• If you were on a desert island - what three things would you bring?
• If you were invisible for a day, what would you do?
• If I was an animal, I would be……
• If I was a colour, I would be…….
• If I was president for the day, I would....
• If I won 10 million I would...
Finally - the best one of all! If you could make a phone call to anyone in the world – famous, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Now who wouldn't find icebreakers a fantastic resource for any learning environment!
Visit DALC' blog for lots of learning ideas, for student and tutor perspectives and resources. We are a window into adult learning.