Are you ready to tackle the hot-button issue of icebreakers? The topic of icebreaker activities is as controversial as the creamy vs crunchy peanut butter and proper toilet tissue roll orientation debates. You either love icebreakers or you hate them. Personally, I love a good icebreaker. Now, don’t get me wrong. If I have to sing, dance, or get really personal, I am out. But a good “get-to-know-you activity” or a “warm-up game” is something I am totally on board with. A good icebreaker sets a positive and welcoming tone, promotes interaction and engagement, and helps participants feel more comfortable and connected. So it can contribute to the success of the social gathering or group activity!
Are people interested in icebreakers?
“What are legitimate alternatives to icebreakers that get school staff involved and facilitate communication and camaraderie? If you say “none” or “let me work in my room,” I’m going to hide your answer. I don’t need snark this morning, I am looking for real answers.”
Yes, I then went through all 724 responses. And take note, this post was (at the time) liked by 930 people. Proof there is interest in icebreakers!
Three Criteria for Icebreakers
I have three criteria for designing and choosing icebreakers. Whenever I’m planning an icebreaker activity, it must meet these three requirements:
- Needs to have an element of fun
- Low-key and informal without causing embarrassment
- I, myself, would participate in this activity
I highlight eight icebreakers below that I discovered in comments on The Madwoman in the Classroom’s Tweet. They meet all three criteria and, in my humble opinion, would be great for back to school 2023!
For this icebreaker, the administration creates a schedule for different groups of staff to take a walk around the entire school (including classrooms, office, gym, library, cafeteria, buses, etc.). While you are on the tour, introduce yourself to new staff or give a back-to-school greeting to the people you meet. Take a minute to reconnect and take in their space. Use a Post-it note to write an encouraging statement. Leave it on their door as you go or drop it off in their school mailbox. This idea came from Heidi Graci, and she comments in the tweet, “I kept mine in my closet all year for encouragement during a stressful year.”
Materials needed: Post-it notes, pens/markers
Carve out some time during in-service for this idea-sharing icebreaker activity shared by Lorca Damon! You will need to tell your staff ahead of time so they have time to prepare. Divide your staff into grade levels (for elementary) or content areas (for secondary). Ask everyone to bring their top-tier lesson plan and give a one-minute Ted talk on why it was awesome/is your favorite. I personally think this is a great way to share good lesson plans and ideas.
Sample email you can send your teachers:
Dear Faculty and Staff,
As we prepare for our upcoming inservice days, I’d like to request that we allocate some time for a valuable activity: A Top Tier Lesson Plan Ted Talk. For this activity, you will be placed in groups by grade level (for elementary) or subject areas (for secondary).
For this activity, I’d like each staff member to bring their top-tier lesson plan and present it in a one-minute TED talk-style presentation. Plan to explain why this lesson plan is awesome and why it holds a special place as your favorite. This will serve as a wonderful opportunity for us to share ideas and learn from each other, discovering valuable best practices and effective strategies we have within our team.
By sharing these good lesson plans, we can inspire and support one another in our mission to provide exceptional education. I believe this activity will foster collaboration, creativity, and professional growth among our faculty. Let’s make the most of this time together and strengthen our bond as a dedicated team.
Looking forward to the insightful and engaging presentations!
Materials: Lesson plan, technology (if needed), space for small breakout groups
Take some time to have your staff pick their favorite picture on their phone. Allow for time to move around the room and share the photo with a few people. Usually, everyone loves to share about kids, pets, and travel. As Sarah Van Dermyden, the creator of this response, states: “It took the focus off of looking at each other and moved it to the phone for people who feel on the spot.” This is a good icebreaker for providing movement and casual conversation.
Materials: Phones and photos
4. Guess Who?
For this icebreaker activity shared by Mrs. Seibel, the principal hands out an index card to each staff and faculty member. Everyone fills it out with their name, where they were born, and an interesting fact or two about themselves. During in-service, the principal can read the cards out with staff guessing whose card it might be. If you have a large staff, I would probably spread this activity out throughout the year’s staff meetings.
Materials: Index cards and pens/markers
@Twisted3100 shared this fun idea! Send out a request for each of your staff to submit a song, any song (through a Google Form, by email, or using index cards like the Guess Who activity). They need to give the song title, artist, and a sentence explaining why it is important to them (without giving away their identity). It could be tied to a special event, a song they always sing on a road trip, or a song that reminds them of their wild college days.
During in-service, play a clip of each song for the group to hear. Guessing ensues! Who submitted the song? Most songs can be played on Spotify or through the iTunes store. I like this activity because your choice of song is up to each individual and there are SO many songs to choose from. Just like the Guess Who activity, a few songs can be played at future staff meetings throughout the year.
Materials: A method for collecting staff songs and information, a service through which to play songs, a device and speakers
@Teach_WA believes that collective resumes are a valuable icebreaker activity. Divide your staff into groups. You can use random groups or group people by grade level or subject. Display this graphic so each group can discuss, gather, and display their collective information on a poster. Host a gallery walk so the information can be shared with the whole group.
Each group should provide the following:
- Years of experience
- Taught in ___ schools
- Grade levels taught
I like a game called Would You Rather, so I was happy to see Jennifer Greenland suggest it as an icebreaker in the comments. If you are not familiar, it’s a fun and engaging activity where participants are presented with a series of hypothetical choices. And they must choose between two options. The choices are often amusing, challenging, or thought-provoking, leading to interesting discussions and revealing insights into participants’ preferences and personalities. You can share out as a whole group or play in a small group setting. It’s low stress for the socially anxious among us.
Materials: Would You Rather: Teacher Edition Slide Deck
@Mariea_amy suggested another one of my favorites! In this challenge, participants work in groups of four. They create a grappler tool using four pieces of string and a rubber band to move cups placed in three stacks into a six-cup pyramid shape. Be prepared for lots of great communication and collaboration, and laughs!
Materials: (per group) Six solo cups, four pieces of string, and a rubber band
If you are an icebreaker aficionado, Tracie Kile suggests you check out the Facebook group called Team Building Activities for Educators. You will need to request membership, and once you’ve joined, you’ll find a wealth of ideas and resources to sift through and explore.
Remember, the power of a well-designed icebreaker can set a positive and welcoming tone, foster meaningful interactions, and create a sense of comfort and connection among your faculty and staff. So, cheers to the new school year! May it be celebrated with the smell of new crayons, welcome-back smiles and hugs, and– a good icebreaker!