Updated: Aug 27, 2022
So I created some great bingo cards for a new group at a College I once worked at. No one in the group knew each other and an uneasy silence fell at induction. I handed out the bingo sheets and asked the students to find people on the sheet and cross them off 'someone who takes the train etc' and to my horror, nobody moved. Despite my best efforts and chiding this group of 17-year-olds did not want to take part in the ice breaker activity. They just quietly one by one placed the sheet on the desk in front of them alongside all the induction materials. I looked around the room at a sea of folded arms. I slunk off to my coffee break despondent that my carefully prepared activity had bombed and had a rethink.
So what did I do? I went old skool....
1. INTRODUCE THE PERSON NEXT TO YOU
This involved no moving so they were immediately more enthused and completed the task admirably. They had a 10-minute timer on the board and had to chat with a person I pointed to, the only choosing was being done by me. This was as passive and as low-key as I could get the activity. It was a success and we discovered skateboarders, writers, guineapig enthusiasts and Taylor Swift fans were among the group.
Here are a few others that actually work that I have gathered over the years:
2. TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE
Ask students to tell you three facts about themselves, two are true one is a lie. My demo ones were; I live in a bungalow, I own a goat, and my brother was a pop star. The faces of the students when I admitted that I did not own a goat was worth it! There were lots of laughs with this activity and a shared laugh is a good way for a group to begin to gel. When they later work in teams it gives them something to chat to each other about.
3. I WENT TO MARKET
If you set up chairs before the session starts and you have room for a circle do so, some eye contact is healthy, however, if you are stuck with 35 desks in a room designed for 6 them leave them in their seats. Point (politely) at the first student and ask 'what is your name?' and they say Bob for example. Then point at the next student who must say Bob's name and their own. The third student needs to recite the first two and their own and so on. At some moment in the activity, the penny drops for those at the back who discover they now need to listen, but along the way, we are learning the names of everyone and that brings down barriers. If they want to play again you can do it with the number of siblings each student has or a shopping list of unusual items.
4. LINE UP ROLL UP
This only works if you are at the door and tell them not to sit down as soon as they arrive. They won't like this as they will want to put their bag somewhere safe so you might want to instruct them to choose a desk and then return to the doorway, up to you. Now without speaking the students should line up in order of their birthdays. You can assign the window as December if you want to speed things up. Leaders will emerge who use hand and head gestures plus grunting to move other students around. Useful stuff to know about a group. Later in the year when you do lines of opinions, you can refer back to this activity and everyone knows what they are doing.
5. LEFT OR RIGHT
This might work better as a group activity later in the year when the kids trust you, but if you can get them out of their seats they will remember this better.
Point at one corner or side of the room. If students stand on that side that is their preference or choice. So they all start in the middle (go outside for this if you can). Point left for Nike right for Adidas middle for neither. You can choose the questions here are a few suggestions...
Rather live in a city or the countryside,
rather play or watch sport,
KFC or McDonald's,
Tesco or Sainsburys (in middle for ASDA or Morrisons whatever is local),
rather be indoors or outdoors
Cadbury or Galaxy
This way they find like-minded individuals who they might gel with and may start chatting to, allow talking as that is the point to get this group nattering to each other. The bonus is again if you run something similar with questions at the end of the term then you can refer back to this activity.
and.... A BEACH BALL WITH QUESTIONS ON IT
I have seen this doing the rounds on social media but I am not sure that throwing a ball with a group that doesn't know each other is wise. My son also said 'it sounds lame' so use with caution. If you do run this use a sharpie permanent marker so it doesn't rub off on their hands, you don't want them to hate you from the first lesson. Good questions are 'what is your super power' and 'what would you order from a takeaway'.
If you have any good suggestions for ice breakers that work please send them to Sarah Hilton at email@example.com