Using ice breakers and other activities throughout the semester allows students to get to know one another and to begin to see and care about each other as individuals, building and maintaining community. Icebreakers allow students to see connections with other students, fostering belonging.
Sample Icebreakers for Cultivating Community
Sample social icebreakers from Columbia University Center for Teaching and Learning:
(Barkley et al., 2014, p. 59)
(Barkley et al., 2014, p. 60)
|Soundtrack of your life||
(Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2010, p. 62)
|Where are you from?||
(McGrath et al., 2014)
|Your favorite quote||
(Chlup & Collins, 2010)
Icebreakers related to course content or academics
- Invite students to look through the syllabus and share what topic they find most appealing. Have them share in groups of 3-4, and discuss similar and different choices.
- In groups, share how you learn best: What kind of learning environment, teaching styles and activities enable you to learn deeply and thoroughly?
- Put students into groups of five and give them 10 minutes to come up with an idea for a new movie or product that is related to a text or topic related to your course. After ten minutes of preparation, have groups share their pitch with the rest of the class; when everyone has shared, have everyone vote on which pitch deserves “funding.”
- Create your own “RiceBreaker” (Spry, 2022)–an icebreaker that connects to course content and demonstrates the value of different perspectives. In a class on Identity Politics, for example, Spry asks students: “How does your family or culture cook rice?”
Icebreakers for asynchronous classes
These can easily be done through a discussion board. Here are some sample activities:
- Virtual Name Tags. Create a discussion board that provides a “name tag” template:
Hello, my name is:
My major is:
In my spare time, I like to:
My favorite food is:
Ask students to complete and post their name tags as a reply to your thread. Then have them look for others they have something in common with and reply to their posts.
- Useless Talent Show. What is one thing you can do that is a “useless” skill or talent? Have students vote on the best “useless” talent or ones they would like to learn.
Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Community Building in the Classroom. Retrieved January 11, 2023 from https://ctl.columbia.edu/resources-and-technology/teaching-with-technology/teaching-online/community-building/.
Spry, Amber B. (2022)..The #RiceBreaker: Facilitating Intercultural Dialogues in the Classroom by Engaging Shared Experiences, Journal of Political Science Education, DOI: 10.1080/15512169.2022.2116711
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