Icebreakers | Center for Teaching Innovation (2024)

Icebreakers are fun activities to help people get to know one another. Instructors can use them to help acquaint students with course content and expectations.

Icebreakers can also be designed to help warm up online learning spaces and orient students to the online environment.

Icebreakers may involve students:

  • playing a game with their classmates
  • responding to a funny and/or "getting to know you" prompt
  • explaining why they are taking the course
  • sharing something meaningful related to the course or discipline, such as a recent headline, article, or other media content related to the course
  • creating something (e.g., drawings, video, songs, poems, etc.)

Why use icebreakers?

Icebreakers have several benefits in the classroom. They can:

  • help to create a relaxed environment where students share ideas and participate more fully in the class
  • encourage students to share ownership for the learning environment of the class
  • build rapport among students and foster a productive learning environment
  • prepare students for collaborative group work

Considerations for using icebreakers

  • What do you want to achieve with an icebreaker? Do you want to set the tone for the learning community or lead into course content in engaging ways?
  • Think of your population in choosing or designing an activity. This includes group size, demographics, levels of knowledge, extent to which they know each other, reasons for being in your class, and more. For example, larger classes might need a simple activity and new classes may require a low-risk activity.
  • Think through the activity ahead of time and adapt it accordingly. Will the space you have suffice? Do you have all needed supplies? Would the activity lead to issues of confidentiality? Does the activity accommodate varying abilities?
  • Icebreakers do not always go exactly as planned. Flexibility and willingness to learn arepart of building a positive and open learning community.

Getting started with icebreakers

These tips can help with the logistics of running an icebreaker activity in class. See Getting started with icebreakers for more tips and examples to try.

  • Introduce the activity to the group and explain your justification for using it
  • Establish a symbol for when the activity is over, such as ringing a bell, clapping, or turning off the lights
  • Help students find a partner (do not assume that everyone will match up easily: some students are more introverted than others, some may be resistant, or there may simply be an odd number in the class. It can be easier to count off students)
  • Indicate who will start first (e.g., the student with the longest hair, the student whose birthday is closest to today's date, etc.)
  • Announce when the activity is halfway finished; that way if only one student has spoken so far, the other will have a chance to participate as well
  • Debrief by asking a few pairs to share with the group what they learned about their partner, or one thing they discovered that they have in common with each other


Chlup, D. T., & Collins, T. E. (2010). Breaking the ice: Using icebreakers and re-energizers with adult learners.Adult Learning, 21(3-4), 34-39.

Eggleston, T., & Smith, G. (2004). Building community in the classroom through ice-breakers and parting ways.Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology Online. Retrieved from

West, E. (1999).The big book of icebreakers: Quick, fun activities for energizing meetings and workshops. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Icebreakers | Center for Teaching Innovation (2024)


What are good ice breaker questions for teachers? ›

Would you rather be invisible or be able to read minds? ❖ If you could be an animal, what animal would you be and why? ❖ If you could bring back any fashion trend, what would it be? ❖ If you had 25 hours a day, how would you spend your extra time?

Are Icebreakers appropriate to use in the teaching learning process? ›

Fostering readiness to learn - Icebreakers are also important strategies to foster readiness to learn as they can prime learners with regards to bringing to the forefront any experiences and knowledge they may unknowingly have regarding the subject material, knowledge on which further learning can be built.

What are the 4 C's Icebreakers? ›

Facilitator asks each participant to think of the Cartoon character, Color, Car, and Cuisine that best describes his/her personality. Give participants a few minutes to think about their 4 C's. The facilitator should start with their 4 C's and should talk about why he/she chose the C's he/she did.

What are 5 great ice breaker questions? ›

Icebreaker questions for small groups
  • What's your one piece of advice to everyone here?
  • What question do you wish people would ask you?
  • What is one thing we would never guess about you?
  • What's one thing you want to do in life but don't know where to start?
  • What's a cause or purpose you deeply believe in?

What is a fun quick ice breaker? ›

Two Truths and One Lie

A simple and classic ice breaker game. Each employee shares three statements about themselves – two truths, and one lie. Then, everyone tries to guess which is the lie by asking questions. Try to find out as many details about the statements as possible and watch the speaker's reactions closely.

What is just 5 things icebreaker? ›

Just Five Things - This icebreaker is so versatile and can work for any group. Break up into groups of four or five and tell them they'll be coming up with a list of five things to answer a prompt. Create a question that relates to your group.

What are the disadvantages of icebreakers? ›

Wasting time: A poorly planned or executed icebreaker game can be a waste of time and take away from the purpose of the meeting or event. Decreased engagement: If the icebreaker game is boring or not engaging, attendees may tune out and become less focused on the rest of the meeting or event.

Are ice breakers effective? ›

Icebreakers have several benefits in the classroom. They can: help to create a relaxed environment where students share ideas and participate more fully in the class. encourage students to share ownership for the learning environment of the class.

How do you facilitate an icebreaker? ›

Keep your icebreaker questions lighthearted and inclusive. Make sure they're questions that everybody can answer—steer clear of topics that are too specific or which might not be relevant to everybody, such as certain TV shows or music genres.

How do you do the 3 question mingle? ›

Each participant writes down three questions, each on one post-it. These questions should be open questions that you would be curious to ask other members of the group to better get to know them. Give participants a few examples, such as: What skill would you most like to develop?

What are the questions for thought provoking icebreakers? ›

Thought-provoking icebreakers
  • Why do we create art?
  • What subject do you wish was taught in every school?
  • If you could know the answer to any question, what would it be?
  • What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?
  • When do you feel the most courageous?
  • What piece of advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
Dec 23, 2022

How long should an icebreaker be? ›

Be mindful of the icebreaker's duration. Ensure it takes little time but allows participants to get to know each other and feel comfortable enough to engage in the meeting's main topics. Generally, icebreakers should last between 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the group and the activity itself.

What is the bucket list icebreaker? ›

This icebreaker is about learning more about your team's dreams and aspirations. To play, you'll pick one person to share something from their bucket list. After they share, they'll choose someone to go next, and you'll continue to go around the circle until everyone has shared at least one bucket list item.

What are some fun questions to ask teachers? ›

About Life Outside of School
  • What is one of your hidden talents?
  • What would the students be surprised to find out about you?
  • What's a typical Saturday night like for you?
  • How often do you accidently start speaking Spanish at home? ...
  • What are some pets you've had or would like to own?
  • What is your dream vacation?

What is a good ice breaker question for a work meeting? ›

Fun Icebreaker Questions For Work
  • What superpower do you most envy, and how do you wish you could use it?
  • What's your favorite meme, and why?
  • If there was a zombie apocalypse, how would you survive?
  • What's your guilty pleasure TV show, and why should we be watching it?
  • What's your favorite breakfast food?

What is a good question in teaching? ›

Effective questions challenge students, but are not too difficult. Closed-ended questions, such as those requiring a yes/no response, or multiple choice can quickly check comprehension. Open-ended questions probe and elicit expanded thinking and processing of information.

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