CHERP Icebreakers and socialisation activities

Icebreakers are discussion questions or activities used to help participants relax and ease them into a learning situation or a group activity.

Why are icebreakers important?

From the outset, building a sense of community is a vital foundation for any engaging curriculum experience.  Setting the scene from the very beginning of a module through some socialisation activities is the first step in facilitating what will hopefully be a rich community of learners where all learners feel respected, safe and supported. Once this is achieved, we can aim to successfully develop a culture of learning and the development of higher-order thinking skills.

However, moving through the semester and as we deliver our curriculum online, socialisation activities can also be a valuable way of maintaining an open, friendly, inclusive and supportive environment, whilst encouraging reciprocity amongst students.

Icebreakers are discussion questions or activities used to help participants relax and ease them into a learning situation or a group activity. They are great for encouraging students to get to know one another and feel comfortable with one another.

Informal icebreaker activities will:

  • help the tutor and students to personalise themselves and to build a community of learners
  • break down social barriers
  • help people to relax
  • create a positive group atmosphere
  • energise and motivate
  • encourage learners to participate from the start of a session
  • give your students a low-stakes opportunity to learn how to use online tools to develop connections with their classmates

Using other social media or blog spaces outside of the course platform can also allow (and encourage) the community of learners to exist and develop over several social means concurrently.

Below is a summary of ideas you might consider trying over the semester. Most can be adopted in both the face to face and the online environments.

Student Participation Guidance

It is recommended the following narrative is used as an introductory guide for any ice-breakers you adapt.

When participating in all discussion activities, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Be polite and respectful of other participants, their views and beliefs
  • Keep any discussion posts/contribution relevant and appropriate to the particular topic
  • Maintain confidentiality where appropriate
  • Students should not:
  • post abusive or defamatory comments nor share inappropriate content
  • copy or forward any private messages without permission
  • breach copyright when sharing content
  • post material that may contain viruses that will disrupt University systems

Use the BBL space for promotional material and advertising.

Example ice-breakers

  • Asking Questions

    Getting to Know Each Other in Smaller Groups At Speed!

    Description: This is a useful socialisation activity for getting to know one another further in small group setting.  The activity involves students asking each other light-hearted questions  to get to know one another.  This activity can be re-used during the early stages of the semester by utilising different questions.  It is most useful with smaller groups (2-4 students).

    Tool: Blackboard Collaborate – Break-out rooms

    Delivery: Synchronous

    Setup Instructions:

    In Collaborate, set-up Break-out rooms.

    Allocate random members into groups of 2-4 as required.  Once the activity is complete reshuffle the groups enabling students to meet as many students in the class as possible based on the allocated time.

    Tutor Note: Release the activity description and questions 24-48 hrs in advance to the students. Lecturer to encourage a volunteer time-keeper in each group and guide students as required.

    Ideally allow 1 minute for each student to answer three questions.

    Optional extras; Students to feed back anything interesting on the Class Whiteboard. Share answers with all the participants and ask them to guess who gave the answer.

    Student Instruction

    In our next Collaborate class, you will be getting to know your classmates further in smaller group activities of 2-4 students.  This will support you in getting to know each other further. Within the small groups a fellow student will select any 3 of the following light-hearted questions.

    • Where were you born?
    • What’s your favourite meal?
    • What’s your favourite Netflix series/ TV series?
    • What are one/two things that you enjoy in life?

    Live Activity Instruction

    You will be split into random groups of 2-4 students

    In the first 5 seconds, confirm a Volunteer for timekeeping

    Each member must ask another group member the questions below

    Each person will have one minute max. to ask three questions (Time-keeper to monitor time)

    Prepare to be reshuffled, and repeat the activity above with another three classmates.  Again you will have 4 minutes for a group of 4 students.

    After the exercise we encourage you to reach out to three other students with similar interests

    An example of how this might look on blackboard:

    An example of how this might look on blackboard

  • Study Practice

    This activity is useful for ‘Getting to Know Each Other and Reflecting on Your Study Environment and Practices’.

    Description: This is another useful socialisation activity but advances to supportive student study and learning practices.

    Tool: Blackboard Blog Activity

    Delivery: Asynchronous

    Setup Instructions:

    Create a Blog in Blackboard titled ‘Study Practice’. Tweak the student instructions to suit your L&T requirements. Select the required Blog Settings.

    Student Instructions:

    This activity is a three-part activity to be completed during Week 1.

    Activity 1 – To be completed by the end of Day 1 [e.g.: Monday]

    1. Post a picture/image of your favourite place to study
    2. Answer the following questions:
    • Why is this, where you do your best work?
    • What are your three must-haves while you are studying?
    • Do you like music playing while you study?
    • Do you have a favourite study snack?
    • Do you like to study alone or with other students?
    • Do you have a child (or pet) that is your study buddy?
    • What is your favourite study-related tech?
    • Do you have any good resources you can share with your classmates?

    Activity 2 - To be completed by the end of Day 2 [e.g.: Tuesday]

    1. Read and reflect on X number of your classmates’ postings.
    2. Are there any new practices that you would like to try?
    3. Are there any of your own practices that you would now drop?

    Activity 3 - To be completed by the end of Day 3 [e.g.: Wednesday]

    1. In your blog, complete a Plus (+) Delta (∆) review of your study practices.

    Plus = What’s working and you want to keep?

    Delta = What you need to change to improve your study practices?

    Plus (+)

    Delta (∆)

    What’s working X3

    What needs to change X3

    Lecturer Summary:

    Close the blog activity by acknowledging and/or summarise effective practices for the class.

    An example of how this might look on blackboard:

    An example of how this might look on blackboard:

  • Hopes and Fears

    Getting to Know One Another and Reducing Apprehensions.

    Description:

    This is another useful induction activity, which encourages students to articulate their goals and any apprehensions.  It provides lecturers with an insight to participants’ expectations and potential barriers to engagement.

    Tool: Padlet Board

    Hopes and Fears Padlet board

    Delivery: Asynchronous

    Guidance:

    You may need to upload your hopes/fears to get the ball rolling.

    View and summarise all the hopes first and then the fears and identify strategies that can be used to overcome the fears identified at the next tutor-led session.

    Student Instructions:

    Add a posting in each section of the Padlet board.

    What do you hope to achieve from taking this module/course/going to Uni?

    What is your greatest fear, if any?

    Please do be honest you may be surprised others share the same challenges.

    An example of how this might look on Padlet:

  • One Word, One Image

    Tool: Padlet Board

    One Word, One Image Padlet board

    Delivery: Asynchronous

    Student Instructions:

    Choose an image/take a picture and using one word, describe you or your life and explain why this picture.

    (You can download an image from the Internet or take a picture with your smartphone, etc.)

    An example of how this might look on Padlet:

  • Describe Yourself

    Tool: Padlet Board

    Describe Yourself Padlet board

    Delivery: Asynchronous

    Student Instructions:

    Take a picture of an object. Describe yourself using this object in three words.

    An example of how this might look on Padlet:

  • Sketch what the module looks like

    Tool: Padlet Board

    Sketch what the module looks like Padlet board

    Delivery: Asynchronous

    Student Instructions:

    Sketch what you see the module being about.

    Take a photo and post to the padlet board.

    An example of how this might look on Padlet:

    An example of how this might look on Padlet:

  • Ending the module: Accomplished Goals

    This is a good activity to focus on positive things (i.e. people’s achievements). It is also a networking tool, as participants could be interested in achieving the same goal that another person in the group has achieved and who they might ask for advice.

    Tool: Blackboard Journal / Menti

    Delivery: Asynchronous/ Synchronous

    Set-up instructions:

    Create a Journal/ Menti Quiz, using the questions below.

    Student instructions:

    What goals have you achieved in the past 12 weeks? It does not matter how small.

    Discussion (Optional)

    How did you feel when you achieved the goal?

    What skills do you think were important in achieving the goal?

    An optional extension:

    In groups of four, discuss your achievements and skills developed. Summarise discussions and findings and post to the class virtual board.

    An example of how this might look on Blackboard:

    An example of how this might look on Blackboard: