A few weeks ago, I shared ideas on how to break the ice when you have new students enroll. That is typically how we use them, and they are very good for that purpose, but icebreakers can sever other purposes as well.
Here are a few ways to break the ice for a new topic.
Find out what your group knows about a topic before you begin a new lesson. Divide them into teams of four and share the topic. Ask the students to brainstorm and list as many ideas or questions as they can come up with on the subject, in a given amount of time. Here’s the kicker—they cannot speak. Teams must communicate with each other through other methods than voice. Possibilities include, write ideas on a sheet of paper or flip chart page, text their ideas to each other and one-person record. Then go around the room and have each group share.
Write one question about your topic on an envelope. Have students pass around the envelope. Each student spends a moment to write a response to the question on a piece of paper and then place the response in the envelope. Once all students have completed the process, pass the envelope back around to all the students. Each student will take out a response (not their own) from the envelop and read it out loud. Discuss the questions and relate it to your class topic.
Start off by writing a word or a phrase that relates to your class topic on the board. Have students get into groups and take turns coming up and writing on the board anything relating to the word or phrase. Recap by holding a discussion.
Begin your class by asking students to draw a diagram/picture of what they currently know or understand about your subject or class topic. Have students get up out of their seats and find a partner to share their picture with while holding a discussion on what they drew and what they currently understand about the topic. (Alternative: Have students use their phones and find one picture that explains what they currently know or understand about the subject.)
Have students write down one thing they are fearful of as it relates to the topic for the day on a piece of paper. Then have them crumble up the paper to resemble a “snowball”. Have students stand up in a circle. Let the students have a snowball fight for about one minute. Summarize the Icebreaker Activity by recapping that these fears are now out in the open and they don’t need to worry about them for the rest of the class. (An add on to this activity would be during class, as you are going through the material, periodically break and put the students into groups of 5 to 7. Then ask each group to pick one of the snowballs and read the fear that is recorded. The group then spends 5 minutes discussing the fear and how that fear can be overcome.)
This is a fast warm up that’s easily adaptable to any topic. Tell your students a little bit about your topic for the day. Ask them to identify if they are “hot” meaning excited about the topic, “cold” meaning they are nervous about the topic or if they are “lukewarm” meaning unenthusiastic about the topic. Once they have identified their personal temperature – have them stand up and run to the area of the room that you have marked “HOT” – “COLD” – “LUKEWARM”. This is helpful, so you can discover very quickly where your student’s heads are.
Promote a readiness for learning. Students come into our classrooms with their minds full of things that are taking place in their day to day lives. Use an icebreaker to get your students on the same page as you and connected to your class topic.
Create excitement. Use icebreakers to get students excited about a topic right from the beginning of the class. You will not only keep their attention, they will take ownership of learning the material.
Help establish a safe learning environment. The use of an icebreaker before you begin your day or when you start a new lesson topic can help develop a sense of shared fun amongst all students. When students feel safe in their learning environment they are more willing to take risks, they often will extend themselves and get involved with their learning process.
Help students take ownership of the material. Ask questions around the topic. Ask what it means to them. Ask what they know about a subject. Get the student to buy into the content during the icebreaker that will help them see they already have knowledge around it.