Education Technology

Virtual Icebreakers … as Easy as 1-2-3!

Posted 09/04/2020 by Jennifer Kass (@jennkass)

Icebreakers are important parts of any learning environment — they encourage students to participate from the start of class, allow students to get to know one another, and perhaps teach you a thing or two about your class. But with many schools across the country starting virtually, getting to know your students, with a computer screen between you and them, has its challenges. For starters, a virtual setup makes it harder to read students’ facial expressions, and it limits the conversation that naturally happens in a traditional classroom.

But, have no fear! We’ve created a list of quick and easy icebreakers that can be done virtually to help build human connection and a sense of community among your classes. Try one, or try all three!

Break the Ice
We’ve adapted some of our favorite icebreakers for a virtual environment. They are quick and easy and will help teachers get the school year off to a strong start.

#1: Quick Poll (If you have less than five minutes)
Make a list of five to 10 items to learn more about your students by learning what activities they participated in over the summer. Of course, you’ll want to customize the list based on the age of your students and the area where you live. Ask students to raise their hand (or their glass) if they did any of the items as you call them off of your list. You could even ask students that raised their hand to elaborate. Below are some ideas to get you started:
  • Binge-watched an entire TV series
  • Read a book or two (or more)
  • Took a road trip
  • Got a new pet
  • Started a new hobby
  • Tried a new food
  • Got a job
  • Went swimming
  • Played more video games than your parents would have liked
  • Checked out books from the library

#2: This or That (If you have between 5–10 minutes)
Make a list of items that are related to one another to learn your students’ preferences. Think Netflix or Hulu, mustard or ketchup, pencil or pen. There’s a link to a Google Doc™ here that you can copy and customize for your students.

Once you have created your own list, call out the two items, and ask students to indicate if they like THIS or THAT. Tell them if they prefer THIS to raise their right hand or if they prefer THAT to put their left hand on their head. Another option: You could have students write THIS or THAT on two pieces of paper, and they could hold their signs up. This game is always a great conversation starter!

#3: Scavenger Hunt (If you have between 10–20 minutes)
Learn a whole lot about your students and how they think by hosting a virtual scavenger hunt. Get your students up and moving by asking them to collect several items around their house that match different descriptions. You can access a Google Doc™ here with some ideas to get started. Simply make a copy of the document and customize it based on things you think would be fun for your class.

To play, simply call out something on your list, such as an item in their home that is in the shape of a pyramid. Then, send them off searching for the item to bring back and share with the class on video. To increase the level of difficulty, make it a race, and see which student can find their item the quickest. I did this recently with my work team, and it was a big hit!

Whatever icebreaker(s) you choose, just remember that these activities can, and should be, an important part of the new school year. Students have been through a lot over the past several months, and building a sense of community where they feel comfortable and safe is especially important. Hope it’s a great school year!

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About the author: Jennifer Kass is the Director of Marketing for TI Education Technology, where she has worked for 15 years. During her career, she has worked in chemical engineering, finance and operations. She is also the mom of four kids, an avid runner and a Disney movie and parks aficionado.