Getting Social: Anytime Icebreakers
By Melissa Wehler
We tend to think of icebreakers as a first-day-one-and-done event. We do it. Everyone magically learns about one another and feels comfortable sharing and being social with one another forever after. Of course, that's not the way relationships and communities really work. It takes dozens--sometimes hundreds!--of such exchanges to start to feel comfortable enough to share our thoughts, analyses, beliefs, and experiences with a group of people. And if this kind of collaborative and transformative learning experience is what we hope to achieve, then we need to build in moments where learning about and sharing with one another can happen in a no-stakes, no-stress environment.
I recommend using Anytime Icebreakers. These icebreakers can be done at any point during a class (before, during, after) and at any time during the semester (first day to final exam). They are often lighthearted, strictly social activities that help everyone learn more about you, their peers, and sometimes even themselves. They're not graded or required. They're fun with the purpose of relationship-building.
Here's an example of Anytime Icebreaker that uses a This or That challenge:
This kind of Anytime Icebreaker can be used at the beginning of class as a way to get everyone ready to participate and share. Students can write their answers in chat or on a discussion board and respond to another's answers. It's a fun way to get to know one another, and in this example, you may even learn some important information about how, when, and where your students are doing their studying.
Some other examples of Anytime Icebreakers like this one, include:
Would you rather? Post two choices that are hard to choose between, such as "Would you rather explore space or explore the ocean?"
Hypothetical question. Post a question that will get students thinking, such as "If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?"
Personal preference. Ask students about a personal preference, such as "What food could you eat every day without getting tired of it and why?"
My emoji. Invite students to post an emoji that captures their current mood.
If teaching synchronously, you can use these at the beginning of class, during a break, or at the end. If teaching asynchronously, consider creating a weekly social discussion board where you can post an Anytime Icebreaker.
Have you used Anytime Icebreakers? What ones? What was your experience with them?
Do you like the This or That example we shared? You can download it here:
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