Whether you are teaching online or face-to-face, you will want to incorporate activities to build a sense of community in your course. Now, when you tell your students that they will participating in an icebreaker activity, you will hear groans and see unhappy faces. That is because students will need to step out of their social “comfort zone” and talk to complete strangers. It’s okay, stand firm, and do your icebreaker activity so those strangers become colleagues and maybe even friends.

Students are also twitchy about icebreakers because of past icebreaker activities that failed to create that coveted sense of classroom community. The best way to make the activity a success is to make it meaningful. The most successful icebreakers build common ground and create conversations.

Icebreakers that gather students into groups by some attribute (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) are also great ways to create permanent groups for in-class projects. We recommend demographically diverse groups, so pick one student from each homogenous group to form the permanent diverse groups. Another way to create diverse groups is to or have them line up based on some criteria (distance of hometown from the university) and then have the line count off by the number of permanent groups you would like to have.

Here are a few articles to help you find that perfect icebreaker:

Icebreakers We Love

  1. Line up - Have the students form a line based on distance of their hometowns or by the month and day of their birthdays...without talking.
  2. Three Truths and a Lie - Students write three truths about themselves and one false statement. Student are broken into groups and the other members need to guess which statement is false.
  3. Two-Minute Hot Seat - Students take turns being in the hot seat where the others have two minutes to ask them questions.