If you were going to be a candy bar, what candy bar would you be? Are you a cat person or a dog person? Are you a Pepsi or Coke person? Just when would you ask such questions and why would you want to answer or want to know the answers to these questions from another person? When you are at the cash register waiting to be rung up? When you are at the hair dresser or the barber? Talking with your close friends? These questions may appear to be strange at first, but they have an uncanny way of "breaking" the ice (that uncomfortable silence or awkward conversation) when a group of people come together. In a learning community, ice breaker activities loosens the group dynamic with an engaging activity that pertains to the topic being studied or a topic that is completely irrelevant to the learning material. It causes people's shoulders to relax, mouths to grin, and warms up the room and provides a segue to the task or topic for discussion. Whether you are in a traditional classroom setting, or an online learning community, ice-breakers play a vital role in developing a sense of community in a learning environment. group.jpg

Defining Ice-breakers and Rationale

So what are ice-breakers exactly?

Ice-breakers are techniques and/or strategies used during the beginning of a class or unit to reduce tension and to immediately involve students in the class in a light and effective way. Online ice-breakers, specifically, include additional techniques that utilize various technologies to further develop a sense of community. Ice-breakers are especially important for online learners, because the face to face interaction is not readily available. Thus, ice breaker activities foster openness that leads to a bonding experience that causes students to feel a sense of community, which motivates them to be engaged in their learning.. Ice breakers can occur synchronously or asynchronously.

Types of Ice-breakers

1. Simple games
2. Solving a puzzle or conundrum
3. Responding to questions. Questions can be silly, fun, serious, reflective, experiential.
4. Sharing experiences
5. Creating visuals and posting
6. Posting blogs
7. Personal Introductions (Getting to Know You)

Consider your technologies...

Ice-breakers can be done with a variety of different technologies. A simple example is using a website to take a funny quiz, and then have everyone share the results on a discussion board. A more complex ice-breaker might be for each participant to post a digital photo, or use a microphone in an online audio chat room to introduce each other, or use a sound recording site such as Odeo to record and post an audio response to a fun question.
  • Discussion board
  • Chat room
  • Blogspot
  • Personal webpage
  • Power Point
  • Microsoft Word
  • Graphics/audio files/video clips
  • Odeo/Audacity
  • Webcam
  • Elluminuate
  • Digital camera
  • Microphone
  • Speakers

Tips for Effective Ice-Breakers

1. Keep it simple.
2. Make it fun.
3. Be creative.
4. Consider various types of Ice-breakers--don't just stick to "questions."
5. Consider your audience.
6. Be aware of time constraints
7. Keep in mind technology requirements.


  • If you were going to be a candy bar, what candy bar would you be?
  • Would you rather be a bird or a fish? Why?
  • If you were on a deserted island and you could only bring one book, what book would you bring?
  • If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which animal best matches your personality?
  • What kind of sports car are you?
  • Are you a cat person or a dog person? Explain your answer.
  • Tell two truths and one lie about yourself (the members of the group guesses which one is the lie)
  • Guessing famous people: Put names of famous people on labels and put it on their foreheads. The participant must guess the name they have by asking others questions.
  • Create and share a biopoem
  • What wild animal would you rather be?
  • Skittle Skuttle
  • Put yourselves in order by last name without saying a word.
  • Miscomm-puter-unication: Ask the class to share their most embarrassing mishap using a computer. Share with the students your own experience, for example, replying to the wrong person in an email. This will loosen them up and cause a few to chuckle before we embark on a whole new way of thinking…using technology instead of paper and pen.
  • Identify three websites you go to every day.
  • Have each participant list three of their accomplishments that might best describe them and have them put it on a post-it note and post them in front of the room. Others will use the three accomplishments to try and guess who the person is that wrote the post-it note.
  • Discussion board: post brief bios on the discussion board, then have them read all posts to find 3 people with whom they have something in common and comment on their posts.
  • Create a biography of yourself and prepare a brief video introducing yourself and the topic of discussion to the class. This could be the first thing that the students and teachers see from each other.. This is a great way to present personalities online and set the mood for the course. This activity can be used by the teacher only, or adapted to meet the needs of all participants.
  • Have students place a one page vita in document sharing for all to view within the first week of a course.
  • Create chat sessions (synchronous or asynchronous) -->class lounge where discussion has a social atmosphere or topic can be predetermined and more purposeful.
  • Have everyone take an online silly personality quizzes like those linked below, then share answers in a chat room or discussion board, asynchronous or synchronous. Perhaps users could include an image (copy & paste) if the quiz site gives them one.
  • Create a brief PowerPoint that introduces yourself. Presentation can include graphics and media.
  • More great online ice breaker ideas submitted by Southern New Hampshire University: http://acadweb.snhu.edu/DE/Goddard_Gretchen/icebreaker%20activities.htm

Did it Work?

  • Before you begin with your ice breaker ,assess the willingness of the group's presence. If the group is voluntarily present then an ice breaker not necessarily related to the topic at hand has a better chance at success. However, if your group's presence is a requirement an ice breaker directly related to your topic at hand will have a much better chance at success. In this case, your ice breaker should server as a segue into your presentation.
  • What if your ice breaker falls flat? (don't panic) Always have an alternate plan (plan B) for your ice breaker. According to your needs think about whether you need a second ice breaker or do you just need to move on, but in either case if it is not successful, acknowledge it to the group and briefly discuss what happened. With a hesitant or resistant group, frank discussion may serve as a better ice breaker. Additionally, if things fall flat, try in some to make a connection to between the ice breaker and the task at hand.


2. http://www.southalabama.edu/oll/jobaidsfall03/Icebreakers%20Online/icebreakerjobaid.htm
5. http://www.jubed.com