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Ice Breakers

Description of Activity: Ice-breakers are an introductory activity during which students can come to know one another. They help set the tone for the course or unit of activity. In an ice-breaker, an activity is given to the students, which helps guide then to disclose information to other students and create a proper learning set.

Appropriate Content Areas: All.

arrow button The Activity Page, originally developed by Christian Itin, has a large database of sample activities at -
arrow button Initial knowledge activity

Goals & Objectives:

After completing an ice-breaking activity with full participation, students will:

  • feel more comfortable and less isolated in the distance education environment,
  • have a chance to try out learning management system features in a low stakes activity,
  • be encourages to participate more in the classroom, and
  • begin interacting with other students.



Materials and Resources:

What needs to be prepared in advance by the teacher? The assignment description. In some cases, background readings may be necessary. Students will need access to tutorials on the use of the appropriate synchronous or asynchronous tool used in conducting the ice-breaking activity.

What does the student need to bring to the lesson? The willingness to open up to other students in a course. In some cases, background readings may be necessary.

Guiding Questions for this Activity:

Depends on the overall purpose of the activity, but a general guiding question would be, how well will the students be able to interact with one another during this course.

Activity Outline and Procedure:

At the beginning of a course, students are asked to complete an activity. The directions are provided in an obvious location and may be linked to an initial welcome message from the instructor. They can be done synchronously or asynchronously. Prior to performing the activity, students may need instructions on using the appropriate synchronous or asynchronous tool.

Teaching Strategies:

  • Performing this activity in a synchronous session to start off the course can help loosen up students mood and provide them the opportunity to get used to the tool during a low stress activity. Troubleshooting technical difficulties are less stressful during a fun activity where time is not an issue and other students are present to help or co-miserate.
  • Linking an ice-breaking activity to the actual content is a good way to meet two objectives with one activity. See the second example link above for such an activity.
  • To motivate students and start the course on a positive note, provide a modest number of points toward the course grade through this activity.


What accommodations may be needed for students with disabilities or other special needs? In general, this assignment will have few accommodations, but this may change as the nature of the chosen activity changes, therefore, the instructor will have to take this under consideration as developing the activity for use in an online context.


An icebreaking activity would normally be the first thing that students perform. It might even happen before looking at the course syllabus in order to set the tone for the rest of the course.

Ideas for Activity Evaluation and Teacher Reflection:

How did the students like the lesson? End of semester evaluations should ask about the usefulness of such activities. Ideas for improvement may be suggested. Although points may be assigned for participation in the ice-breaking activity, it is not normally formally assessed.

Additional Reading:

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