How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice! That’s right, love ‘em or loathe ‘em, it’s time to prepare some classroom icebreakers. While not everyone loves an icebreaker activity or question, they do serve the necessary purpose of getting new groups acquainted, thinking, or moving. The key to selling your students on an icebreaker is to make it unique and suited to your specific crowd.
11 Uniquely Fun Icebreakers for the Classroom
Fun and Active Icebreakers for Students
Icebreakers and fun, together at last! Not every student is gonna love opening up about personal details to a stranger, so energizing icebreakers can take away that deeply personal element. These games and activities get students working together to solve a problem, have fun, and learn about each other without even realizing it.
An Emote for the Ages
From flossing to deep dabs to hitting the Griddy, emotes and dances have become the norm thanks to games like Fortnite. Get students up and active and using their creativity to come up with emotes and dances of their own.
- Split the class into groups of four.
- Have each group member briefly introduce themself.
- After introductions, have each group member come up with their own emote or dance with help from their group members. This can be as simple or as complex as they want.
- For extra credit, get each group to come up with a collective emote that all four can do at once.
- At the end of the time limit, have each group come up and present their emotes as a group.
Nicknames and Daps
This activity can help shyer students find a friend in class, while automatically giving them a study buddy for class tasks and projects in the future.
- Break your class up into groups of two. Give each student a couple minutes to introduce themself to their partner.
- Given that brief introduction, have each student come up with a nickname for their partner and a “secret” handshake. That handshake can be as elaborate or as simple as they want, and include elbow bumps, fist bumps, hooking fingers, the works.
- At the end of the time limit, have the students introduce each other via their nicknames and then show off their handshake.
- As the year goes, encourage the partners to perform their handshakes with each other at the beginning of every class. They can also feel free to add or change up that handshake throughout the year.
Every Corner of the World
This is an easy way to get to know your students while helping them find classmates with similar interests.
- Using some masking tape on the floor, split the classroom up into four quadrants. Label the four quadrants A, B, C, and D.
- Ask a question or make a statement followed by four choices corresponding to each of the quadrants.
- Have students stand in the quadrant that most applies to their opinion.
My favorite subject is:
My go-to drink of choice is:
Who’s the Imposter?
Get students acquainted with each other and the classroom with a game inspired by the online game Among Us. Think of it as a modernized version of the classic Winking Witch activity where students not only have to figure out who’s the Witch (the Imposter in this game) but also must complete a series of small tasks.
- Come up with a series of small tasks that students could easily complete alone or with a partner in your classroom.
- Write a list of all the tasks. It’s good to have enough tasks so each student must complete three of them (some can be completed multiple times by multiple students). For example:
- Task 1: Find a blue dry erase marker, then find someone with a red dry erase marker. Write your names next to each other on the whiteboard.
- Task 2: Find a red dry erase marker, then find someone with a blue dry erase marker. Write your names next to each other on the whiteboard.
- Task 3: Sign out a book from the classroom library.
- Use index cards to create a task card for each student. Leave two cards blank for now. On each of the other index cards, write three tasks.
- On the two blank index cards, write the word Imposter at the top. Add instructions such as, “Watch what other students do, and copy some of those tasks. Try to make it look like you’re completing three real tasks in the classroom. Your goal is to blend in so no one guesses that you’re the imposter.”
- Randomly hand out index cards to students. Instruct them not to let anyone see their card, and to be on the lookout for who the two imposters are.
- Set a time limit of 15 minutes or so, and have students start their tasks.
- Once a student has completed their three tasks, they should sit in their seat.
- At the end of the time limit or when all students are seated, take turns casting a vote for who the imposters were.
Icebreakers for the Virtual or Hybrid Classroom
With the advent of hybrid learning setups and video conferencing software, more classrooms are going virtual. This allows students to learn and attend class wherever they are, and with a little creativity, you can break the ice over the web.
Build Your Own Theme Park
The city is creating a new theme park, and your class has been hired to design it.
- Split the class into pairs, and have each pair choose a theme park attraction to create. Whether it’s the haunted house, an artisanal hot dog stand, or a gravity-defying roller coaster, everything’s on the table.
- Give each team a set time in a breakout room to create a drawing of their attraction.
- From there, you can collaborate using Paint or a shared whiteboard to create an overhead map of the park that includes everyone’s attraction.
- Then, have each pair share their attraction as you all explore the map.
Show and Tell Scavenger Hunt
This is one part scavenger hunt, one part show and tell. You’ll need a list of scavenger hunt items to get started.
- Share your screen with a list of items to find in the room the student is currently in. This could be something like, “Find something as big as a tennis ball.”
- Set a time limit, and start the timer. Students should bring the items back to their desk or be able to point to them on their camera view.
- When time is up, calculate how many items each student found. As you go down the list, have students share a quick anecdote or description of the item they found.
Deserted by Design
It’s the typical idea: Each group ends up on a deserted island. The catch: Each group gets to actually design that island, not just live on it with three random items.
- Break your class up into groups of four to five in breakout rooms.
- Ask each group to create their own deserted island within a set time limit. What does it look like? How big is it? Are there animals? Are there any plants or fruit trees? The only limitation is that there can’t be any technology (no computers, no WiFi, nothing with a microchip) on that island.
- Then, have each student determine what they would bring to that island. However, that item has to be something that they currently have on them or in their backpack.
- For older students: Have each group member determine the role that they would have on the desert island. Would there be a designated person in charge of hunting, fishing, farming, navigating, building shelter?
- At the end of class, have each group briefly present their island, the items they’d bring, and their individual roles.
Quick Icebreakers When You’re Low on Time
Sometimes, you don’t have a lot of time because the day’s lessons require more time, but that’s where quick icebreakers come in. You can also do more quick icebreakers throughout the year, instead of one big one in the beginning.
Have a little fun with puns! This game is best for older students, but you can also provide examples of puns to help out younger students.
- Give each student five minutes to come up with a quick, one-minute introduction about themself. The catch: assign each of the students with a broad subject (fish, birds, sports, farm animals).
- The student has to include puns referring to that subject throughout their introduction.
- At the end of time, each student will present their pun-derful introduction.
- Assign a prize to the student that comes up with the most puns and/or the best pun.
This game gets squirrelly students out of their seats, chatty students focused on a project, and shy students talking to their classmates.
- Tell the students that they’ve got one minute to organize themselves by birthday from January 1st to December 31st. (Give older students less than one minute; give younger students more if needed.)
- If you’ve got room in your classroom, they can line themselves up in order. If you need more space, take it outside.
- Start the timer and watch them scramble!
- At the end of one minute, go down the line and have kids call out their birthdays.
- Use this order to assign partners (the person they were standing next to) or groups (their birth month).
- If you want to extend this activity, scramble them up again and have them do it backwards — December 31st to January 1st.
Best Summer Ever
Despite our best intentions, students tend to dread the "What I Did Last Summer" essay prompt. Get them on their feet (and out of their comfort zone) with a fun, charades-inspired icebreaker that involves no talking at all.
- Split the class into two teams.
- Call on the first person on each team alphabetically (students aren’t likely to volunteer on the first day of school).
- Start a timer for 30 seconds (change if it seems too long or too short).
- Have them act out something they did that summer.
- If their team guesses it, have the first person from the second team do the same.
- The team with the most points wins!
Sometimes students just need to break the ice with one other person. Get them to know their elbow partner — the student sitting closest to them — with a quick activity.
- Have students turn to their elbow partner, who could be sitting next to them, behind them, across from them, etc.
- Give them one minute to chat and find three things they have in common.
- After one minute, ask partners if they’d like to share (don’t call on anyone who doesn’t want to).
- Now, give elbow partners 30 second to find three additional things they have in common.
- After the timer rings, ask again for volunteers.
- You can stop it here or continue all the way to ten seconds — read the room to decide if students are enjoying themselves or not.
Classroom Icebreaker Questions
If you’re really short on time or looking for simple icebreakers for students, sometimes all you need is the right question. These are also things that you can use throughout the year as daily journal questions or oral prompts that can help you learn even more about your students.
- If you were some sort of deity or magic spirit, what are the five items that someone would use to conjure you?
- What superpower would be the most useful to you in your everyday life? What would be the least useful?
- What is your least favorite class? How would you make it better?
- If you didn’t have to worry about money or logistics, where would you travel in the world?
- What are your preferences for toast, including bread type, level of toastedness, and spreads?
- Every time you walk into class, your teacher has to sing a short segment from an existing song. What would you make them sing?
- Do you know any languages other than English? What languages do you want to learn?
- Pens and pencils are banned from school, but you’re allowed to write with anything else. What would you use? Markers, crayons, ketchup?
- With all the ingredients in the world, what new ice cream flavor would you make?
- What was your favorite thing about summer vacation? What was your least favorite thing?
- If you had to go back in time and redo one year of your life, which one would you choose?
- How brown does a banana have to get before you consider it too gross to eat?
- What movie have you walked out on (or stopped before it was over) because it was so bad?
- If you could erase your memory and experience an amazing movie, book, or concert for the first time again, what would you choose?
- What’s the weirdest thing your pet has ever done?
- What bodies of water have you swum in? Which was your favorite?
- What is your favorite part of your favorite city?