7 types of icebreakers that will get your students laughing, thinking and connecting

The art of asking the perfect question is my own personal Mona Lisa. It is the element in my practice that I am always improving and perfecting. In fact, I even made a little video about some of the cognitive elements involved in questions.

Let go of perfection

Crafting a perfect question takes audience intuition, subject knowledge and most of all genuine curiosity about the result. But getting it right can be a mix of experience, trial and error and just plain luck. Jump in with something you find interesting and see where it takes you.

Have my questions bombed? Oh yes. Have I had the uncomfortably long blank stare? Yep. I have even been asked why on earth I would ask such a boring question. Ouch.

Most of all, when you are ‘on’ and right in the middle of a lesson, you need a certain amount of preparation, as well as have enough spontaneity to roll with the group if they want to go another way.

listen for patterns

It is the simplest yet the most powerful tool to see how articulate and fluid your students are. If you can, try to set an intention for what you listen for. Perhaps you can focus on speaking patterns like verbs, or use of modals, or vocabulary from previous lessons. If you notice mistakes, try to pick the most prevalent pattern and then give it some attention. Or perhaps you notice that the students are incorporating a bunch of previously learned vocabulary–make sure you point it out and praise them.

Question Tag-You’re it!

During the COVID confinement, I taught an online conversation course with about 10 students at a time. To allow everyone to speak, we played a game I called “question-tag”.

Students choose a question from the list and ask another classmate. Then that classmate is “it” and chooses the next question and classmate. Simple concept, but it puts the control in the students’ hands and adds just a touch of suspense to keep people engaged.

Want to play…You can use these 7 types of icebreakers to get going. The questions are meant as a corporate team-building exercise. Thus they are authentic and funny. Let me know how it turns out.

Can you identify these famous paintings?

I love silly quizzes that tell me which Star Wars character I am or whether I am an introvert or extrovert. I definitely take them with a grain of salt, but I do find them entertaining. What’s more, the suspense creates a great natural motivation to read. So here is one I find pretty generic and adds an educational aspect to it. But you can find the all the quizzes in the to get things going section of this Website.

Pre discussion

  • Have you ever done a silly pop-psychology quiz?
  • What was the result?
  • How much do you know about art?
  • What artists do you admire?

The Website

  • What was your result?
  • Which paintings did you recognize?
  • Which paintings left you puzzled?

Let me know how it goes…

Mel

Are you stressed about getting calm?

Wait what? Yes you heard me…there is so much out there to remind us to calm down, it can be positively stressful. From meditation, to prioritizing, exercising, sleeping, making lists, it can be time consuming and yes stressful to reduce stress. Why?

Thrive Global devotes an interesting article on the “Calmnivore.” It exposes the bombardement of calm-related strategies and advice. The goal is the help separate the useful from the silly.

Pre discussion

  • 8 out of 10 people report feeling stressed, why do you think this is so?
  • What do you know about the “Zen” culture?
  • Do a Mind Map of some of the stress reducing techniques you know

The article: The Calmnivore’s Dilemma: Our Increasingly Stressful Search for Calm

  • What are some of the main points of the introduction?
  • What does Propranolol do? Why is it controversial?
  • First heading:
    • What is stressed linked to?
    • What does it mean to be ‘reactive’ rather than ‘proactive’?
    • What therapies and technique exist
  • Second heading:
    • What is the author’s story?
  • Third heading:
    • So what works?