5 Ice Breakers to Create a Positive Learning Environment
A fundamental guideline of AL is that every activity should advance the learning —including initial classroom activities. Traditional icebreakers may be fun, but if they don’t tie in directly to the objectives of the program, then they risk becoming fluff. In order for your participants to become engaged with the topic and comfortable with each other, always use actual content from your course as the basis for your icebreaker!
Here are 5 powerful ice breakers you can use to accomplish that:
1. Wall Quotes
Create posters with quotes or short statements about the topic and put them on the walls. As soon as class starts, ask participants to stand up and wander around the room and read all of the posters. Then, they should stand by a poster that is especially meaningful to them. If there are others at the same poster, they can introduce each other and discuss the quote they chose. Then, have everyone introduce themselves to the group and briefly share why they chose the statement and what it means to them.
2. Question Swap
Ask learners to write a question they have about the topic and bring it to class—or ask them once they are in the training room together. Then, have learners mingle around the room and introduce themselves to each other and read each other’s questions. Have learners choose partners based on the nature of their questions—if they feel they can help each other, if they are similar or interesting to both, etc. Then have partners discuss the questions and tutor each other for a few minutes. Time permitting, have everyone briefly introduce themselves and read their question. (As a variation, you could also have people introduce themselves first and read their question and then have learners mingle to find partners).
3. Learner-Generated Course Benefits
Give learners a list of the course objectives. Ask them as a group or at tables to write personal benefits they feel they will get from achieving the course objectives. The entire class or each table can come up with a master list of course benefits. (It can be a powerful boost to motivation when participants realize tangible benefits for themselves).
4. Partners Share Each Other’s Knowledge
At the start of the program, ask everyone to interview a partner to find out what they already know or have experienced about the topic at hand. Then, have people introduce their partners and share with the class a piece of the partners’ knowledge or experience.
5. Expectations Sharing
Give learners a picture of a genie’s magic lamp and ask them to write up to three goals or wishes they have for the course. Have everyone introduce themselves individually and read their wishes to the group. Then, have them post their lamps around a large wall display of a genie. Ask them to remove their lamp when their expectations are fulfilled. At the end of the program, ask learners to review with the class their wishes and how they have been fulfilled. (As a variation, use this activity without the genie and lamps).
The point is to be creative and get people excited not only about meeting their classmates, but also about the topic at hand. So, the next time you’re leading a training program, consider using one of these 5 ice breakers to “break the ice” and get people motivated!