Here’s a nice article with a good set of questions for choosing and implementing classroom community builders or other icebreakers. I’m a big proponent of using these kinds of getting to know you activities. But I know you should definitely do them mindfully. This article is a great guide to choosing and using an icebreaker thoughtfully.
Or if you’re like me, you love to create my own activities. In that case, this article is a great guide to creating a classroom community builder of your own.
Questions to Consider
Among the things to consider when creating a classroom community builder according to the author, and I agree, is:
“What do you want to achieve with an icebreaker? Do you want to set the tone for the learning community or lead into course content in engaging ways?”
I’d add some other purposes for using community builders, such as:
- building rapport among students
- learning students’ interests and needs
- learning names (humbly enough, )
I also love that the authors recommend explaining the purpose of the activity to students. I often forget to explain to students why we are doing the things we are doing. And some icebreakers may feel like empty fun if we forget to explain our purpose to our students. A fun activity done in the first few minutes of class can go wrong if students aren’t quite in classroom mode, as well.
Creating Your Own Community Builders
In addition to the advice in this article, if you’re looking for a chart that can help you creating a classroom community builder or icebreaker of your own, I’ve created a DIY creating a classroom community builder chart that outlines the four major steps of an icebreaker activity. In writing 50 Activities for the First Day of School, and then Classroom Community Builders: Activities for the First Day and Beyond, I tried to identify some of the typical steps that go into an icebreaker. Although this doesn’t apply to every activity, here’s what I came up with.
- Students usually acquire information from each other or the classroom or teacher. From the other side of the coin, they are sharing or giving information
- Then they usually have to record that information somewhere, and usually as they record it, they are manipulating it, doing something with it.
- Then they share or distribute the information.
- Finally, they use that information in someway. This step can be as simple as reporting back to the class or as complex as writing a biographical essay about a partner.
For each step, the chart has a number of examples of how that could be done. You can also think back on your favorite icebreaker and reverse engineer it to see how it accomplishes each of these steps.
Instant EFL Lesson Plans starts with an activity called Circle of Life. Cristian assures me it’s pretty standard fare in Malta, but I hadn’t seen this activity before. As I was editing this post, I realized that it actually made a pretty good icebreaker or community builder.
Basically, in this activity you write some important information about yourself , without telling students the meaning. Students have to guess what it means. So if I wrote Victor, students might guess it’s a name of a pet, a family member, a friend, maybe a sports team…
The pattern fits. Students acquire information and then manipulate it by guessing the significance, and finally use it to formulate questions about their partner (or the teacher, if you play along)!
Check out my other Back to School Tips or share your own advice for warmers here.