Dialogue through Ice Breakers!
By: Ian Martens
Icebreakers can be used to energize, build bridges and begin dialogue. Your host Ian Martens will take you through a few of his favorite icebreakers and share how he uses them to assess prior knowledge and tailor his tours. Contrary to popular belief trust falls are not the place to start.
Types of Icebreakers
- 1. Energizers
- Energizers are great to get a group moving, especially if the group has been sitting on a bus for a while. The goal of energizers is just that - to raise the energy in the room. Often, students who come on tours will be very nervous when arriving in a new place with new people and new expectations. Energizers are great for putting people at ease and quickly breaking down walls.
- 2. Let’s Get Talking Games
The tours and programs at the CMHR are dialogue based and in reality, all programs no matter the site are better with some dialogue. Nobody wants to ask and a question and get crickets!
- 3. Deeper Meaning
Some icebreaker activities can be used as a way to build a deeper meaning. These are activities that are best used in settings where you have had a group for more than one tour or day. They can be a great way to build bridges from one program to another and really hammer home big ideas.
- 4. Whole Group
If you have a group that is already energized and the volume level is approaching Stanley Cup Win levels, Whole Group icebreakers can be just what the doctor ordered. These can bring the energy down or up depending on the audience.
- 5. Simulation Games
Simulation icebreakers are probably the most complex because they require more preparation, but with the right group can skyrocket the depth of conversation. We want to keep them short but still have some depth. We won’t be doing simulations today but they are a great way to build teams.
What can icebreakers tell you about your students?
- 1. Who is reactive and who is more contemplative
- 2. Who friends are and who enemies are
- 3. Language level
- 4. Prior knowledge
- 5. Dialogic strengths
- 6. Who the ‘cool’ kids are and who might need some one-on-one support
- 7. What point students are at within an academic unit
- 8. Who are the specialists and who are the students who think this is a day off
- 9. Behavioral issues
Types of questions we can ask:
- · These are instinct questions (least risk)
- · Ex. What’s your favorite food? Favorite color? Favorite movie?
- · Questions that require some thought, but with moderate risk
- · Important to be bounded so people are overwhelmed.
- · Ex. “How many human rights can you name?”
- · Ex. “Dinosaur Provincial Park has 30 species of dinosaurs. How many dinos can you name?”
- · The content and you questions.
- · Ex. “What would you do in this situation?” “What is a human rights problem that makes you angry?” “What is it about it that irritates you?” “What kind of things prevent you from realizing your human rights vision?”
- · Self-directed/introspective
- · Ex. “After everything we have experienced today what will you do to make a difference in promoting human rights?”
- · Ex. “What could you do in your community protect the environment?”
- · Ex. “How can you work to get out the vote?”
- 1. Rock Paper Scissors Cheer (Energizer)
Best for: Large groups, the bigger the better
Participants are engaged in the World (or insert your program’s name here) Championship of Rock Paper Scissors. Have participants find a partner to play against. If they win then they keep going, but if they lose they become the cheering section for the winner. This continues until there are only two players left and they have two giant cheering sections.
Be aware this one can get very loud. The largest group I have done this with is 100.
Things to watch for: Participants in the corners, who jumps right in, who looks overwhelmed, anybody left out, anybody going out of their way to include outsiders.
- 2. Square Dance (Let’s Get Talking)
Best for: Groups of 6+
Have each participant find a partner. Once they have a partner, have participants form two lines with each pair of partners facing each other. You will ask a series of questions of increasing complexity. After each question the A group moves down the line so that there is a new partner. Between questions I usually zigzag to get answers. Sometimes for younger groups I might pass a ball through the line to get answers. For a Human Rights program where I want people to think about Human Rights Defenders I might ask:
- 1. What is your favourite breakfast food?
- 2. What are the human rights you can name?
- 3. Who is a person who has defended human rights that inspires you?
A1 A2 A3 A2 A3 A1 A3 A1 A2
B B B B B B B B B
- 3. Super-Heroes (Deeper Meaning)
Each participant gets a piece of paper and a marker
Have participants draw their own super hero, name them and give themselves a superpower. Have them share this with people at their table or in a small group.
- 4. Inside-Out (Deeper Meaning)
Each participant finds a partner and a wall or poster paper. The partners trace each other’s outlines. Ask the group the question of What values are the most important to them. Have them write these on the inside of the shape. Now that they have reflected on their values ask the question of how can we use our values to change the world. Write all the possibilities on the outside. Have participants circulate to each others drawings and put check marks beside all the causes they feel they could see themselves helping the person with.
- 5. Snowball (Whole Group)
Each participant writes a hobby or interesting fact about themselves and throws them into the middle of the table or the room. Participants pick a snowball and must try and find who it belongs to.
Museum Hack, The Only List of Icebreaker Questions You’ll Ever Need https://museumhack.com/list-icebreakers-questions/
Fraser, K., Fraser L., Fraser, M., 175 Best Camp Games, A handbook for leaders, Boston Mills Press (Aug. 24 2009)
Raphael, T.E., & Au, K.H. (2005). QAR: Enhancing comprehension and test taking across grades and content areas. The Reading Teacher, 59, 206-221.
Ultimate Camp Resource, Ice Breakers, https://www.ultimatecampresource.com/site/camp-activities/ice-breakers.html
Ice Breaker Ideas, https://icebreakerideas.com/
Ian Martens is a Program Interpreter at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and joined the CMHR in 2014. Ian is a museum educator with over 15 years of experience working in interpretation at both museums and Parks Canada. He is a youth leadership facilitator and is driven to inspire the next generation to make a difference. He has also taught in the classroom from Kindergarten to Grade 12 in both Thailand and Shamattawa, MB. You can contact Ian at email@example.com.