If you are a freelance or corporate trainer, or someone from an HR department developing a training session or workshop for employees, ice breakers are a great way to get the session started.
Ice breakers act as a way to get the day started off lightly and to gain momentum as the teaching or training session progresses. Ice breakers also help participants to get to know each other a little better and this makes them more comfortable and more likely to then be more relaxed and open to learning.
So, without further delay, here are three activities that are great fun and incredibly easy to organize and that require very little in terms of props.
1. What Animal Are You Ice Breaker
The ‘What Animal Are You’ activity is a fun ice breaker that is incredibly easy to organize and always tends to get everyone really engaged. Even the more sullen participants in the group seem to end up loving this activity!
What You Need
The great thing is that you need absolutely no materials or accessories for this activity.
Time Needed For the Activity (10 – 20 minutes total)
Overall you can allocate 10 – 20 minutes in total for this activity.
- Allow 1 to 3 minutes to explain the activity and for everyone to get into groups.
- Then give the participants either 5 or 10 minutes for the activity itself.
- At the end of the activity, it can be worth spending 5 minutes with an open-class discussion about what was hard, fun and so on.
Group Sizes (Number of People)
For most classroom and workshop games and activities as a trainer, small groups of 4 – 5 people are good. For this activity though, the larger the group the better!
So a perfect number can be anything between 10 – 20 people but even up to 30 or 40 is fine. If classroom space is limited, you can break them down into groups of 20 maximum. So with 40 people have two groups of 20.
How the Training Activity Works
1. Inform the participants that without telling anyone else of their choice, they choose one animal. It might be their favourite animal or just an animal they wish to choose for any reason.
2. Next, without anyone being allowed to speak at all, participants must organize themselves in a row from left to right, with the smallest animal on the left and then in order by size, leading to the largest being on the right.
3. Participants are allowed to make animal noises and to make physical gestures, but they are not allowed to speak at all.
4. At the end of the timeframe (5 or 10 minutes) ask each person to say aloud what animal they were so that everyone can see how accurately or not, they completed the task.
- Ice breaker
- Team building
- Management training (an extremely good activity to also use for training where you are looking to identify natural leaders and to see who takes charge)
What if two people choose to be the same animal i.e. there are two elephants in the same group?
The answer is that it is not important the actual order they actually end up in. As long as this activity acts as a good ice breaker and gets everyone laughing and having fun than this activity has done its job.
2. The ‘I Would Prefer Dilemna’ Ice Breaker
What You Need
You will NOT need any props or anything at all for this activity except for 10 to 20 pre-prepared questions that will be used.
It depends on the size of the teams and the number of participants and whether or not you are running a short course for 1 or 2 hours or a half or full-day training day.
An ideal timeframe though for this activity is 15 minutes. You can easily adapt this though to be a 10-minute activity or a 20-minute activity as needed.
Activity Group Size
Ideally, split participants into groups of 3 – 5 people so that they can easily have a chance to discuss the questions and all have plenty of time to give input.
How this Ice Breaker Activity Works
1. First, split people into their groups. I always suggest verbally giving everyone a number to split up friends in the class to mix things up more.
The easy way to mix people up is to divide the number of participants by how many people you want in each group. So, if you have 20 participants and want 4 people in each group, then you will need 5 numbers. So verbally allocate each person a number i.e. a 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Then ask all the number 1s to join together in a group. Then all the number 2s into another group, and so on.
2. Now, ask them to pick 3 pieces of paper from a batch of questions you have. (Before-hand you will have written 20 questions on individual pieces of paper and all of these questions will be an “I would prefer” question).
3. Each group must pick 2 or 3 questions that they will discuss and come up with one final choice as a group.
4. At the end of the 10-minute discussion, ask one person from each team to explain to the class to choose ONE dilemma and to explain the general considerations and final choice.
Example Questions You can Include of What Ifs
Some example questions you could include:
- Would you rather have to spend one week in Hawaii or 2 weeks in Greece?
- Would you rather be 5 minutes late or 20 minutes early?
- Would you rather go back to being 7 years old again or 17 years old again?
- Would you rather go on a safari holiday or on a beach holiday?
- Would you rather be given a new Porsche or a free holiday in Australia?
- Would you rather have to go without the Internet for one month, or one month without your cellphone?
- Would you rather be able to talk to animals or be able to speak 20 languages?
3. The Unexpected Fact Game Activity
The ‘Unexpected Fact’ game is a wonderful and easy way to learn interesting things about your work colleagues or people you have never met (if the other participants are new to you).
This is a simple game, fun and interesting, hence it makes for a great ice breaker for meetings, workshops and conferences, and team-building events.
What You Need
- Small pieces of paper (enough for one piece per participant)
- A hat or small bag to put the pieces of paper in
It really depends on the size of the class but in general, I would allow 15 minutes for this activity.
This would be broken down into 5 minutes for them to think of an idea and to write it down and for you to collect the pieces of paper. And then 10 minutes for the activity itself.
Group Size for This Activity
There is no limit to the number of participants but you will need at least 5 people and ideally no more than 20.
But if you have more participants this activity can still work by dividing the participants into small groups of say 10 people in each group.
How This Activity Works
1. Hand each person a small piece of paper.
2. Ask them to write down something that is unique, interesting or some interesting fact about themselves, on the piece of paper.
3. Then collect all the pieces of paper in a bag or hat.
4. Next, mix up the pieces of paper and then pull one piece out and read it to the group.
5. The group must now work out or guess who in the group they think wrote that fact.
6. After they have worked out whose fact it was (or after a minute or two if they can’t work it out) ask the writer to identify themself and ask them to say just a very brief insight and context regards their fact.
An similar activity an be played using world facts.
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Dr Paul Symonds
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