Last Updated on September 8, 2020

Here are 21 free to use icebreakers for online teaching that you can use. Icebreakers are an important part of any training program, as they encourage people to participate from the start of a session, to get to know each other and to feel comfortable working with others.

21 online teaching ice breaker activities and games

How do you run icebreakers for online sessions though? We have written a separate post on ‘How to run group activities in virtual classrooms for your students here. 🙂

There are many icebreakers you can do in face-to-face training sessions and some of them are classics that corporate trainers all over the world have been using for quite a while.

In this guide, we have put together some icebreakers specifically designed to be done online and others that are normally done in traditional classrooms and we explain how to adapt them for the online environment.

Page Contents

1. ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ Icebreaker

This is a classic icebreaker, which can be adapted to an online class.

Instructions

  1. Ask one participant to write three statements about themselves: 2 true and 1 false.
  2. Ask the other participants to vote on which statements are true and which is false.
  3. After the first person has shared their statement and the group has decided which statement is false, the first person will reveal which statements were true and which one was false.
  4. Move on until each person in the group has shared their statements.
  5. The person who manages to correctly guess the most lies wins. Alternatively, you can play this game in a non-competitive way just for participants to get to know each other.

This is intended as a fun icebreaker so it’s a nice activity for very early in any training or teaching.

Online tools you can use


2. Table Topics

Table topics are a set of cards, which you can find for sale online, on sites such as Amazon. Each card has a question on it to start a conversation and every pack of cards contains just over one hundred questions.

They are a great way to start a conversation for participants to get to know each other or to start a discussion on a specific topic. You can choose questions pertinent to the topic of your workshop

Instructions

You can type some of the questions from the card on a chat board and ask participants to write down their thoughts.

Alternatively, you could separate the participants into breakout rooms and assign each group one or two questions so that each person in the group can answer.

Some examples of questions include:

  • Is there such a thing as perfect?
  • Where would you most like to go and why?
  • Who’s the funniest person you know?
  • Would you rather live for a week in the past or the future?
  • What is the meaning of ‘peace’ to you?
  • Who do you trust and why?
  • How would you describe your future in three words?
  • If you can go back in time to your 15-year-old self, what advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
  • What is your definition of being wealthy and why?
  • What can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?

Online tools you can use

  • Breakout rooms (which are available in many web conferencing platforms, such as Zoom).
  • Online whiteboards and chats.

3. ‘Three Words’ Ice Breaker

This is a good warm-up activity and it can also be useful to discuss the importance of adapting to changing situations and thinking on one’s feet.

Instructions

  1. Ask participants to agree on a random topic. It can be anything from food to dogs, to rugby.
  2. Explain that each person should contribute with three words to the story (and three words only at a time) and they will take turns to contribute.
  3. Encourage the participants to say the first three words that come to their mind. It does not matter if they make sense or not.
  4. Try to move from one person to the other quickly.

Online tools you can use

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet or Lino.

4. ‘Same and Different’ Team Building Game

The aim is to learn information about other people. Hence, this activity can be either a great icebreaker or a way for people within an established team to know each other better and communicate.

Instructions

  1. Split your participants into groups of 3 or more and allocate them to breakout rooms.
  2. Ask each group to write down as a list on an online whiteboard or virtual sticky note all the interesting things that they all have in common (ask them to avoid obvious things, such as all being men or women) and something unique to each participant. They will have 5 minutes for this task.
  3. At the end of the 5 minutes, ask each group to share their list to the rest of the class via an online whiteboard.

Online tools you can use

  • Breakout rooms
  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet or Lino.

5. ‘Big Lottery Win’ Warm-Up Activity

This game is good as a warm-up, for participants to familiarize with each other and also to think creatively.

Participants can discuss together or be separated into breakout rooms, depending on the number of participants.

Instructions

  1. Explain to the participants to imagine that they have just won the lottery. They have won 25 million Euros, GBP, dollars or any big amount in the local currency of the country they are in.
  2. Give participants 5 minutes to list all the things they would do with the money. There is no limit to the number of things they can put down, as long as they can write them within 5 minutes.
  3. After 5 minutes are up, ask everyone to talk about their list and discuss.
  4. If you wish to, you can then sort the items on the lists into logical groups that you will find naturally evolve according to:
    1. Material items
    1. Friends and family
    1. Travel and luxury
  5. Some other categories may also emerge
  6. Allow 5 minutes for the group to discuss the list. This normally will occur very easily.

Online tools you can use

  • Breakout rooms
  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet or Lino.

6. ‘Storytelling’ Icebreaker | Team-Building Activity

Because of the creative and cooperative nature of this game, it is a good activity to use either as an icebreaker or as a team-building activity. It can also be useful for a training session on creativity.

Instructions

  1. In advance of the training session, prepare some documents or boards (you can use MS Word or create boards with an image manipulation program) with a set of 4 pictures on each.
  2. On the training day, separate the participants into groups of 4 people in breakout rooms and assign each group one of the files with the photos.
  3. Give the groups 10 minutes to look at the photos and to create their narrative that creates a story that connects the four images.
  4. When the 10 minutes are up, ask each group to share their story onto a virtual board and to spend up to three minutes to tell the story of their images. Allow other groups to then suggest how they might have developed the story and if they would have used the images differently.

Online tools you can use

  • Breakout rooms
  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet or Lino.
Online teaching guide PDF

7. ‘Introducing Each Other’ – Ice Breaker

This is a good activity to get participants to get to know each other, so that they find themselves in a familiar environment.

Participants can do this activity either before the session, in their own time, or during the session.

Instructions

  1. Pair up participants in twos.
  2. Give them a list of questions to ask each other.
  3. Ask each pair to interview each other, either via email or in breakout rooms.
  4. When all the participants convene together in the same virtual room, each participant will introduce the participant they interviewed.

Online tools you can use

  • Breakout rooms
  • Email
  • Chats

8. ‘Hope and Fears’ Icebreaker

This is a classic icebreaker, which is good as a reflection tool or to assess what the participants’ expectations are from the training.

Instructions

  1. Ask participants to write down their greatest hope (for example, for the session, for the current year or for a specific project) and then their greatest fear.
  2. In a face-to-face class, the participants differentiate the answers by, for example, writing each answer on a sticky note of a different color.
    Online, you need to find another way to differentiate them. For example, you could use Padlet or Lino, which allow you to create virtual sticky notes of various colors.
  3. Read all the hopes first and then the fears and discuss.

Online tools you can use

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet or Lino.

9. ‘Childhood Dream’ Ice-breaker

This icebreaker is useful to start a discussion on how priorities and goals can change throughout a person’s life.

Instructions:

  1. Ask participants to post on a virtual board what their childhood dream was and to relate it to their present aspirations.
  2. You can either have participants discuss this as a whole class or have groups of participants in breakout rooms.
  3. End with a summary of all the contributions from all participants and a whole-class discussion.

Online tools you can use:

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet or Lino.

10. ‘Take a Picture of Something’ Class Acitivity

This is a fun activity, which is good to get people to know each other using visuals and creativity.

Instructions

  1. Ask participants to take a picture of something.
    Typically, you choose a specific theme. For example, ask participants to take a picture of their shoes, or a picture of something that is on their workstation or the view outside their window.
    Remember to ask participants to take the picture and upload it before the training session starts, as otherwise it might take too much time out of the training session if they were to do it in real time.
  2. Ask participants to share the picture on a virtual board.
  3. Start a discussion. For example, you could ask why they chose that particular item on their desk, or what they like the most about the view they can see from the window etc.

Online tools you can use

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet, Evernote, or Lino.

11. ‘Asking Questions’ Icebreaker

This is a good way for participants to get to know each other in a relaxed manner.

Remember to ask questions that are light-hearted though, as you want to start on a positive note.

Instructions

  1. Ask your participants a list of questions. For example, what is your favorite meal, your favorite place to travel, where were you born etc.?
  2. They could just write an answer on the chat board or post a picture or a link.
  3. Share the answers with all the participants and get them to guess who gave each answer.

Online tools you can use

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet, Evernote, or Lino.
  • Tools that allow you to create a survey, such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms or a wiki, such as Slimiwiki.
Employee training PowerPoint's and materials

12. ‘Show a Map’ Fun Teaching Activity

This is a good activity if your participants are located in many different geographical locations.

Instructions

  1. Show a map on the screen (it can be a map of the world, if participants are located all over the world, or the map of a country, if they are all in the same country but in different parts of it).
  2. Ask participants where they are.
  3. Ask your participants questions, such as how long they have been living there or other light-hearted questions.

Online tools you can use

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet, Evernote, or Lino.
  • Tools that allow you to create a survey, such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms or a wiki, such as Slimiwiki.

13. ‘Lost in Space’ Online Training Activity

This is a good activity to get to know participants in a way other than just asking the usual questions.

Instructions

  1. Ask the participants to imagine that they are living in a space station. All of a sudden, the space station malfunctions and they have to evacuate. They are only allowed to take 5 items with them. Which items would they choose?
  2. Ask participants to share their answers in the chatbox, explaining why they chose those five items.

Online tools you can use

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet, Evernote, or Lino.
  • Tools that allow you to create a survey, such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms or a wiki, such as Slimiwiki.

14. One Word (or One Image) Activity

This is another activity suitable for participants to share information about themselves creatively.

Instructions

  • Ask participants to choose one word that best describes them or their life and to explain why.
    Alternatively, you can ask them to choose an image (they can download it from the Internet or take a picture with their smartphone, for example).
  • Ask them to share their answers via the chat feature or on a virtual whiteboard.

Online tools you can use

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet, Evernote, or Lino.
  • Tools that allow you to create a survey, such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms or a wiki, such as Slimiwiki.

15. ‘One Random Object’ Virtual Training Activity

This icebreaker is a fun game, aimed at making participants feel relaxed and creating a sense of community. You could also use it as an energizer, if needed, when you sense that your participants are losing focus.

Instructions

  1. Ask a participant to pick one random object that is in their room and not tell anyone what it is.
  2. Explain that the other participants will have to guess what it is, by asking questions that require a yes or no answer.

Online tools you can use

  • You could use a chat board for this, but it is not necessary. You could just run the activity by speaking and maybe use a virtual board to record the scores. You can also, if you wish to, make it a competition, whereby the participant who correctly guesses the most objects wins.

16. ‘Accomplished Goals’ Online Group Activity

This is a good activity to focus on positive things (i.e. people’s achievements). It is also a networking tool, as participants could be interested in achieving the same goal that another person in the group has achieved and whom they might ask for advice from.

Instructions:

  1. Ask participants to say what goal they have achieved in the last year (it does not matter how small)
  2. Discuss. You could facilitate the discussion by asking a question such as how they felt when they achieved the goal or what skills do they think were important in achieving the goal.
  3. You could post a list of achievements on a chat or virtual board.

Online tools you can use:

  • You could use a chat board for this, but it is not necessary. You could just run the activity by speaking and maybe use a virtual board to summarize the discussion at the end and highlight what can be learnt from each person’s experience.

17. ‘Describe Yourself in a Tweet’ Activity

This activity is different from the traditional introduce yourself type activities, in that it has an additional challenge. That is, participants have to manage to communicate as effectively as they can, using a very limited number of characters.

There is a limitation to this activity though, as participants will need to have a Twitter account and not worry about their tweet being seen by everyone as tweets are public (direct messages used to be limited to 140 characters but, in 2015, the limit was extended to 10,000 characters).

Instructions

  1. Ask participants to describe themselves in a tweet.
  2. You could do this activity before the training session and then take screenshots of the Tweets to show during the online class.

Online tools you can use

  • Twitter social media account for you and the participants.

18. ‘Bingo’ Icebreaker

This is a classic icebreaker that can be adapted for online teaching.

In a traditional face-to-face session, you would prepare a table with a series of interesting facts and then give each participant a copy of the sheet so they can move around the room trying to find somebody to whom that fact applies.

Instructions

  1. To run the activity online, create a 5 by 5 table with interesting facts, one for each box of the table. For example, you could write things such as: speaks more than two languages, has been to Argentina etc. Or, it would be a good idea to tie the facts with the topic of the class.
  2. Share the file with the table with your participants, either in advance or during the session. You can share by email, through the file-sharing feature of the web conferencing system or with an online sharing tool such as Google docs, Dropbox or Evernote. Alternatively, you could do the activity in real-time using a tool such as Padlet or Lino.
  3. Ask participants to write their name under each of the statements that apply to them.
  4. Ask participants to share the answers and discuss.

Online tools you can use

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet, Evernote, or Lino.
  • Tools that allow you to create a survey, such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms or a wiki, such as Slimiwiki.
  • Email

19. ‘Interests and Hobbies’ Activity Online

This activity helps participants to get to know each other but with an element of fun.

Instructions

  • Ask participants to post three links that reflect their hobbies.
  • The other participants have to guess what their hobbies are.

Online tools you can use

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet, Evernote, or Lino.

20. ‘Time Machine’ Virtual Training Activity

This activity is suitable for those who like history and as a trainer, it can help you to introduce a bit of imagination to your icebreaker.

Instructions

  1. Ask your participants: ‘If you could go back or forward in time, where would you go?’ ‘Why?’ You can then follow up with questions such as ‘Is there a person you would like to meet?’
  2. Ask participants to share the answers.

Online tools you can use

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet, Evernote, or Lino.
  • Tools that allow you to create a survey, such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms or a wiki, such as Slimiwiki.

21. ‘Where in the World’ Icebreaker for Online Training

This is another game that allows participants to know each other in a fun way.

Instructions

  1. Ask participants to pick a place in the world where they would like to go or that suits their personality.
  2. Ask them to post three clues for that place.
  3. Explain that the other participants have to guess which place the other participants have chosen.

Online tools you can use

  • Online whiteboard, chat board, other collaboration tools such as Padlet, or Lino.
Employee training PowerPoint's and materials
The following two tabs change content below.
Valeria has been involved with education for over 16 years. She has taught in the UK at the University of Bath and Cardiff Metropolitan University (where she got her PhD), in addition to working as a researcher at Exeter University. Valeria additionally has several years of experience of also working with Ofsted and Cardiff University in management roles.

Sharing is caring!