Snapshot: Icebreakers

Snapshot: Icebreakers

Cubes by Chris Geatch

Whether you're a first time TA or an emeritus professor taking a victory lap, a well crafted, first day icebreaker can help set the tone for a successful semester. Here are a few activities that work well in the TILE classroom and can help student and faculty adjust to each other and the new space.

Encourage movement and team-building with Find your Match (5 min)– Take strips of paper that are parts of a famous song/speech/quote/poem and ask students to find their matches. This is a fun way of dividing students into teams.

Empower sharing and build value of differences with Pick a Side – Students must choose their preference between dichotomies by moving from one side of the room to the other. No one can be in the middle. Then discuss why people made the choices they made and how it felt to be on sides.  If you select this type of icebreaker early in the semester you may want to consider choosing low risk topics so student aren’t uncomfortable or reveal information they would rather not share. 

Morning or Night   

   Listen or Speak   
   Liberal or Conservative

Identify students' prior knowledge and build TILE ownership with Word Concept Tree (15 min)– In small groups, students are given a word (topic keyword) and use the whiteboards to create a word tree from that topic word. They should be comfortable explaining the connection between words. After 5 minutes the teams walk around and discuss the trees. This helps instructors analyze what’s in the students’ mind about certain topics. It can also lead to new questions to be explored throughout the semester.


Breaking the Ice. Online faculty resource at Illinois Online Network (ION) retrieved August 6, 2014 from

Bathe, L. (2005). Ice Breaking Acitvities. Presentation at Faculty Summer Institute at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieve August 6, 2014 from

Povlacs Lunde, J. 101 Things You Can Do in the First Three Weeks of Class. Retrieved August 6, 2014 from University of Nebraska-Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies at  .

"Cubes" by Chris Geatch. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commerical 2.0 Generic (CC-BY-NC 2.0). Accessed August 6, 2014.