Teamwork Exercise: Icebreakers
Participating in an “icebreaker” exercise allows people who may not know each other well to learn more about one another before they embark on a collaborative project together. Icebreakers (which can be used as an introductory exercise in either a large group meeting or a smaller team gathering) offer an easy initial opportunity for us to introduce ourselves to the larger team and to share a bit about our lives in an effort to promote openness and sharing among team members, and to set the tone for our future work together. The goal is the same for all of the icebreaker exercises below – to provide group members with a forum in which they can share a piece of information about themselves with others. Simply select the exercise below that appeals most to you (or use the following ideas to create one that will meet your needs).
Icebreaker Idea #1: I’ve Done Something You Haven’t Done
This icebreaker can be used with groups of up to 20 persons: Ask each person to introduce themselves and then state something they have done that they think no one else in the room has done. If someone else has also done it, the person must state something else until he/she finds something that no one else in the group has done.
Icebreaker Idea #2: Surprising Fact
This icebreaker can be used with groups of up to 20 persons: Ask each participant to share a detail of their life or fact about themselves that:
- No one in the room knows about them, and
- People in the room might find surprising.
Icebreaker Idea #3: The Story of My Name
This icebreaker can be used with groups of up to 30 persons: Ask each person to introduce him/herself with a story about their name (for example, “My mother named me after her first boyfriend,” “My name means ‘screaming baby’ in German”). Participants can use their first, middle, last, or nickname.
Icebreaker Idea #4: An Exciting Day or Person
This icebreaker can be used with groups of up to 20 persons: Going around the room, ask each person to complete one of these sentences (each person gets to choose):
- The riskiest thing I ever did was... OR
- If I had one day with unlimited time and freedom, I would… OR
- If I could be any famous (historic or contemporary) person it would be… because…
Icebreaker Idea #5: Two Truths and a Lie
This icebreaker can be used with groups of up to 20 persons: Ask all participants to take a few moments to silently identify two truths about themselves, and one lie. As each participant introduces themselves, s/he should tell his/her three facts to the group as if they are all truths. The other participants must guess which of the three is the lie.
Icebreaker Idea #6: Dream Vacation
This icebreaker can be used with groups of up to 20 persons: Ask participants to introduce themselves and then describe the details of their ideal, dream vacation.
Icebreaker Idea #7: Marooned
This icebreaker can be used for any number of sets of teams of up to 12 persons each. Ask participants to work as a small group on the following question: “You are marooned on an island. What five (you can use a different number, such as seven, depending upon the size of each team) items would you have brought with you if you knew there was a chance that you might be stranded?” Since this is a team building, consensus work activity, the team must agree on the five items. Teams should note their items on a flip chart and discuss and defend their choices with the whole group following their team’s introduction of themselves.
Icebreaker Idea #8: Names and Adjectives
This icebreaker can be used with groups of up to 30 persons: Ask each participant to take a few moments to think of an adjective that starts with the same first letter as their first name (e.g., “Merry Marilee”). Start by modeling it yourself. Then move around the group, asking each person to introduce themselves, stating their name/adjective combination. At various points during the introductions, or at the end, ask for volunteers to remember each of the names, with adjectives, that have been volunteered thus far.
Icebreaker Idea #9: The Name Game
This icebreaker can be used with groups of up to 30 persons: Ask one participant to begin the introductions by stating his/her name and where s/he is from. The second person must begin by introducing the first person (by first name) and then him/herself. This continues through all of the introductions, such that the last person introduces all persons in the room. (Coaching and help from others is permitted if necessary; this is team building, after all.)
Icebreaker Idea #10: Follow the Rainbow
Have participants seated at round tables and place a variety of different colored cards at each table. Each color card should have a different command that participants are asked to follow—e.g., “tell us a joke” or “tell us something about your name.” Each person should introduce themselves and then follow the instruction on their card. Participants will get a kick out of hearing how the jokes and stories told by others who have the same colored cards compare to their own!
Icebreaker Idea #11: Find Your Match
Each person is issued an index card. The word on the card will match someone else's in the room. The words on the card can be anything—e.g., “superheros,” or “presidents.” Participants should go around the room, find the person who has their matching card, and then discuss who their favorite “superhero” or “president” is. They should then introduce one another to the larger group and divulge this information about their match.
Icebreaker Idea #12: Who Am I?
Give each person an index card. Have them write on the card one thing about themselves that is something you would not necessarily know about them by looking at them. For instance, Mary's goal is to visit every National Park, Susan once rode a bull, Diana has 8 kids, or Jennifer is taking tap dance lessons. It can be anything. After everyone is done writing, collect all the cards and put them into a box (or hat). Have participants number off and divide the class into four teams (six people per team based on 24 in the class). Have everyone stand with their team and select a team spokesperson. Draw a card and read it aloud. Each team must decide (and reach consensus) which person matches that card. When the team has their answer, the spokesperson raises their hand. Each team gets one guess. The team that is correct gets a point. The team with the most points after all the cards are matched gets a prize (such as candy that the facilitator would need to buy ahead of time). If no group gets the correct answer, put the card aside and go on to the next card. When all cards have been read, go back to the cards that were not matched with a person.