Choosing Icebreakers with a Purpose
Icebreakers can be a positive addition to a training session by energizing the group, initiating creative thinking, and encouraging involvement. Training sessions should include a variety of interactive, experiential activities. Icebreakers are often used during training to make people open up or feel comfortable, encourage participation in a group activity, and stimulate inclusion. An ineffective icebreaker can create discomfort or tension, straining rather than energizing a group dynamic. For an icebreaker activity to be effective, it should be well designed and linked to training objectives.
A good icebreaker:
- Should not last longer than ten minutes if it is the opening activity; an icebreaker at other points during the training tends to have an optimal length of 15 to 30 minutes
- Encourages trust and cooperation within a small group or the entire group of members -- some icebreakers should be cooperative rather than competitive
- Makes the group feel challenged, but not uncomfortable
- Is a team building experience and involves all members
- Initiates conversations and interactions
- Increases the respect and liking of other group members
- Shows interesting new things about people who have known each other for some time
- Reflects your members' diverse needs. Select an activity that is appropriate to your groups' age level, physical mobility, or personal interest
- Is appropriate for your group's stage of development
- Ties the activity to the session topic
- Fits your training session design; for instance, if you need smaller groups to be formed later in the training, use the icebreaker to accomplish this
- Fits the training location
- At the beginning of training to help members become acquainted and begin the session with a fun activity
- After lunch to avoid the mid-afternoon fatigued feeling
- After a difficult or intense session to release tension
- After assigning members to work with people they do not know well to facilitate group interaction
See Category: Icebreakers/Warmups for a variety of ice breakers and warm-up activities.
Source: Adapted from "Choosing Icebreakers With a Purpose" from The Corporation for National & Community Service, which Excerpted from the Mosaica guide "Starting Strong: A Self-Help Guide to Effective AmeriCorps Pre-Service Training" (McKay, Emily Gantz, Diane Cabrales, et. al. Mosaica, Washington D.C. 1995.), and the newsletter, Training Briefs.