Working with students on a military installation has taught this teacher so much, and I continually find new reasons to salute our military families. I admire their willingness to help one another. I’m dumfounded by their adaptability, especially their capacity to hit the ground running. They can’t wait for later to engage in a community, because they never know when they’ll be off to the next post. These families make new friends, join a faith congregation, and enroll the kids in sports within the first week of arrival. Their well-developed skill at joining new groups is a real advantage in teaching in our eight-week accelerated format.
While we’ve all been “Maslowed” to death at this point, it’s good to recall that the iconic hierarchy includes the needs for love and belonging. They’re positioned right above physiologic and security needs. Just as we are motivated to eat, drink, breathe and seek safety, we take pleasure in belonging to a group. How does that pleasure affect learning? The classes that my students enjoy most–and in which they seem to learn most—are those that form a cohesive, supportive group identity.
We can facilitate the formation of a class group on the first day of class by providing an ice breaker activity. I’ve used several different approaches, some more successful than others, but I wanted some fresh ideas. If you’re in the market for a new ice breaker strategy, here are some useful links:
- From Lansing Community college, an extensive list with activities suitable for a variety of classes:http://www.lcc.edu/cte/resources/teachingettes/icebreakers.aspx
- From Grahame Knox, a free eBook with 40 different icebreakers, from the serious to the silly. Man of these are suited for younger learners. http://insight.typepad.co.uk/40_icebreakers_for_small_groups.pdf
- From About.com, some very helpful general tips on using ice breakers:http://humanresources.about.com/od/icebreakers/a/Ice-Breaker-Questions.htm
- Also from About.com Human Resources, a list of “Top Ten Ice Breaker Activities”: http://humanresources.about.com/od/icebreakers/a/my-10-best-ice-breakers.htm
After sifting through the information above, I plan to sort groups with candy bars instead of my shopworn Uno cards. I plan to test the “Five Things” activity from the “Top Ten” list. I’ve also found some ideas that can be adapted for active learning later in my class. You’re invited to click and enjoy.
If you have a favorite ice breaker, or if you use any of these suggestions in your classes, we hope you’ll share your experiences.