20 ideas for icebreakers

Author: Teachit's editorial team
Published: 13/08/2020

Icebreaker games

  1. Icebreaker taboo. Get students to identify a special power, an unusual fact or interesting quirk, for example impressively large hands, unexpected double-jointedness, an exotic birthplace, etc. They should write down three words connected with this ‘secret’ on a card, without using the word itself. Other students have to guess this special fact using the words on the card as clues (and up to five yes/no questions).  
  2. One word. Ask students to describe themselves in one word. This could be by describing themselves as an animal, a colour, a food, a type of sweet/chocolate, or a key characteristic (silly, funny, fast, etc.).
  3. My song. On a similar theme, ask ‘What’s your special song, and why?’.
  4. Sweet treats. Bring in a bag of differently coloured sweets. Share them out. Depending on the colour they pick, students have to share something about themselves on a different, eclectic topic – blue for best-ever holiday, red for fantasy pet, yellow for favourite sport, etc. You could even agree the colour topics at the start, so students talk about things everyone wants to know more about.
  5. Speed dating. Give students a list of 10–15 ‘challenges’. They need to move around the classroom finding people who fit the bill – for example, find someone who loves yellow, someone who has size 5 feet, someone who hates sushi, etc. 
  6. Desert island essentials. Ask students: ‘If you were stranded on a desert island, what five things would you take with you?’ Categories could be decided together and might include favourite music, food, book or film. For a variation on this theme, students could devise their own essential survival kit. 
  7. Time-travelling. ‘If you could go back in time, when would you go back to, or who would you most like to meet?’
  8. Room 101. Share pet hates (or loves): What annoys you most? Or what makes your heart sing? 
  9. Bucket or wish list. Discuss five activities/places/experiences that would make it onto a student's bucket or wish list.
  10. Who’s who? Using a male or female outline, students should write lots of words to describe themselves, without sharing with any other students. Put all the cut-out outlines together and see if students can work out who’s who. Younger students could add features, designs or colour to their person. Stick them together to make a paper doll chain display/bunting for your classroom to help to remember everyone’s names over the coming weeks.
  11. Fortune tellers. Get students to fill in a Teachit fortune teller (simply search the site for a template) with details about themselves or questions and answers.  
  12. Emoji stories. Encourage students to create their own emoji story about the holidays. They could include images for weather, activities, food, people, etc. Students could then share with others to ‘translate’.
  13. Lines and circles. Get students moving and talking about what they have in common with this grouping activity. Students should organise themselves in to circles or in lines depending on the prompts you give them. For example, they could line up in chronological order by birthday, by shoe size or by number of pets etc. They could join a circle if you talk about hobbies or countries/cities visited or favourite food etc.
  14. Running translation. Put a sheet of key facts, text or annotated images up outside your classroom. Students work in pairs or groups and take turns to go to the sheet and memorise as much of the content as they can. They return to their peers and dictate what to write down. They repeat the process, taking turns to run/write until they have recreated the sheet as far as possible. No phones or shouting for this game!
  15. Categories. Have ready a list of categories related to your subject and/or to subjects students will relate to (famous novels, items found in a laboratory, countries in Europe, American actors, etc.). Go round the room asking each student to name something in that category in five seconds. If they can’t think of anything or they repeat one, they’re out. The winner is the last one standing.
  16. Marmite. Play a simple game of Love/hate. Read out the names of foods, places, films, books, etc. Students use some kind of visual clue (stand up/sit down or thumbs up/down) to show how they feel about each item, and then each student suggests their own love/hate item to share. For an alternative version, create an imaginary line (or two for big groups) where one end is one answer or extreme and the opposite end is the other answer or extreme. Ask students questions such as ‘Chocolate or strawberry?’, ‘Sunshine or snow?’, ‘Bond or Bourne?’ and invite them to place themselves somewhere on the line to show their preference. Students could suggest their own questions to pose to the class.
  17. Two truths and a lie. Students share two things about themselves that are true and say one thing which is a lie. Award bonus points for students who can persuade others that their lie is a truth.
  18. Heads or tails? As a fun icebreaker, play a guessing game. Students have to guess heads or tails, putting their hands on their heads or their hands on their bottoms to show their choice. Flip a coin. Those who guessed the right side of the coin remain standing, and everyone else sits down. The last student standing is the winner.  
  19. Silly storytime. One student starts with the first line of an invented story. When 15/30 seconds are up, they pass or throw the storytelling bear/ball/sweet/pen to another student who has to continue the story, and so on.
  20. Scavenger hunt. Put students into groups. Give them a short time limit and a list of (relatively) easy-to-find items – things that are relevant to your subject or to a classroom/student context (a pencil with a rubber, a coin, something to eat, etc.). The winners are the group who find the most items in the time. Award additional points for most inventive ideas for using one or more of the items.

Download the full icebreaker resource and share with colleagues.  

Teachit's editorial team

Teachit's editorial team have over 125 years of teaching experience between them, across the primary and secondary curriculum.