Icebreaker activities for middle and high school students are often torture, just like they are for the teachers facilitating them.
You have gregarious introverts in your classroom (yes, that’s a thing, and I know because I am one). You also have extroverts who take a little while to warm up (yes . . . because I’m married to one). And then you have gregarious extroverts who come out of the gate at full gallop and don’t stop until they hit a wall (yes . . . because I’m raising one). Then you have those quiet introverts, the ones who start that way, stay that way, and have no interest in changing their ways.
We need to get these teenagers talking to each other. Here are three fun ways to start conversations without overwhelming them with small talk or allowing anyone to suck up all the air in the room.
Teen Icebreaker #1: Impossible Scavenger Hunt
Create a simple one-page twenty-grid table and add to each cell a trait, act, taste, or preference. Students have to find others who can sign for those items being true for them, and conversations will happen. Cells might run along these lines:
*has never eaten broccoli *has broken a bone doing something stupid *has sneaked into a movie *is the only child of an only child *has lied about being vegetarian or vegan
You can stretch the activity by including cells that will likely NOT be filled (like being born with six fingers on one hand or being able to speak more than four languages). If you have competition in mind, make sure all the cells could be filled; you can do that by using descriptors and scenarios that are more common (like the ones listed above).
Teen Icebreaker #2: Abstract Art Personality Groups
Pull four or five abstract line drawings from any source online, print them out, post them around the room, and have each student decide which of them best represents their personality. Students who migrate to the same one mingle and compare their reasons for choosing that artwork. Be sure to choose art that is conservative, dramatic, simple, and elaborate in order to give students distinctive choices.
I like using a squiggle, a square-based piece, scattered images, etc.
Getdrawings.com has some fun options, or you could do a simple search when adding images in PowerPoint.
Teen Icebreaker #3: Ink Blot Gallery Walk (Fan Favorite)
Pull six Rorschach test images from the Internet and label them A through G. Post them around the room and have students work in pairs to discuss what they see. Give them a recording sheet (designated A through G) so that they can jot down their observations. As students go to each station in the gallery walk, they will see with new eyes what their peers are seeing, and they’ll start to talk!
It’s worth putting the time into finding the right images. Pull ten and show them to your spouse, roommate, sibling, parent, and colleague. If they see at least three different things in one picture, you have a winner.
Willing to get a little messy? Make your own! This blogger has some creative ideas for both making and displaying her creations.
Soup up the engagement by having students make Rorschach tests. I recommend doing this outside with almost-spent ink cartridges, black paint, or mess-free Photoshop (instructions here).
I’ve put together a set of directions for each of these icebreakers for teens along with the student handouts required to make them work. Check out the three fresh icebreakers here.
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