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Lesson 1: Icebreaker

"People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." -Teaching For Success, August 1995


To help establish a positive environment and provide participants with an opportunity to get to know one another and the instructor.

Time: Thirty minutes to one hour depending on the icebreaker selected


The method depends on the icebreaker selected. Instructors are encouraged to see the CTE’s Teaching Tip Icebreaker Activities for more ideas.

Example: Identification

  1. Have students get into pairs or groups of four.
  2. Tell students to introduce themselves and then have the group members look in their purse/wallet/backpack to find something that is significant to them.
  3. Each participant then shares with his/her group or partner why the item is significant.
  4. This exercise continues until all group members have shared.
  5. The class then resumes and class members are asked to introduce their partners or one person from their group and tell something significant about them.
  6. For variation, as students introduce each other, they can also recall the names of the students previously introduced. This is an excellent way to learn everyone's name, but it is time consuming and therefore dependent on class size and time available.

*Note: At the conclusion of the icebreaker, introduce yourself and include how you wish to be addressed. Also, share your background and your philosophy on learning and teaching.

Benefits of Using Icebreakers

  1. Reduces student and instructor anxiety prior to introducing the topic.
  2. Creates an environment where the learner is expected to participate and the instructor is willing to listen.
  3. Conveys the message that the instructor cares about getting to know the students.
  4. Makes it easier for students to form relationships early in the semester so they can work together, both in and out of class.

Additional Icebreaker Ideas

  1. Have students draw a picture of a significant event that has occurred over the past six months and then have them share it with a partner. Following this activity students introduce each other in the same manner as mentioned above.
  2. Have students pair up and get to know one another and then switch partners every five minutes.
  3. Have students get into groups of three to five and get to know each other. Then have each group generate a list of five to eight questions that they have about the class. After this list has been generated, the instructor then hands out the syllabus and the groups go over it together to answer their questions. The class reconvenes and the groups ask any questions that were not answered by the syllabus.
  4. In a writing class, students could be instructed to spend twenty minutes getting to know each other by writing, not speaking.

Lessons: Index, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, References

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