Even though they’re in your summer course to learn your course material, students may still be hoping for an interactive (and, dare we say, fun) class environment.

To inspire a warm, welcoming, and dynamic setting, it can help to incorporate an icebreaker at the beginning of the term. However, given the accelerated pace of summer sessions, you may not have the same amount of time to devote to these “getting to know you” activities as you would during a standard term.In such a case, it pays to choose activities that allow students to become familiar with one another without requiring an extensive amount of class time to do so. One way to accomplish this: an activity that pulls double duty. Try this “Syllabus Review” activity, found in the Instructor’s Resource Manual for Christine Harrington’s Student Success in College: Doing What Works!: A Research-Focused Approach:

This is a great way to accomplish two tasks through one activity: reviewing the syllabus and building connections. Break students into small groups (3-5) and tell them to get to know one another. They will then have to review the syllabus, creating a list of questions for you to answer. After this activity is over, ask each student to name at least 3 students in the class. (2)

If you like to encourage one-on-one interactions, try the “Interview a Classmate” activity:

Have students get into pairs. They can then introduce their partner, sharing at least one interesting fact. (1)

Perhaps you’re looking for an efficient way to familiarize yourself with your students. If so, try the “Name Game.” As Harrington notes, “This is a great way to learn the names of your students quickly!”

Ask each student to think of an adjective that describes them but tell them the adjective must start with the same first letter as their name (i.e. Caring Christine). As students introduce themselves, they also need to recall the names of all who went before them. (1)

These simple — but effective — exercises will give you the opportunity to foster community in your classroom this summer. For additional community-building ideas you can use throughout the year, visit our previous post

Reference: Harrington, Christine. 2013. Instructor’s Resource Manual for Student Success in College: Doing What Works! A Research-Focused Approach. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

How do you get to know the students in your summer courses? Any suggestions for simple icebreakers for use in the online environment? Share your suggestions below.