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Below, we share a few of the “icebreaker” activities contributed by readers of the Cengage Learning Blog. Try some of them in your classroom!

Have teaching ideas you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below.

In my doctoral program, we were given a few bonus points for sharing a little background on ourselves and they would be read and commented upon by other students. It was interesting to find multiple connections of areas of interest to family to past experiences.

—David Horst

After a semester break, as a new semester begins (or summer session!), one way to help students meet others in their class is:

Introduce yourself as the instructor, then ask that each student spend three minutes learning the name and one fact about a classmate (why they chose this school, if they have an idea of what they want to choose as a major, or an interesting hobby, etc.). Then have them introduce that other person. It helps students to immediately learn about one of their fellow classmates.

—Dr. Jennifer Doyle, Brunswick Community College (Supply, NC)


I have used the following icebreaker in all my undergraduate first-day classes and it works like a charm. At first everyone is sitting there silently, but after this activity they know each other’s names, they have all laughed as others messed up the name list, and then laughed at themselves for doing the same. Students do not get too rowdy from this activity, but they feel better about the class and are very ready to hear what we will be doing in the English 101 classroom.

Activity: I tell my students that we will begin with the first student in the first row. That person must say his name. The person next to him must repeat the name and then say his own name. The next person must say the two other names and his own name. As the list of names increases, the student must say those names before saying his own. This is where everyone starts laughing because they can’t always remember, but other students shout out the names they missed and they help each other to keep going. This goes on row by row until two or three rows have complied. It is hardest for the last person in that row who must say all the names before including his own name.

If I think it is too hard to have the last two rows try to say all the names from the first two rows plus their own two rows, then I let the last two rows begin the same way with just one person saying his name and the next person saying that name and his own name until all the last two rows have said the names of those before them. It is, of course, hardest to be the last person who has to say all the names of his two rows. If students falter because they can’t remember someone’s name I mouth the name to them so they can go on.

Finally, I try to say all the names from all the rows. By then the students are laughing and they cheer me on and help me if I falter. Everyone laughs and enjoys this game. Even those with language issues can take part in this game. At the end we know each other’s names and everyone feels better about their first day in a college-level course.

—Professor Joan Dahlen, University of Bridgeport (Bridgeport, CT)