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Developing ice breakers


Students will research ice breakers and develop a goal for using their ice breaker with the class. Ice breakers can be used to learn names of staff members, discover personality types of staff members, define the hierarchy of the staff, increase the bond among staff members or to teach a specific journalism skill.


  • Students will use research skills to find ice breakers that can be used in class.
  • Students will define the goal/purpose of their ice breaker.
  • Students will execute their ice breaker with the class and evaluate its effectiveness.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


90 minutes


Access to computers for research

Handout: Sample ice breakers

Rubric: Ice breaker

Slideshow: Group formation cycle

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Explain to students that today they’ll be discovering the value of ice breakers and their importance in building and bonding a publication staff. Ask students why they feel it would be important to get to know other students on the staff better. What have they ever heard about professional businesses conducting staff retreats and ice breakers to develop better teamwork? Groups who work well together produce higher quality work and are more invested in their product.

Watch the attached slideshow by Travis Feil titled “Group formation cycle.” Discuss with the group why it’s important to build group dynamics with the staff and how ice breakers might be one way to develop a functional group.

Ice breakers can have a variety of purposes/goals. They include:

1.     learning names of all members of the group

2.     finding common bonds among staff members

3.     defining the hierarchy of the staff

4.     exploring different personality types on the staff

5.     defining different leadership styles on the staff

6.     teaching a specific journalism skill (such as AP style, lead writing, choosing good quotations or sources, etc.)

Assign each student one of the groups listed above so that there are 3-4 people in each group. Explain that students will first do independent research to find their type of ice breaker and they should find two to three examples of ice breakers to then bring to their group. When they get to their group, they will combine their research results and develop an icebreaker to be used with the class/staff at some point during the grading period.

2. Individualized research — 40 minutes

Students will use computers to research potential ice breakers and should document/save two or three good examples they want to take back to the group.

3. Group work, discussion — 15 minutes

Have each person in the group explain their findings to the group (each person has five minutes) and allow the groups to decide the best example that each individual has found. Depending on how many ice breakers you’d like to use with the group throughout the term, you can have each student develop one icebreaker or each group develop one icebreaker.

4. Group work, ice breaker development — 25 minutes

Have one student in each group type up the ice breaker plan.  The plan should include:

1.     the goal of their ice breaker

2.     materials needed and who will supply what materials

3.     a step-by-step plan to execute the ice breaker

4.     a list of potential problems they might run into and how they will solve that problem

5. Executing the ice breaker (done during a subsequent class period during the grading period)

Directions: Students should coordinate their group ice breaker with the instructor so that it can be presented during a portion of a subsequent class block.

6. Post ice breaker assignment

After the ice breaker is completed, students should write a reflection that includes their role in the planning and execution of the ice breaker, what they felt went well, what could have been improved/how they would do it differently next time and why they felt this ice breaker was important in developing the staff.

Spend additional time throughout the term to do the ice breakers in class, ideally once a week.