Group Activities: Ice Breakers to Help People Get to Know Each Other

Whenever people are forced to work together in a group situation, tension arises. The source of the tension can be due to personality conflicts, personal problems, self-doubt, or the fact that the group members do not know each other. Ice breakers are often use to help acknowledge these tensions while allowing the group to function appropriately. Below are listed a few different ice breakers that can help groups get to know each other a little better. While they will be most appropriate for groups who do not know each other well, you may find that these ice breakers can be used just as effectively on groups who have been working together for a long time.

ICE BREAKER #1 COMPLETED THOUGHT
This exercise helps the participants get acquainted with others by sharing their thoughts about certain issues. This structured experience is most appropriate for educational programs or sessions that emphasize personal interaction among group members. This ice breaker is effective at any time during the learning program.

The group leader begins by stating this learning experience is designed to explore the particpants’ thought processes. After giving each participant a pencil and a piece of paper, the trainer explains that the group members will be listening to a serious of incomplete statements. The participants will be writing down the statement and then, using their own words, completing the thought. For example: “If I could be anyone, I would be ______________.”

The group leader then reads the first incomplete sentence to the group. After giving the group members one minute to copy down and complete the thought, the trainer proceeds to the second statements and so on until all 10 statements have been completed.

When the participants have finished, the trainer rereads the statements one at a time and asks each group member to share his or her responses with the group. At any time, the group members should be allowed to discuss or question the reasons behind any given answer.

The trainer should conclude the group activity by discussing the similarities and differences among the group members responses.

Statements to be Completed:

1. Today I wish I were…
2. The main reasons I am here are…
3. People who smoke are…
4. My boss and I are…
5. I choose friends who are…
6. When I think of work (school), I…
7. I think my best quality is…
8. Group sessions like these are usually…
9. Today I am planning to learn…
10. A pet peeve of mine is…

Alternative
If you find yourself in a group that is struggling, the following sentences may help to ease the tension. For groups who are struggling with interdependence, or for groups who already know each other well consider trying these stems during your ice breakers.

1. The thing that concerns me most about joining groups is…
2. When I am feeling anxious in a new situation, I usually…
3. When I am new in a group, I…
4. I like to be a follower when…
5. My personal leadership style is…
6. To me, taking orders from another person…
7. In groups, I feel most comfortable when the leader…
8. The kind of structure I enjoy most in my job is…
9. My relationship with the other members of this group would best be described as…
10. My typical reaction to change is…
11. My greatest hesitation in relating to others in this group is…
12. What I would like from other members of this group is…
13. What I am willing to share with other members of this group is…

ICE BREAKER #2: HUMAN BRIDGE
Often, emotional and social boundaries are most quickly broken down when physical boundaries are. This ice breaker asks a group to break down some of their physical boundaries in a quick group activity that can help them to bond on other levels. This ice breaker works best

Trainer instructs the group that they must form a bridge from one chair to another. Everyone in the group must be a part of the bridge and must be touching someone else. They should imagine that a lightweight troll needs to walk across them. However…

only 4 hands can be touching the ground.
only 3 feet can be touching the ground.
only 2 butts can be touching the ground.
only 2 people can be touching the chairs.

After the activity is completed, the trainer can ask the group to comment on their experiences with the group. Be sure to touch on the concepts of leadership, boundaries, and comfort levels.

ICE BREAKER #3: OVER THE MOUNTAIN
This ice breaker is especially useful when you have a rather large group. It allows a large number of participants to get to know each other in a relatively short amount of time. It has the added bonus of involving competition which often inspires even the least excited member to participate.

The trainer sets up the room so that there are chairs in a circle. There should be enough chairs for every member of the group except the trainer. As the members fill the chairs, the trainer explains that the activity is called over the mountain. The person in the middle of the circle will call out “Over the mountain if…” followed by a characteristic that applies to the caller. For example, a young mother might call out, “Over the mountain if you have children.” If the characteristic applies to the seated members, they must move and find a different seat. The new seat must be at least 2 places away from the old seat. The caller should also try to find a seat. Whoever is left without a seat becomes the new caller.

After the group activity, the trainer can ask the group to synthesize the dynamic by asking them who they learned the most about, what they found the most unexpected, and who they would like to expand upon a response that was given.

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Ice breakers are wonderful tools to use when you find yourself in charge of leading a group of people. Whether it be in the classroom, at a church event, or during an office meeting, using ice breakers can help acknowledge the natural tensions of group work while allowing group members to quickly break down barriers. No matter what kind of ice breaker you choose to use, be sure to take a few moments to synthesize with the group afterward. Allowing the group members the opportunity to put to words what has happened will help facilitate effective group work. It takes only minutes to do an ice breaker, but the benefits will last throughout the group time.

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