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Complex Thoughts

Icebreakers

Why do icebreakers? Because new groups, or new people in groups, require an introduction to each other in order for members to gain a level of comfort, get to know each other, and build trust. Icebreakers are structured activities that are fun, energizing and interaction. Here are some things to keep in mind before you start:

  • Be sure to clearly spell out how the icebreaker will proceed and that everyone understands what is expected of them.

  • Identify pre-existing conditions that might affect people’s ability to participate. For example, someone who is recovering from knee or shoulder surgery might not be able to participate in a human knot, and someone in nice clothes might not appreciate an exercise that requires being on the floor. Provide alternatives for involvement for people who opt not to participate for physical or comfort reasons.

  • Stress that icebreakers are not a competition, but are an opportunity for everyone to participate. They should bring people together, not drive them apart.         

BALL TOSS

Have the group stand in a circle. Using a small ball (tennis or koosh ball), the leader introduces himself/herself to the group, then hands the ball to the next person, who introduces himself/herself to the group, etc., around the circle until the ball returns to the leader. The leader than repeats his/her name and throws the ball to a person across the circle, saying, “This is for ________,” and saying the name of the person who is to catch the ball. That person says “Thank you, ________,” stating the name of the people who threw the ball. The person who now holds the ball repeats this, throwing the ball to another person in the circle. This repeats until everyone has been thrown the ball. At the end, challenge one person to go into the circle and name each person.

HUMAN KNOT

Have the group stand in a circle, facing each other. Instruct them to reach out their right hand and grab the hand of someone across the circle. Next have them reach out their left hand and grasp the hand of a different person across the circle. The object, now, is to untangle the resulting knot into a single circle without releasing hands.

IDENTIFICATION

With the group in a circle, the leader asks each participant to look in their wallet, purse or backpack to find something representative of their personal or professional characteristics or skills (for example, a picture, membership card, dollar bill, etc.). After several minutes, the leader asks each person to share his or her name, identify the item he or she has chosen, and provide a brief explanation why the object is symbolic.

KILLER

The group forms a circle and closes their eyes. The leader circles the group selecting a Killer by squeezing an individual’s shoulder. The group then opens their eyes and introduces themselves to each other while shaking hands (and trying to spot the Killer). The Killer tries to eliminate all the group members without being caught in the act. The Killer strikes by winking (with one eye) while shaking hands. A person winked at may not die until at least five seconds after they have left the Killer, and they must die in their most dramatic fashion. Under no circumstances may the person who has been killed give the Killer away to the group. When someone thinks they have discovered the Killer, they announce “I know the Killer.” In order to expose the Killer, another person in the group must also announce that they know the Killer within ten seconds. If not, the game continues. If a second person joins the announcement, both point to who they think the Killer is on the count of three. If they don’t point to the same person of if they both point at the wrong person, they are automatically dead. If they both select the correct person, the Killer is dead.

PERSON-TO-PERSON SCAVENGER HUNT

This activity requires some advance preparation. Make up a list of the things that might be unique to different members of the group, leaving a blank space in which names can be written. Sample items might be “Find someone who sees himself/herself as a funny bone more than a backbone,” “Find someone who has travelled to a foreign country,” “Find someone who speaks a second language,” “Find someone who used to have braces,” “Fine someone who knows a good joke,” “Find someone who wears contacts,” etc. Each member of the group gets a copy of the list. The object is to talk to as many different people as possible and complete the list with names. Each name may be used only once. Variation: May also be used in a bingo format; the first person to get bingo or blackout would win.

SECRETS

The object of this exercise is for each person to find out one “secret” about every other person in the group. Be sure everyone has a piece of paper and something to write with. The leader instructs the members to talk with every other person, collecting one piece of information about that person that no one else in the room knows. Once everyone has a secret from each member, sit down in a circle. The leader then picks one person, and has everyone share what they found out about that person. If there are ten people in the group, there should be nine different secrets shared. Repeat the process for the next person in the circle until everyone has been named and all the secrets have been shared. Note: Don’t share information that is too personal for a large number of people to know.

SOLEMN AND SILENT

The leader explains that this exercise takes self control. Members pair up back to back. On the count of three, everyone must face their partner, look each other in the eyes and try to remain solemn and serious. No speaking! The first to smile or laugh must sit down. All who remain standing then take a new partner and the activity continues until only one person has not smiled or laughed.

ADAPTED FROM COUGAR CLUES, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA–MORRIS

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