Teaching Hub

16 Community-Building Ice-Breakers for Zoom

several people's hands on a tree trunk

by Nathan Loewen, Department of Religious Studies

Among the many objectives for the first day of class, for some teachers, is to create a sense of community. Many of the strategies used face-to-face may be adapted to the online environment. Here are some ice-breakers that have worked in the past. They may be adapted to Zoom, too!

These ideas work for seminars as well as larger courses (e.g. using breakout rooms).

  1. Two truths and a lie is a classic.
  2. Ask students what they would be in a salad (cereal, or soup), and why.
  3. How do you make rice? You might be surprised by how many ways there are to make it! (or grilled cheese, BBQ, etc.)
  4. Ask, “What is the most boring thing about you?” Of course, share something about yourself to get things started!
  5. Or, ask for one boring fact. (asking for surprising or wild facts is risky, and might set the wrong atmosphere…)
  6. What should we use as a theme song for our course?
  7. Have people share their dream vacation using only an airport reference code. Ask others to guess where that airport is located, and speculate on what sort of vacation it might be.
  8. Host a typing speed race using TypingTest.com. (Make sure you have everyone using the same typing test parameters!)
  9. Find an (appropriate) avatar for your Blackboard course profile. Then explain your avatar to the class.
  10. Ask everyone for one essential item for any learning space. Create a list of their contributions during the sharing. Then, post the list as a scavenger hunt for pairs or groups. This may be a useful way to have people think about how to arrange their spaces for learning.
  11. Use Google Sheets to create a collaborative spreadsheet pixel image.
  12. Ask students for their opinions about what makes Zoom classes difficult and/or awkward. Then ask others what strategies they suggest to address those issues. (I created a survey for my students asking about their learning experiences from Fall 2020).
  13. Using breakout rooms, have each group come up with 10 things they share in common within 5 minutes.
  14. Have groups do a collaborative syllabus review exercise. For example, assign different groups to create infographics of syllabus sections (e.g. using Google Draw).
  15. Create a syllabus review bingo card. Have groups compete to complete the card.
  16. Review the syllabus by 1) setting up a Blackboard survey that asks each student for one question about the class, 2) downloading the responses and editing a list of their questions, and 3) having small groups compete to suggest answers to all their questions within five minutes. You might find some revealing ideas about how people think the course will work.