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The first day of school is an exciting time filled with new friends, faces, and fun. And virtual icebreakers are a great way to make strong first impressions in an online classroom. Meaningful introductions in virtual settings can be a creative challenge–especially without getting lost on screen. But welcoming students to a new year of learning means meeting and greeting them in ways they remember, which also helps ensure higher learning achievement.

What is an icebreaker for online classes?

An icebreaker for online classes is a brief, interactive activity or question designed to help students get to know each other and build a sense of community at the beginning of the course. It serves as a way to break the initial tension, create a positive learning environment, and encourage students to engage in the virtual classroom. Icebreakers can include fun games, introductions, or thought-provoking questions that facilitate interaction and connection among students.

Icebreakers for zoom meetings vs online classes

Virtual meeting icebreakers and icebreakers for online classes share the common goal of fostering connections and engagement, but they differ in their focus and purpose.

  1. Virtual Meeting Icebreakers: These icebreakers are typically used in professional or work-related virtual meetings to build rapport among participants, break the ice, and set a positive tone for the meeting. Examples include sharing one interesting fact about yourself, playing a quick team-building game, or asking participants to show a favorite item on their desk.
  2. Icebreakers for Online Classes: These icebreakers are geared towards academic settings and aim to create a sense of community and collaboration among students at the start of an online course. Examples include introducing oneself and sharing a unique hobby or passion, playing an interactive “Two Truths and a Lie” game, or initiating a discussion on students’ favorite books or movies to encourage conversation and bonding.

While both virtual meeting icebreakers and icebreakers for online classes serve to create connections, they are tailored to suit different settings and objectives: one for professional meetings and the other for academic environments.

Virtual classroom icebreakers

Try these fun icebreaker games to kick off your year in the virtual classroom. These are just a few ideas. For each game, use relevant tools to help make your students’ first day memorable.

Three Word Self-Portraits

Umbrella space algebra. Funny sunflower freckles. That’s easy, right?

This is a first-day introduction game that is sure to get laughs. But, remember, the key to an excellent three-word portrait is never thinking too hard.

Instructions

  1. Ask students to choose a string of three words that describe themselves. Bonus points if the words are unrelated. Have fun with this. Encourage creativity.
  2. After one student goes, ask them to pass it to whomever they choose next. Keep passing until you cycle through the class.
  3. If you prefer a fast run, speed it up with a timer. The quicker the game, the more bizarre the word strings get.

Online Tools
Ask students to type their adjectives into chat to keep a running log.

PictoPop

If you put Pictionary, improv, & popcorn into one activity, you get PictoPop. This game gets the creativity flowing and the laughter!

Instructions

  1. The teacher starts with a shape, a line, or anything simple on the whiteboard. In Class, you can turn on the “allow participant editing.”
  2. One at a time, let students take turns adding a simple shape or line to the drawing.
  3. You can stop them at any time, then popcorn a story about the drawing the team has created. Then, you can do a one-word popcorn or a full-sentence popcorn.

Online Tools
In addition to the virtual whiteboard, open the chat to discuss what the drawing is starting to look like. You can add a shape in the middle of a picture to change the direction of the drawing.

Where in the World?

This game is excellent if classmates come from different geographical locations. Use this game to learn about each other’s dream adventures.

Instructions

  1. Show a map on the screen. It can be a map of the world, an individual country, or a region.
  2. Ask students where they would like to visit. See if you and your class can find all the places on the map. Then, ask students why they’ve always wanted to visit to keep the conversation going about each location. Or have each student share a fact they know about the place.
  3. If working with a student collaboration tool, pin each locale with a note or tack. Keep this image of your class’s map as a reference for the year ahead.

Online Tools
Use a student collaboration tool like Miro, Padlet, or Google Jamboard to make the map interactive and pinnable.

Breakout Storytelling

Nothing breaks the ice better than imagination. This is a great game to have fun with–and get smaller groups of students talking and working together.

Instructions

  1. Break students into smaller breakout rooms. Launch a photo, word, or another prompt into each room uniquely. (You can also put multiple images on one board to prompt more connections).
  2. Give each group 10 minutes. Then, ask students to write a short narrative using the prompt. Length isn’t necessary–it’s all about the details.
  3. When the time is up, resume together as a class. Ask each group to present their story. Use the same board with the images, and ask them to show how they developed it.

Online Tools
Use breakout rooms to set up storytellers in small groups. Keep track of all students at once with tools like Class, where you can monitor all breakout rooms side-by-side together.

Christy O’Glee

Christy O’Glee works as an Account Executive at Class after spending a decade in education. She is passionate about increasing educational opportunities for K12 students through innovative technology. When not working, she can be found traveling and spending time with her family.

Christy O’Glee

Christy O’Glee works as an Account Executive at Class after spending a decade in education. She is passionate about increasing educational opportunities for K12 students through innovative technology. When not working, she can be found traveling and spending time with her family.

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