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I’ve talked about icebreakers as part of my “Successful Start: Designing Your First Week of Class” blog post and video series. But, not all of them work well in an online context. If you’re teaching an online college course and are swamped by lesson planning, here’s a video and post about five icebreakers for online college courses that you can make your own. Plus, a second video with five more online icebreaker activity ideas that can help students better understand how to use Zoom and your LMS class website. [More interested in online class discussion activities? Here’s a video with seven online discussion designs.] And if you want to see more of my online teaching tips after you read this post, check out my full list of resources.
Icebreaker 1: “Introduce Yourself” Discussion Forum Post
Want to keep it simple and low-tech? Create a discussion forum topic in your class LMS called “Introduce Yourself.” Have students answer a short list of questions, with prompts like “what’s one strange fact about you?” or “what’s your hometown?” I also have the optional question of “what’re your preferred pronouns,” just in case a student’s pronouns aren’t evident by their name on the roster. I also make the first prompt on the list, “what is your preferred name or nickname?”
Have students fill out this post during the first week of class. I reply with my own information, too, so students can get to know me a bit better right away. For my full list of example prompts, see the video above.
Also, here’s a LMS tutorial that shows basic and more advanced tools that you can use when teaching online or in hybrid courses.
Icebreaker 2: “Introduce Yourself” Flipgrid Post (and Other Posts)
Flipgrid is a video-based tool that allows students to reply to your prompts with short videos, rather than typed text. You can choose the required length of the video responses and students can reply to each other’s videos, as well. Here’s a full video tutorial I’ve created about the tool, which includes different ways to use it in your classroom. It’s great for all types of activities, so it’s a tool you can use to create icebreaker-like activities throughout the semester, rather than just during week one.If you're teaching an online college course and are swamped by lesson planning, here's a video and post all about five icebreakers for online college courses that you can make your own. #AcademicChatter Click To Tweet
Icebreaker 3: Create a Playlist or Soundtrack
Music is such a great way to get students to connect with one another. So, for this icebreaker, have students respond to an icebreaker prompt (in your LMS discussion forum) with a playlist or soundtrack that they’ve created themselves. They can actually create their response using Spotify, for example, or they can just list out the songs in a discussion post that you create in your LMS class website. I give a few examples of prompts for this activity in the above video, but basically, consider if you want the icebreaker to be really flexible or specifically connected to the class you’re teaching.
So, you might ask students to create a playlist of their 10 favorite songs and then ask them to reply to a few of their peers’ lists with their own thoughts on the songs. Or, you might ask students to create a soundtrack related to your course, with songs tied to the topics they’ll be learning about in it.
There are many different prompts you can give for this icebreaker. You might even create a Spotify playlist for the class using the songs they submit in this icebreaker!
Icebreaker 4: Class Bingo with Zoom
I’ve mentioned my favorite icebreaker multiple times on my blog and YouTube channel. Here’s another blog post all about icebreakers, for example. For this version of class bingo, instead of students walking around the classroom and filling out their course-themed bingo card, create a live bingo game on Zoom. You can create the bingo cards on Flippity (here’s a tutorial on using this website) and send them to your students to fill out during the game. Or, you can have them draw their own cards and write out your list of prompts onto their own bingo boards.
For this version of the game, call out one prompt from the list at a time and give students about 30 seconds to write out their answers on their cards. For example, the prompt might be “favorite children’s book.” Your students would find that prompt on their cards and fill out their answers to the prompt. Once they’ve done that, take some time to discuss their answers as a class. Have students volunteer to share their responses and see if anyone else gave the same answer or actually really dislikes that book, etc. After a brief discussion, move on to the next random prompt. Repeat for the rest of the class period.
You can give students a certain shape that equates to “bingo” if you’ve created different versions of the cards for them or had them draw their own while randomizing the prompts on the cards. Or, you can have filling out the whole card as the way to win. If you give students 25 prompts, for example, then make sure the cards are 4×5 or smaller. That way, not everyone will win at the same time.
If you want to show the prompts on Zoom by sharing your screen, but don’t know how to do this, here’s a video on how to screen share on Zoom (plus, how to create breakout rooms for small group activities).
Icebreaker 5: Create a Meme
This can be a really quick, but fun, icebreaker. Once again, create a discussion forum topic in your LMS site. Ask students to create their own meme or multiple memes tied to a certain prompt. For example, have them create a meme about college or about your course topic or about what they think about X topic. Once they create the meme(s), have students share their responses on the forum post and reply to a few of their peers’ memes, as well. You can also make this the start of a Zoom class discussion later on, if you want to increase the community-building nature of this activity.
I use Canva to create my graphics. It’s a free tool that you can share with your students. It includes a lot of free stock images and other illustrations, so students can create some great memes. Of course, the website can be used for creating infographics and other multimodal genres, as well. Here’s a video with five digital major project ideas that can benefit from using Canva. And here’s a Canva video tutorial with some ideas for using it when teaching.
Here’s my meme example from the video above!
These five icebreakers for online college courses can be adapted in a lot of different ways. And, of course, they can also be adapted for a face-to-face classroom, as well. Check out the video below for five more icebreaker ideas. If you have any of your own online class icebreakers that you’d be open to sharing with other interested instructors, I’d love for you to describe them in the comments section below. If you’re interested in finding out about other edtech tools that I think work well for online courses, I’ve added a PDF with my favorites to my resource library. If you don’t have access yet, you can sign up here.