Pump Students Up with Digital Icebreakers

Throughout my teaching years, I’ve struggled with getting my students or trainees to readily participate.
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Throughout my teaching years, I’ve struggled with getting my students or trainees to readily participate.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

Throughout my teaching years, I’ve struggled with getting my students or trainees to readily participate. Learners are shy about exposing themselves to peers, especially if they do not know them well. Icebreakers can help alleviate our learners’ hesitation, because they relax the atmosphere, allow learners to share without the pressure of being graded, and help our learners get to know each other. In the slide presentation below I share some digital icebreakers I have used with learners of various ages. Find more in the bookmarks that follow the presentation. Find some of these icebreakers and other digital activities in my ebook, Learning to Go, which is currently on sale for $2.99 (Kindle $4.99). Learning to Go also contains editable handouts and rubrics that are mobile-friendly.

Pumping Them Up For the School Year with Digital Icebreakers from Shelly Terrell


Here are a few of the ideas I talked about during my presentation:

  • Mobile Show and Tell- Divide students into small groups (3 to 5 students). Each student spends about 30 seconds sharing a personal photo from a mobile device and the anecdote behind the photo.
  • Recreate a Photo- Students choose one of the Mobile Show and Tell images to recreate as a group. They share the original then the newly created photo.
  • Selfie Adventures- Pair students or divide them into small groups. Show them the Animal Selfies Tumblr or the Selfie Animal Tips video. They choose a favorite and write down reasons they liked this selfie. Then give each pair a stuffed animal, doll, character, or sock puppet. They will have to create 2 or more awesome selfies of this character.
  • Draw and Dash- Each student will need to use a piece of paper or a drawing app like Tackk, Educreations, Magic Paintbrush, or Sketchbook Express. Name a category like favorite dessert, cartoon, sports team and so forth for students to draw the answers to on their tablets. Give them 30 seconds. When the time is up they should lift up their drawings and run to a peer they believe drew a similar choice. Give them 1 minute to talk about their drawings and exchange one fact or experience related to the choice. Find the Knowledge Swap handout that accompanies this activity in Learning to Go.
  • Mobile Me Pictionary- Give each student 3 notecards. Students write on one side a category like a talent, hobby, dream job, or favorite place. On the other side they write down an answer but show no one. Divide students into small groups. Each group will need to use a drawing app like Tackk, Educreations, Magic Paintbrush, or Sketchbook Express. Students stack all the cards with the categories facing up. When you start the timer, one student chooses a card and draws the word(s) on the app. The group tries to guess the answer and who it describes before the time runs out.
  • Avatar Bucket Lists- Students write down 3 activities they want to complete within their lifetime. They get into pairs and discuss their lists. They choose one bucket list activity to animate in a short video or comic strip. Useful web tools include GoAnimate, Powtoons, Little Bird Tales, ToonDoo, and Makebeliefs Comix. Useful apps include BuddyPoke 3D Avatar Creator, Tellagami, Puppet Pals HD, Drawing Cartoons, Comics Head, and Friendstrip. Find more activities and ideas in this lesson plan I wrote, A Visual Bucket List.
  • Goal Collages/Vision Boards- Students can use digital poster and scrapbook tools and apps to create goal collages and vision boards. In the poster they include learning goals, personal goals, inspiring images, motivational quotes, and sayings to support them in achieving their goals. Try any of these tools: Buncee, Tackk, Biteslides, Smore, ThingLink, or Pic-Collage.
  • 3, 2,1 Introduction- Students use a web tool or app to create a video, comic strip, poster, book, or slideshow that includes the following: 3 things we should know about you, 2 hobbies, 1 dream job. This idea came from Nicky Hockly.
  • Avatar Introductions- Students can introduce themselves with a Voki avatar or try one of these free avatar creators! Find several student examples here.
  • Name Poems- Use a word cloud tool like Tagxedo or the Image Chef app. They can also do this as a digital poster using tools like Buncee, Tackk, Biteslides, Smore, ThingLink, or Pic-Collage.
  • My Timeline- Students create multimedia timelines highlighting significant moments using a tool like Capzles or Popplet which both have free apps for i-devices.
  • Icebreaker Mingle- Find my lesson plan that uses the Icebreaker question app here.
  • If you have icebreaker handouts like Human Bingo, use Nearpod (accessible on any device) to get students to fill them out digitally. Download my Human Bingo handout here.

More Resources

Find many more ideas, apps, and tools in my Pearltree bookmarks. Click the box to enlarge that resource.


Try any of these icebreakers with your students to motivate them to share throughout the year.

cross posted at teacherrebootcamp.com

Shelly Terrell is an education consultant, technology trainer, and author. Read more at teacherrebootcamp.com.