Challenging and Fun Classroom Ice Breakers


Our whole life is solving puzzles.

Erno Rubik

Dr. John Henrick Clarke, a Pan-Africanist writer, historian, and professor, once said A good teacher, like a good entertainer, first must hold his audience's attention, then he can teach his lesson. This is precisely what teachers must embrace to set the tone for a successful classroom learning experience. If an instructor opens with a challenging, yet purposeful activity, student focus will not easily stray from the lesson.

Through the years, I have come across a few ice breakers that have challenged the brightest of minds. Used in association with a lesson concept, they can engage students in lively discussions and lead to further topic investigation. Almost everyone loves solving puzzles; it leads to fulfillment and satisfaction of one's ability to arrive at solutions. In short, they are entertainment and lots of good fun.

Teaching with Purpose

General Guidelines

Using ice breakers in a group setting should teach something of value, introduce a concept, and meet an objective. In order to ensure it is successful and encourages creative thinking and involvement, guidelines must be followed. Here are some tips I find useful:

  1. Keep opening ice breakers to a maximum of ten minutes. Sometimes you have to wrap up the challenge without an outcome to keep to your schedule. If the it is during class it may last as long as twenty minutes, depending upon the goal of your activity.
  2. Make it fun. Be enthusiastic about the challenge. If you present it with excitement and encourage fun participation your students will find it worth trying.
  3. It should not make people feel uncomfortable. If this is your first time teaching a group you may want to provide hints or lead them to the solution.
  4. Encourage a team spirit, competition is sometimes needed but should be monitored for cooperation.
  5. Build relationships and trust. Your activity should lead to students interacting with each other and making connections as fellow classmates.
  6. Meet individual and group needs. Choose an activity appropriate for your group's diverse needs, age, skills, physical abilities, and interests.
  7. Involve all members. You may have to allow for those who are a bit shy. I usually have them do something less active such as keep score or time instead.
  8. Room set-up and props: Some activities require movement or space, sometimes both. I also suggest you have all your props out and ready to go, especially if it is an opening activity. Remember to keep your props simple (i.e., wad of paper for a ball). The ice breakers I picture here can be drawn on a whiteboard or chart paper. Be creative in design!

Is it the truth or a lie about this author?

Discerning Minds

One of the most popular games with teens is any variation of a truth or lie investigation. They enjoy guessing what kind of person the interviewee is and whether they can tell they are lying. The easiest form is a true or false question activity. One simply makes either a true or false statement about themselves and chooses a person in the room to answer. Another option is to pick a name out of a decorated box to answer.

I have also played this game by giving three statements about myself and asking which is not true. This is a bit harder to discern but lots of fun. It also requires some creative thought from those who are making the statements. The quiz posted in this section is an example. (Hey, you may discover something new about me, or not.) This is a great ice breaker for introducing people to each other since it requires connecting names with faces.

It's Obvious!

The set of word challenges below are good visuals for older college-age students. The phrases are simple enough but probably not something younger scholars would understand.

Using an overhead projector, I give participants a few minutes to write out the answer to each one. I then have students place results in a box. We discuss the possible answers before I give them the solutions. I do have more complicated word puzzles but they would require greater description and design.

Note: I have placed the solution to all ice breakers at the end of the article. Some may be harder than others but I have confidence you can think them through. It's pretty tempting, but try not to look ahead!

Simple Starters


What Is This?

This one I use as students enter class or to revive student interest between class activities. It is a non-threatening challenge and allows students to exercise their brain. Drawing it on a board requires just a few seconds and little artistic talent. It's much fun and sets a positive flow for the class session. Don't think too hard about this one!

Exhibit A


Is It Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?

I have loads of fun with this one every time I post it for students to solve. After a minute or so, I will allow them to ask if it is either an animal, vegetable, or mineral. I'll give you a hint. It is not a mineral! You can allow for probing, such as is it bigger than or smaller than inquiries. To make if even more interesting, toss a foam ball out and have them take turns tossing it to other classmates to answer. If it is a new class, ask them to say their name first before answering.

Exhibit B


It Is Definitely an Animal!

My how the mind does work when it comes to this simple visual. It could be anything, yet nothing. I used color on this one so it is easier on the imagination (You can guess what animal it is, right?)

Exhibit C


History Lesson

If one knows his or her history this will be an easy guess. This can be used as a math opener or to teach Spanish "value". I'm sure you can think of other uses for this creative artwork.

Exhibit D


So Much Work to Accomplish!

College students are challenged by this puzzle. It is so simple yet many over think the solution. There are a couple of correct answers, maybe even three that would fit this puzzle.

Exhibit E


Challenge of the Week

Now this ice breaker requires a longer period of time to solve. I have yet to have anyone come up with the right answer on their own. I post this on day one of the week, knowing it will take all five days before we can arrive at the solution.

It is a good way to get people talking to each other in the classroom. It also requires people to think beyond the normal view of logic. I admit the solution is off the wall!

Exhibit F


Taxing the Mind

Oh how the world does spin and pitch when it comes to asking the right question! When I first saw this picture, it really threw me for a loop. I thought about it over and over but could not come to a solution. The student who presented it to me finally did relent and put me out of my misery.

As you may assume, this is more appropriate for high school or college level audiences. Placing students in teams and providing them with paper and pencils generates creative thinking. Challenges like this bring people who know each other quite well together to re-familiarize themselves for further classroom discussions or projects.

There are quite a few variations online (Now, some of you will may be tempted to search the net for the answer. It's okay, this is a tough one!) I hope you are much better and quicker than I was at getting through the gate.

Life or Death Choices


Wrapping it Up

If you do an online search for ice breakers the results will be endless. I'm sure you can share a few good ones you have either used in a learning situation or as a fun opening activity. Please do write them in the comment section. I would love to read them.

In summary, here are the benefits of using ice breakers in any learning environment:

  • Quality Solutions: Groups bring knowledge, skills, and a vast range of ideas together to solve problems. It stimulates minds to come up with better solutions.
  • Cognitive Value: As you present new challenges to students, such as an ice breaker between sessions or as a "break" from class learning, they will restore cognitive vitality. It refreshes the mind and enables the brain to rejuvenate.
  • Bias Diminished: Group participation encourages people to consider other acceptable ways of thinking. Individual bias at times is challenged by the group and forces that person to open his or her thoughts to possibilities and change of thought.
  • Communication: Listening skills are sharpened through interaction with others during these activities. As planning takes place students are forced to contribute ideas and share from experience. This helps them relax and approach each other easily as the course continues.


Ice Breaker Activity
Simple Starters (from top left to bottom right
Once over lightly, Short-wave radio, Arch enemy, Small pox, Mixed company, Aluminum siding
Exhibit A
Man in tuxedo who stood too close to elevator door
Exhibit B
Spider doing a handstand
Exhibit C
Pig emerging from a fog bank
Exhibit D
Pieces of eight (Spanish coin)
Exhibit E
Three degrees below zero
Exhibit F
Aerial view of used bathtub lot
Life or Death Choice
If I were to ask the other watchman which road leads to heaven's gate, what would he say? The liar will lie about what the truth-teller will say, and point you to the road that goes to hell. The truth teller will tell the truth about how the liar will give you the wrong road and would also point you to the gate of hell. Thus, take the other door!

© 2016 Dianna Mendez

More by this Author


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 6 weeks ago from Western NC

I love these! So fun and actually, I'm going to pass them onto my tutors in the afterschool program when we do ice breaker activities in less than two weeks.

Nicely done! And so glad you wrote a hub! :D

Ruchira Khanna 6 weeks ago

First off I absolutely love the ice breakers and I realize it is an art to introduce it to kids in this era and still keep them engrossed. You have such good pointers though, Dianna.

sharing it across!

word55 profile image

word55 6 weeks ago from Chicago

Hi Dianna, those were were great ice-breaking ideas. They are definitely needed in today's teaching. I was so bored in my grammar school classes that it was amazing I made it through. Teachers also need to focus on students that have a tendency to sleep in class. It may not be helped but shouldn't be allowed either. Thank you for sharing such a useful hub.

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 6 weeks ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

These are very clever, and a great way to start a wonderful relationship with students!

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 6 weeks ago from USA

I love ice breakers and your hub is perfectly timed. I help run a parent booster club supporting high school engineering honors students at a governor's school, and each year we must come up with creative ways to get them mingling. It's especially challenging with shy techie types. I love your ideas.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

CC, ice breakers are a good way to bring some life back to those precious after school children. Sounds like you run a fun program. Glad you found them fun and useful.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

Ruchira, these days it does take some tricks to keep students engaged in lessons. I almost feel like a clown some days. Thanks for your wonderful support.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

Word, it is good to see you here. I too would have profited from ice breakers in school, some classes put me to sleep! Guess we did all right in the end.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

Rebecca, it does help build important relationships between student and instructor to use these fun start up questions. I always enjoy hearing their answers and we have lots of good laughs.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

Flourish, you must have some interesting sessions with those savvy tech people. I hope they get them mingling and communicating. Thanks for your support of the article. Blessings.

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 6 weeks ago from The Beautiful South

You are a great teacher I can tell Dianna and would have been a favorite of mine I am sure. I think student do need to have their interest peaked on the very first day and a boring teacher makes a boring class. Things go much faster and smoother when everyone is enjoying themselves.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 6 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

Excellent hub and so interesting!

Teachers must adopt innovative ways to keep the students interested. Ice breakers is a clever idea and you did a wonderful job by writing a helpful hub about it.

Interactive teaching and discussion keeps the students interested and the learning becomes quick and the retention is for a long time.

Very useful and thorough hub on this subject.

Thanks for sharing!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

It seems so long ago that I taught, like another lifetime. Now I read articles like this one looking at the writing rather than the content because, well, I'm a writer today, not a teacher. :) Well done, my friend.

ocfireflies profile image

ocfireflies 6 weeks ago from North Carolina


Excellent ideas and hub. One of my all-time favorites was using "Pulse of the Planet." Students would have to guess the sounds such as booming sands, arctic ice moving, lava flow which later was coupled with a short writing assignment. Hope you are having a great year.



Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 6 weeks ago from New England

Enjoyed reading this article. Deserves to be on one of the niche sights for educational articles! I am sure I will use it when planning a class or study group.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

Jackie, thank you for validating the thoughts on using ice breakers to keep student interest. I have found them to make a big difference in connecting students for a better learning experience.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

ChitrangadaSharon, your words are so true. We must find innovative ways to teach and keep moving students towards objectives for a quality education. Blessings to you, dear friend.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

Bill, you are still a teacher at heart and your checking my writer is valuable to me. It is so helpful to know one is doing a good job at connecting thought with the written word. God bless you.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

Kim, I am going to look up the challenge you mentioned. It sounds like one I could use for openers to a speech class. Listening skills are so important and using something like this teaches how important it is to us when speaking. You have a blessed week!

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

Seafarer, I am glad you enjoyed the post. Your words are so kind and supportive. I hope your study groups and classes go well this year. Blessings.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 6 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

I love your ice breakers, Dianna! Thank you very much for sharing them. They look like great fun and should be very helpful for both teachers and students.

whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 6 weeks ago from United States

Timely help for teachers and especially new teachers, my friend. Thank you for sharing these great ideas. whonu

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

I think the students enjoy these type of mind games. It is fun but can also lead to a good moral lesson. It was good to see you here today, AliciaC.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 weeks ago Author

Whonu, it's always good to have a little extra activity in your pocket for breaking up the routine in class. Glad you enjoyed the fun, my friend.

BlossomSB 6 weeks ago

What a great hub! it must have taken you quite a while to put together and it shows. Some great ideas that will be so helpful to many.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 6 weeks ago from Central Florida

I'll bet your students love you, Dianna. You make learning fun!

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 5 weeks ago Author

Blossom, if it wasn't so much fun to put together, I would say it is a lot of work. Thanks for coming buy today. May your weekend be a great experience.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 5 weeks ago Author

Shauna, I am just happy to present challenges that stimulate conversation and learning in the classroom. Make sure you enjoy the weekend!

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 5 weeks ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

Thanks for the tips! I start substitute teaching tomorrow and can use a few!

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 5 weeks ago Author

Hello, Denise! Congratulations on your new position. I served as a sub off and on during my teaching years and always found them rewarding. I know you will make a difference for the good of the children.

Deb Hirt 3 weeks ago

Great ideas, that really make one think.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 weeks ago Author

Hi Deb, it's too early for me to think on these today but glad someone is able to handle the pressure. Lots of high fives for you dear friend.

Nell Rose 2 weeks ago

What a great idea! anything that makes the students think and have fun is a great thing! wonderful!

Nadine May 11 days ago

I loved the way you encourage your students to generate creative thinking. I will share this with some teachers that I know.

Vellur profile image

Vellur 9 days ago from Dubai

Great fun icebreakers, these sure will draw in students and get them involved in discussions. Enjoyed reading, thank you for sharing. Your students must be having fun attending your classes.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 days ago Author

Nell, students do enjoy these ice breakers. I can only handle so much without morning coffee! Glad you stopped by, Nell.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 days ago Author

Nadine, I love pushing students to think beyond the ordinary. Yes, it does develop their creativity. Loved hearing from you, dear friend.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 days ago Author

Vellur, I think I enjoy posting the challenges just as much as the students enjoy solving them. Always leads to great discussions. Enjoy your weekend, dear friend.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article