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Challenging and Fun Classroom Ice Breakers

Dianna is a writer with a background in education and business. She writes to inspire and encourage others.


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?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. I have taught college age students.
    • True
    • False
  2. I have never taught pre-school children
    • true
    • false
  3. I have taught high school students.
    • true
    • false
  4. I have never taught ESL classes.
    • true
    • false

Answer Key

  1. True
  2. false
  3. true
  4. true

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 ActivityAnswer

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


Linda Chechar from Arizona on April 06, 2019:

These are such imaginative ways to get the students involved and warm up to the group.

Dianna Mendez (author) on October 17, 2018:

Thank you, Rajan. Good to have you visit any day.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on October 09, 2018:

Very thought provoking ice breakers. I found this hub very interesting. Thank you.

Dianna Mendez (author) on May 27, 2018:

Thank you, Noor, for your thoughts and support. Be blessed today.

Dianna Mendez (author) on May 27, 2018:

That is a really good ice breaker as it allows people to know one another while sharpening their listening skills. Thanks for the idea!

Dianna Mendez (author) on May 27, 2018:

Yes, they do enjoy the fun but I think I also have so much fun watching them learn from the experience.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 11, 2018:

Those are some great ice breakers. I will just bet that your students loved learning from you!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on March 19, 2018:

Quite thought provoking and would initiate a lively discussion in teams trying to solve the puzzles. Enjoyable read.

I remember an ice breaker exercise taught in flight attendant training school years ago. Each team consists of two people. For five minutes one person does all the talking telling the other as much as they can about themselves. Then it's reversed. The other person tells details to the listener without any comments back. People in the class are then called upon to tell the class everything they can about their partner. It's a listening exercise.

Noor on February 27, 2018:

Amazing articles and very useful. Thank you

Dianna Mendez (author) on October 03, 2017:

Ann, thank you for the valued input on this post. Yes, get them interested as soon as they walk in the door -- so key to the education!

Audrey, creative ways of engaging people in any setting goes a long way in retaining information for learners.

Nell, glad to see you here!

JR, 150 students is quite large for ice breaker activities but it can be done using only a few volunteers while others watch the fun.

Ann Carr from SW England on September 29, 2017:

Great ideas! I know pupils love to discuss their ideas and work out possibilities, to the point of utter frustration but still with determination! I have a list of verbal puzzles which I used to use occasionally. It's more difficult than the visual though, especially with any short-term memory problems, so yours apply to more students.

I'm retired from teaching now but I know the value of grabbing interest as they walk through the door and giving them food for thought to encourage ideas, interaction and cooperation.

Great stuff!


Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on August 13, 2017:

What great ice-breaker ideas you've shared with us. It's so important to find creative ways to keep each student engrossed. You are a magnificent teacher! The lives you influence will stay with these young people through their own life experiences.

Thank you Dianna.

Nell Rose from England on April 19, 2017:

Came back for another read and still very impressed Dianna! really clever ideas!

JR Krishna from India on February 20, 2017:

Very useful article.

I take classes for professional students. Most of them lectures as the group is large(more than 150).

Do you have any suggestions for them?

Ice breakers appropriate for late teens and early twenties.

Thank you

Dianna Mendez (author) on November 07, 2016:

Hello Christy. Glad these gave you a challenge. That is excellent validation for me! Hope you are enjoying a great day.

Christy Birmingham on November 04, 2016:

These are great ideas for opening up the minds of students and starting to build relationships with them. Some of these icebreakers really made me think! Well done, D. xx

Dianna Mendez (author) on October 14, 2016:

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.

Dianna Mendez (author) on October 14, 2016:

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

Dianna Mendez (author) on October 14, 2016:

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

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on October 12, 2016:

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.

Nadine May on October 10, 2016:

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

Nell Rose on October 05, 2016:

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

Dianna Mendez (author) on October 03, 2016:

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.

Deb Hirt on September 25, 2016:

Great ideas, that really make one think.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 12, 2016:

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.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on September 11, 2016:

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

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 09, 2016:

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

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 09, 2016:

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.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 09, 2016:

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

BlossomSB on September 08, 2016:

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.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 08, 2016:

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.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 08, 2016:

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.

whonunuwho from United States on September 08, 2016:

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

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 08, 2016:

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.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 07, 2016:

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.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 07, 2016:

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!

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 07, 2016:

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.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 07, 2016:

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.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 07, 2016:

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.

Karen A Szklany from New England on September 07, 2016:

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.

ocfireflies from North Carolina on September 07, 2016:


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.



Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 07, 2016:

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.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 07, 2016:

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!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on September 06, 2016:

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.


Dianna Mendez (author) on September 06, 2016:

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.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 06, 2016:

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.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 06, 2016:

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.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 06, 2016:

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.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 06, 2016:

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.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 06, 2016:

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.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on September 06, 2016:

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

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on September 06, 2016:

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.

Ruchira Khanna on September 06, 2016:

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!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on September 06, 2016:

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