8 min read

Break the ice: 10 games to get to know your learners
Check out these 10 name games and energizers that can help you get to know learners, both new and old.

Action Name

Select a learner to go first (it can be easiest to select the learner in the top left of your screen and continue in order based on how learners appear in your Zoom window). The learner will say their name and do an action to go along with their name (such as a hand gesture, crazy face, etc.). Then, you’ll call out the next learner in line. That learner will need to say the name and do the action of the person in front of them, and then state their own name and do their own action. Continue down the line, adding another name and action to the sequence each time. The last person to go will have to say every person’s name and do every person’s action! Instead of an action, you could have participants say a favorite food or animal (for example: My name is Janet and I love pizza.).

Alphabet Name

This shares some similarities to Action Name but adds in a fun charades element. Let learners know that for this game, they’ll need to say their name and then silently act out something that starts with the same letter as their first name. For example, Alfonso might act out eating an apple, or Sarah might act out singing. Give everyone a minute to think of their action, then select a learner to go first! For each learner, the rest of the group tries to guess what they’re acting out! Depending on the size of your class, you may want to contain guesses to the comment section instead of letting kids shout out answers. To make this more challenging, require learners to say the name and do the action of each learner who went before them (like in Action Name).

Two Truths and a Lie

This guessing game will encourage your group to learn a few fun facts about each other – and try to spot each other’s lies! Tell your learners to take a moment to think of two facts about themselves and make up one false fact to try and trick the group. Once everyone is ready, select a learner to go first by sharing their name and their three “facts.”

For example, Sonja’s three facts might be:

  1. I have 2 pet dogs
  2. I’ve visited 23 countries around the world
  3. I know how to solve a Rubik’s cube

After the group spends a moment sharing their guesses on which statement is the lie, Sonja will reveal that she actually has NO pets! Then move on to the next learner. If you have time, you can allow the class to ask follow-up questions after each learner reveals their lie (for example: Which countries have you been to?).

Question of the Day!

This activity can be a great start to every class, helping learners warm up their brains and get to know one another. Simply announce or post the day’s question in the comments, give everyone a moment to think, and then go around the group sharing your answers. You can make a list of questions or ask your learners to each submit a question! Involving learners in the question process will encourage them to stay engaged and look forward to the activity each time you meet.

Some examples of great get-to-know-you questions:

  1. Where were you born?
  2. What is your favorite animal and why?
  3. What is your family’s favorite meal to make at home?
  4. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  5. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
  6. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  7. If you could time travel, what time and place would you go to?
  8. What would you do with a million dollars?
  9. If you were stranded on an island, what is the one thing you couldn’t live without?

Group Storytelling

In this game, you’ll tell a story as a group – but each person only gets to add one word at a time! Get ready for silly stories full of funny twists and turns. To do this virtually, you should post a list in the comments outlining the order the learners will speak in. Once everyone knows when their turn is, start off the story with just one word! You can set a time limit for the story or a number of turns adding words to help the group come to a conclusion. It can also be fun to share your screen and type out the story as words are said! This can also help kids remember what’s happening in the story when it’s their turn.

Allow Me to Introduce…

For this activity, you’ll need to pair up learners in breakout rooms. Let each learner pair know that they’ll be introducing their partner to the group. They should use this time to share a few fun facts that are okay to tell to the entire class! Once the time is up, bring everyone back into one meeting room. Learners will take turns saying, “Allow me to introduce… (their partner’s name)!” and share what interesting things they learned during their breakout time. This can be a great game to play even if your learners have already been in class together for a while – you never know what you can still learn about a person!

Red Light, Green Light

Gauge how your group is feeling and encourage them to share their emotions with this icebreaker. Ask each learner to share whether they’re feeling red, yellow, or green at the beginning of class. Red means you’re in a “low zone,” so maybe you’re feeling down today or have something that’s causing you stress. Yellow is an “okay zone,” where you’re not feeling bad but not feeling incredible. Green is an “awesome zone,” and you are happy to be in class and totally ready to learn! You could also do this with thumbs up, thumbs in the middle, and thumbs down.

Essence Questions

This icebreaker is one that you can stretch out over multiple classes, if you’d like. Begin by asking learners to answer a few get-to-know-you questions that are a little more creative than your usual introductory facts. Some examples include:

  1. If you were throwing a big party, what would the theme be?
  2. If you had a miniature version of an animal living on your shoulder at all times, what would it be and what would you name it?
  3. Describe your happy place.

They’ll answer these questions by sending you a private message – we don’t want the whole group to see their answers just yet! Once you’ve received everyone’s answers, let the group know that you’re going to read one learner’s answers without telling them who sent them! The group will have to try and guess who would throw that Star Wars-themed birthday party, or whose happy place is in a treehouse in the woods. After some guessing, the learner will reveal themselves. Since this activity can take a bit of time, you can record the answers learners send you by copy and pasting them into a word document and saving some for the next class. This is a great game to play if your learners already know a little bit about one another to bring the class even closer together.

Guess What I’ve Got?

This is an activity that can be extended over multiple classes, as well, depending on your lesson plans. Choose a learner (either at the beginning of class or in advance) to find a special object in their home that they’d like to share with the group. Maybe they have a pocket watch given to them by their grandfather, or a pet rock that they painted purple. They should have this object nearby, but not on the screen. Call on other learners in the class to ask yes or no questions about the object to try and figure out what it is (you can limit this to 10 questions to stay on schedule!). Once they’ve used up their questions, the learner with the special object will reveal it to the class! They should then explain what it is, why it’s special, and why they’re excited to share it with their classmates. If you have a larger, ongoing class, you could have one or two learners go each time you meet.

Freeze Dance

Energize your learners with a fun game of freeze dance! Mute learners and play a dancing song from your device. Learners should get up out of their chairs and dance – but they have to freeze when the song stops! This works best for younger learners who need to get the wiggles out in order to focus in class. Plus, being silly with a little dancing helps alleviate any social nervousness and bring your classroom community together.

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