This Instagram video shows my students participating in “A Tangled Web,” which is one of the ice breakers they did at the beginning the school year in 2013.
As the beginning of a new school year quickly approaches, you are probably planning your team-building activities for your yearbook, newspaper, website or broadcast classes.
In no particular order, here are a few ice breakers and team building activities that I and the students have enjoyed.
- A Tangled Web – I can’t remember where I got this ice breaker but I like the bond it creates among students. I take the students outside and they form a circle. One student gets the ball of yarn and says something positive about himself. He holds one end of the yarn and throws the ball of yarn to another student, who holds a piece of the yarn, says something about himself and then throws the ball to another student. They continue throwing the ball of yarn until each person is holding a piece of the yarn (do not cut the yarn). At the end of this activity, students have formed a web that connects each of them. You can ask then how this web of yarn relates to being on a publications staff or teamwork. Here is an Instagram video one of the students took of their activity.
The Perfect Staff – This team-building activity comes from Jessica Young’s blog post for Walsworth Yearbooks: “Have students get into groups of four or five. Each student will need to empty the contents of his or her pockets or purse onto the desks. The group will then go through the items and select five things that they can associate with journalism and creating the perfect staff. Each group will then present their five items that constitute the “perfect” staff. For example, students could use a pencil because journalists always have to be ready to write and the perfect staff has members who are prepared to work. They could use a piece of gum because it is flexible and good staff members need to be flexible (and minty fresh).
- A Firm Handshake – The newspaper’s last editor-in-chief led this ice breaker that he learned while attending the Asian American Journalism Association Journalism Camp in the summer of 2013. He told the newspaper staff about the importance of a good handshake and eye contact. Many teens give flimsy handshakes, so the students practiced giving each other handshakes and then they each gave the editor-in-chief a handshake so he could approve of it. If he didn’t, the students kept practicing until they got it right.
Toothpaste – This team-building activity is one that South East High School journalism adviser Donn Cottom did at one of the meetings of the LAUSD journalism collaborative. Put students in groups of three or four. Each group gets a travel-size tube of toothpaste and a rectangular piece of cardboard (4 by 8 inches is good). Ask students to use the toothpaste to write one word about what journalism means. Once all groups have a word written, one member shares their word and explains it to the whole class. Then, ask students to put the toothpaste back into the tube. This can be messy, so have paper towels handy. Then discuss with the class how they need to be careful to make sure they have their facts correct when publishing their work, whether it’s in print, video, website or social media, because their work is out there, it’s hard to get it back if they need to.
- Beach Ball – I got this ice breaker from one of the presenters at the Digital RENOvation workshop a few summers ago. You can get a beach ball at the 99 Cents-only store and using a marker, such as a Sharpie, write a variety of questions on it. The questions are meant to have students share a bit about themselves but the questions can be serious or silly. Examples are: What song would be in the soundtrack to your life? What’s your favorite character in a book? Etc. Students stand in a circle and throw the ball around to each other. They answer the question where one of their fingers (you can decide right index, left thumb, etc.). Then they throw the ball to another student.
M & M Chocolate Candy – This ice breaker, which the students loved, also comes from the blog post by Jessica Young. “You need a jumbo-sized bag of M&M candies for this one. Offer the candies to the students. They can take as many or as few as they like, but they need to take at least one. They need to organize them by color and they CANNOT eat any of them. Once everyone has their candies, explain that each color candy is going to represent something that they have to do or share with the class. Red represents something they love to do. Green represents something they are proud of. Yellow is their favorite food. Blue is a goal that they have for themselves. Brown represents an animal noise. Orange is a dance move. For every M&M they have of that color, they have to share or perform the information associated that color. Once they have performed for each color, they can eat those candies.”
Lifesavers – This is a team-building activity my yearbook editors did at a Jostens Yearbook workshop. I take the students outside where they form circles of about five or six people each. Each student gets a toothpick and they put it in their mouth. Then each group gets one Lifesaver candy. The students try to pass the Lifesaver candy from one person to the next using only the toothpick without the use of their hands and without dropping the candy. The group that successfully passes the candy around wins. I usually give them a handful of Lifesavers or some other small prize, such as water bottles, notepads or other promotional freebies I get at journalism conventions. This game teaches students to problem-solve in order to achieve their goal.
What are your favorite ice breakers or team-building activities? Please add them in the comments below.