Icebreakers creating a safe environment - Part 2: Energizing

Icebreakers can be important building blocks to successful group interactions. This article is part two in a series introducing the four general types of icebreakers.

As highlighted in part one of a series by Michigan State University Extension, icebreakers can be important building blocks to a successful group interaction. The introduction type of icebreaker is generally used at the beginning of a meeting with a group to get them started and familiarize participants with each other. This article will introduce the second of four general types of ice breakers. The four general types of icebreakers are introduction, energizing, familiarize/build trust and a studying topic. Energizing, the second icebreaker, is generally conducted in the middle of a meeting to refocus a group.

The energizing type of icebreaker is used when stimulation is required; it motivates participants, revitalizes the energy of the group and creates a productive energetic atmosphere. A few examples of energizing type icebreakers to try are:

  • Hand off - This is a fast moving activity that will involve participants having a series of partners. The participants need to stand scattered throughout the meeting area. Begin the hand off activity instructions; shake hands each time an instruction is given and participants find a partner to complete the instructions. Using the Hand off list, announce each activity, allowing several seconds for the activity to take place before announcing the next one. Keep the activity pace hurried and quick.  The hands off list includes:
    1. Choose a partner and shake hands
    2. Choose a new partner and give a high five
    3. Find your original partner and shake hands
    4. Find your second partner and give a high five
    5. Choose a new partner and give a low five
    6. Find your original partner and shake hands
    7. Find your second partner and give a high five
    8. Find your third partner and give a low five
    9. Choose a new partner and give a high ten
    10. Find your original partner and shake hands
    11. Find your second partner and give a high five
    12. Find your third partner and give a low five
    13. Find your fourth partner and give a high ten
    14. Find your original partner and shake hands
  • Rhythm words – This energizing activity is similar to the game where you sit in a circle, slap your knees, clap your hands and snap your fingers. Slap, slap, clap, clap, snap right and snap left. In this activity each snap gets a word. Choose words that match the meeting topic. Determine a direction around the room. The group will create a rhythm together and each participant will take a turn offering words for the snaps. Have the participants push back from their tables so that they have access to their knees, or use the table for the slap. You could even have everyone stand if you want to get them up for more movement. Using both hands together, slap knees or table twice, clap twice, snap the fingers on the right hand while saying a word, snap the fingers on the left hand while saying a second word. Repeat. The next person in line repeats the first person’s last word with the right-hand snap and adds a new word with the left-hand snap.  A word example to fit the meeting topic could be if you’re having a 4-H meeting about equine; the first person might say on the first snap, “Horse,” and on the second snap, “Arabian.” The second person will say, “Arabian” on the first snap and “Breed,” on the second. The next person will say, “Breed” on the first snap and whatever comes to his or her mind with the second snap and so on. Encourage participants to think quickly and allow the group to continue around the circle more than once if time allows.
  • Laughter medicine – They say that laughter is the best medicine. This simple activity, if successful will stimulate the endorphins and recharge your group. Form small groups or teams and choose one person to start the fun. The first person will demonstrate how they laugh (giggler, big belly laugh, snorted, hyena, nasal, etc.). Going in a clockwise or counter clock wise direction, the second person will attempt to copy the first person’s laugh and then add their own. Moving to the next person they will try to demonstrate the first persons laugh, and then the second person’s laugh and then add their own. This process continues until the group is laughing uncontrollably and the facilitator needs to gain control of the now energized group.

The upbeat attitude is contagious once a positive environment has been created by an enthusiastic and encouraging facilitator. One can even try to implement his/her own creative successful icebreaker to set the tone of the meeting. If youth are involved, it can be an amazing and empowering activity to give them the space to utilize their creative minds and voices to create or lead these energizers.

Michigan 4-H provides workshops and trainings for youth in leadership with a section that even focuses on icebreakers. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office

Have fun researching and implementing energetic, positive and fun icebreakers for your successful group interactions in a safe and productive meeting environment.

Other articles in the Icebreaker series: Part 1 – Introduction, Part 3 – Building Trust and Part 4 – Studying a Topic.

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