Icebreakers Part 4: studying a topic

Icebreakers can be important building blocks to successful group interactions. This the final article in a four part series introducing the four general types of ice breakers.

This article is the final contribution to a four part series introducing the general types of ice breakers, which are: introduction, energizing, familiarize/build trust, and studying a topic.  This final article will focus on the studying topic type of icebreaker. 

As highlighted in part three of a series by Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, icebreakers can be important building blocks to a successful group interaction.  In addition to offering opportunities for individuals to get to know each other, create energy, build trust and strengthen the working environment; icebreakers can also focus on study topics. 

The studying topic type of icebreaker is used when gaining knowledge or learning a specific skill is required.  These activities can be used at the end of a group meeting to test out what participants have learned or in the middle to start the educational process.  This can be accomplished with trivia or Jeopardy type games with participants.  Examples of studying topic type icebreakers include:

  • Eureka! – A Jeopardy style game with questions and answers related to what is being taught to the group.  An example of this would be if Parliamentary procedure is being taught; questions asked would reflect topics such as making a motion, what is a quorum, gavel use, etc. The hardest questions would provide the most points if answered correctly.   Another good sample activity and template is highlighted in the recently released Michigan 4-H Youth Development new and exciting global leadership curriculum. The publication 4-H Backpack to Adventure: Youth Leaders in a Global World is available in print and electronic versions at the MSU Extension Bookstore. This game can be fun, build teams and provide knowledge to the group.

  • Human Taco - Place a sticky note labeled with a taco ingredient on all participants backs. They should not see what is written on the sticky note. Participants should then intermingle, asking yes or no questions to discover the taco ingredient that is on their back. Explain the correct order of ingredients in Human Taco: shell, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato and salsa. Upon receiving a start command, everyone must quickly find out which ingredient they are and then find enough other ingredients to form a complete Human Taco.  Facilitators can be creative with this activity that can be modified to match knowledge or learning goals of the group. An example of a modification would be the Human Ball Team, in which participants gather the equipment to form a complete ball team (i.e. baseball, basketball or football).

  • Trivia Game – Ask trivia type questions related to the group topic. These few questions will educate on the topic and create a more relaxed, enjoyable learning atmosphere. Trivia questions can be on a handout or projected onto a screen. Reveal questions one at a time, with points awarded for the ones answered correctly.  For a competitive group, be creative with fun scoring. Examples include: 30-28 Genius’s, 25-27 Not too shabby, 20-24 You could do better, 16-19 You need a tutor? 15 or below...Wake up!

Once a safe space for participants is created, the study topic icebreakers enrich the group’s goals.  They also build on the group’s strengths, encourage creativity, and generate an opportunity to practice skills and gain knowledge where there is acceptance and fun. Icebreakers are teaching, learning, and connecting tools. 

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

 In conclusion of this series of icebreakers, tips and tools for creating a safe and productive environment within your groups should be gained.  Continue researching and implementing positive and fun icebreakers for your successful group interactions.

 Other articles in the Icebreaker series: Part 1 – Introduction, Part 2 – Energizing and Part 3 – Building Trust.

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