Ice breakers!

Oh ice breakers, the part of meetings that we all love to hate. Designed to get people moving and interacting, ice breakers can all too often be cheesey, boring, weird or even uncomfortable….

Because our teens come from different schools and are in a number of different grades, it’s important that our teen library group meetings include some form of interaction activity that can help teens get to know each other in a non-competitive and hopefully non-threatening way. That being said, we don’t want teens to think that the library is even less cool than they already think it is!

Here are a few ice-breakers that I’ve used in the past, either with teens or in my other role as a facilitator of newcomer programming. Some of these ice breakers have a greater emphasis on “getting to know you”, while others are just fun ways to get people mingling and moving. I’m going to use the word “teens” here a lot, but these can be adapted to work with different age groups as well.

1. Pair and Share

  • Divide teens randomly into pairs. Here’s one way to divide the group: Brainstorm a bunch of YA lit or culture words. If you want to divide the group into 10 pairs, for example, think of 10 words or phrases (Katniss Everdeen, Divergent, One Direction etc.) and write each word/phrase on to two slips of paper. Put all the slips of paper into a hat, and have teens each draw a slip of paper. The teens have to find the person with the matching word, and voila! You have your pairs!
  • The “share” portion of the ice breaker involves teens interviewing their partners, and then introducing their partners to the group (we had the teens write their answers on flipchart paper, so we could display the interviews around the room).
    • We posed both practical and funny questions, to get the creative juices flowing (nothing too personal, though, as we don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable). Besides the usual “name, grade, school” questions, we asked teens – “What animal form would your patronus take?” and “Which actor/actress would play you if your life story was turned into a movie?” These questions got some pretty creative answers!


2. Where do you stand?

  • This isn’t a “getting to know you” ice breaker, but it definitely gets the group up and moving. Everyone stands in the center of a room. The facilitator gives the group two options. Participants then have to move to the right side of the room if they prefer the first option, the left side of the room if they prefer the second option, or the middle of the room if they like/dislike both options!
    • Example pairs: Pepsi or Coke; Coffee or Tea; Early bird or Night owl; Ebook or Print book; Cake or Pie; Appetizer or Dessert; Summer or Winter; Xbox or Playstation; Superman or Batman


3. Alphabet Games!

  • I LOVE alphabet games. I am a total geek. My partner and I actually play these games while we walk, or while we play badminton. We’re cool that way.
  • You can play these games in a million different ways. Teens can sit in a circle on the floor, sit at chairs around tables, or stand. They can throw a beach ball or bean bag at each other, or progress from one teen to the teen seated beside them. Great replay value!
  • As the leader, start the chain with the first example. If your theme is “edibles”, say something like “A is for apple”, then throw the ball at a teen or turn to the teen beside you. The next person has to think of an edible that starts with b, followed by c, and so on. Keep going around the room until you finish the alphabet, and encourage the group to help each other with difficult letters, and be creative!
  • Depending on your group, you might start easy and just have the teens shout out any word starting with their letter. To up the ante, you can work in themes, like “edibles”, or “living things”.
  • Another way to play the game is to have teens think of a word that starts with the same letter as their first name (or the name of the person beside them, if you want to make sure teens are listening during introductions!). I might say “My name is J. J is for jaguar”, or “My name is Jane. Her name is Sophia. S is for salami.” You can definitely also play this game with themes if you’re feeling imaginative – I love the “edibles” theme because it’s definitely open to interpretation – cardboard is technically edible, right?