University of California, Riverside

Human Resources

Ice Breakers

An effective ice breaker will get people involved, encourage learning, and relate to the topic.

Ice breakers (or structured warm-up activities) are used at the beginning of your training session to actively involve your learners with the material and with each other.  They increase your learners' energy, begin to build the group and level the playing field by getting people to do the same thing, create interest and may give an early introduction to key ideas or skills that will be developed later.

Guidelines for Using Ice Breakers

  • Review your sources for an appropriate ice breaker that fits your instructional objectives. Adapt an established ice breaker or write one that fits your learner's needs.
  • Prepare the training room or area and divide your learners into groups as needed.
  • Explain the purpose of the ice breaker. Provide oral and written directions.
  • Observe your learners as they complete the ice breaker. Clarify your directions if needed or requested but allow your learners to complete the ice breaker on their own.
  • Lead a group discussion of the results of the ice breaker, if appropriate. Explicitly tie the purpose of the ice breaker into your instructional objectives and design.

Sample Ice Breaker

To open a session on any subject (e.g., Managing Time), ask each person in the group to name one way that a supervisor can either lose or waste time.  Go around the room quickly, record each person's contribution on a flip chart, and don't allow any criticism or discussion until everyone has participated.  The benefits are that people become immediately involved and the list creates interest in the subject as well as a motivation to learn.

More Information

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University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

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Department Information

Human Resources
1201 University Ave., Suite 208
Riverside, CA 92507

Fax: (951) 827-2672