Ice Breakers and Energizers

The following ice breakers offer an array of ways for your students to get to know each other (and you) during your course. To be most successful, ice breakers should be designed to relate to your course content in some way. Many Marwen teaching artists use ice breaker activities to establish an atmosphere of participation and set a comfortable tone from the start of term. You can also you many of these to energize a tired group, or to encourage an open class culture at any point during the term.

What activities do you facilitate to encourage your students to feel safe and relaxed in the studio?


Students are given prompts to respond to in writing. For example: Describe coolest sculpture you’ve ever seen, why did you choose this course?, or If you had a super power what would it be and why?. Be enthusiastic when introducing- but also acknowledge that they may feel awkward.  All students should stand up in middle of the room- move the tables if it is too crowded- or go outside. Everyone puts their hand up and finds another with their hand up to “high-five”. They introduce themselves and then share the answers to the prompts. When they finish they raise their hand and find a new partner. Encourage them to find partners they do not know and rotate to new partners 3 or 4 times.


Before class create a few lists of course and/or content related categories- one list of 2 (i.e. pencil or charcoal, or abstract or realistic), one list of 3 (i.e. glue, staples, or tape), and so on. Also create a category or 2 without a list (i.e. best sculpture material, or favorite pattern). Ask students to stand up and move the tables or head out to a larger space. Explain the activity: You will give them a few words and they have to decide which they want to choose and have to find the others who have the same choice. For example, You will say “pencil or pen” and without your help they go and stand with the others. Next they must introduce themselves to every person in the group and as a group then need to decide on the best reason for choosing what they did. For example one group might say “staples! because its fast and secure!”. Have each group share their reasoning.  After doing groupings of 2, 3 and 4 if you like (depending on time) give the open categories and have them group them selves.

Collaborative Art

The students are sitting round a table. Each student has a sheet of blank paper and a pencil, crayon—anything they can draw with. They are instructed to draw anything that comes to mind on the paper, like a shape, a figure, an object  (they should leave some space on the paper). After each person is finished, they pass their sheet to the person on their right. That person is to embellish what is really on the paper. They may add a second object, draw a complimentary shape, whatever they want. Their effort should be to make something unified or to be consistent with what is already on the paper. When they are through, the paper is passed on again. Eventually, the piece of paper is returned to its original illustrator, with a complete work of art that has been collaboratively created by everyone in the group. Each student will then “show and tell” about the resultant piece.

Crossword Connection

This activity includes visual symbols of connection and self-introductions. The teacher prints their name on the board leaving some space between each letter and tells the class something about herself. Then they pick a student to come to the board, tell something about themselves, and print their name crossing the teacher’s as in a crossword puzzle. Students take turns telling something about themselves and adding their names. Volunteers copy the completed puzzle as a poster. To save time, the puzzle could be written on paper taped to the board and left up in first draft form.

This activity can be extended by asking each student to write their name and a statement about themselves on a sheet of paper. The teacher can then use the statements as clues for a class-names crossword puzzle which can be made with crossword puzzle software.


Pair the students up. Partners should interview each other. You may want to give a structured interview (e.g., “What school do you go to, what’s your favorite music, how many people are in your family, and why did you take this class at Marwen?”). Give the students five minutes to interview each other. Each interviewer will then introduce her/his partner to the rest of the class.

New Friend Scavenger Hunt

This activity allows students to learn cool things about each other. Students find individuals who fit descriptions listed on the worksheet. The individual who gets the most matches wins!

Objects Like Me

Select a number of objects and place them in the center of a table or in a basket. Each student needs to select one of the objects most like her/himself and explain why (s)he chose it. Carefully choose the objects you collect for the students to select, so that they will elicit descriptions. Some useful objects would be a box of matches, a sponge, a clown doll, a gym shoe, a rock, a puzzle, a coach’s whistle. If the student doesn’t see any of the objects as “like me,” (s)he can come up with her/his own object, or perhaps use something in her/his possession.

Take A Stand

The purpose of this question is for students to get a feel about their peers’ positions on various matters. Unless you make the survey aspect of the exercise clear, students may think it is ridiculous despite their enjoyment of the physical activity.

The teacher puts one long line of tape down the center of the room, pushing desks out of the way so that students can stand on either side of the tape. The teacher reads statement with “either-or” answers such as, “I prefer night or day,” “Democrats or Republicans,” “lizards or snakes.” Statements can range from silly trivia to serious content.

After hearing each statement, students agreeing with the first response move to one side of the classroom and those agreeing with the second, to the other. Undecided or middle-of-the-roaders, straddle the line.

Which One?

With the students sitting in chairs, ask them to choose between two things. If they choose one, they stay seated, if they choose the other, they stand up. For example: if you’d rather take an art class, stand up; if you’d rather create your own art, sit down. If you’d rather eat an apple, stand up; if you’d rather eat a candy bar, sit down. If you’d rather have your health, stand up; if you’d rather be rich, sit down. It is good to alternate silly questions with more difficult, penetrating questions.

Here’s a site with more:

Verve About Verve
Verve aims to instigate reflection via a dialogue on arts education, art, and teaching practices. Developed by Marwen Fellows, Verve is an online collective and resource that bridges the distance between our schedules and locations to generate a timely, active dialog within our community. This collaboratively authored publication includes all factions of Marwen as well as peers and experts in the field of education.

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