Building a team should be the primary misison for any USM student organization. You won't get anything done if you don't have a group of people you can trust.
Icebreakers and teambuilders are also good tools to use for retention of group members. They help each person at a meeting feel included and important.
There are thousands of books and websites dedicated to the "art of the icebreaker". All you have to do is look. We've also compiled a list of our favorites here.
We encourage you to try them out in your next group meeting!
Not sure you want to facilitate a particular activity alone? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll come to you meeting and facilitate for you!
When meeting people for the first time, it can be difficult to remember their names. In this game you’ll need a group big enough to split into two, 2 chairs to stand on, and one large blanket that you can’t see through. Split the group and place the blanket between, so no one can see each other. With the blanket raised up (being held by 2 people/facilitators) each team will pick someone quietly. The chosen players come toward the blanket-still not being able to see each other. The blanket is dropped and the first person to say the other players name correctly, wins. The losing player joins the other team. The team with the most members at the end wins.
Prepare a sheet much like a scavenger hunt. On each sheet, there should be many activities that participants will complete. Upon completion, participants sign their names by the activity they completed. No one should sign the sheet more than once. The first person to have each activity completed and signed, wins.
The facilitator begins the story by setting the initial scene and mood. The story can start with simple phrases such as, “A good friend called last night and…” “On my way to class the other day…” or “I had the most amazing weekend! I…” In no special order, members of the group then take over the story. They add another element to the plot. The main point is to make sure everyone adds something. The progression of the story indicates where the group members are emotionally and is representative of what is high on their list of priorities, concerns, and thoughts. This exercise spurs on creativity and can reveal a lot about a staff’s collective state of mind. The facilitator plays a big role in interpreting what each person says.
With one fewer chairs than people, a short snippet of music is played while the people move around the room. When the music stops, everyone tries to sit on a vacant chair (only one person per chair). The person who does not find a chair is out. One chair is taken away and the game continues until only one person (the winner) is left.
“Honey, if you loved me, you’d smile”
Have all players except for one sit in a circle facing each other. The one who is not in the circle faces a player in the opposite sex and requests, “Honey, if you love me, smile.” Aside from tickling, the player may do anything to make the person smile. After a while, the chosen partner must reply, “Honey, I love you but I just can’t smile,” without smiling.
Begin by dividing the group into two teams. Have each person write out his or her life fantasy (usually it is not a true fantasy but something outlandish and silly) and write it on a piece of paper. One neutral person reads off the fantasies. One team will make a guess about who on the other team belongs to which fantasy. If their answer is correct, then they get to go again; if their guess is wrong, it is the other team’s turn. This is a great game because at the end, everyone is on the winning.
Have the group sit in a circle. One person picks a word and going around in the circle, each person must come up with a word that rhymes with the first word. If someone cannot come up with a word, they are out. The game can be played once around or continuously eliminating people down to one person.
“Poetry in Motion”
Instruct people to write a poem about themselves. It must include his/her name and something about him/her, and must be a minimum of four lines. Each person reads her or her poem to the group as a way to introduce him or herself.
“Who Starts It?”
In its entirety, the group forms a circle. One person volunteers to be “it” and exits the room. The group chooses one person to be the “starter.” Then, the “starter” beginnings an action that the rest of the group must mirror precisely. Once the action has started, the person who is “it” comes back into the room and observes the group, looking to find the “starter.” The “starter” continues making up new actions for the group to mirror. The key for the group members is to watch each other rather than the “starter;” that way, it will be more difficult for the person who is “it” to find the “starter.”
The good old, “Charades”, can be adapted to any group, no matter the size. Have individuals act out different actions, movies, characters, etc. and the rest of the group members guess who/what they are or what they are doing. It’s a great activity in a pinch!
Ahead of time, ask that each person bring his or her favorite quote (or any quote, for that matter) to the meeting. It should be typed up and/or legible. Then, provide a jar in which each person can put her or his quote in. Mix up the jar and have members choose one quote from the jar, making sure not to choose their own. Reading the quote aloud, the group should try to guess to whom the quote belongs to. Once guess, that person should explain the relevance of the quote to their life.
Have a group finger-painting session. Stretch a large piece of poster paper over the table(s) and allow each person to have their own little section of the paper. Instruct them to paint their feelings toward the group, a particular project they foresee the group accomplishing, or what they feel the group represents. Hang the completed project in your office or cubicle.
“Phrases that Fit”
Every person writes three slogans or saying that seem appropriate for the describing her/his life or job (i.e “The early bird catches the worm” for an early rise). Each person then introduces him/herself and shares his slogans with the group with an explanation.
The facilitators should find an assortment of random objects (like a broom, a brush, Mardi Gras beads, a lampshade, etc.) to bring to the meeting. In groups or individually, each person or group is given one random object. They must then make up a different use for each object than its original use. For instance, one group may take a regular mop and turn it into a wig for a drag queen, etc. This is usually pretty hilarious!
Teams of three to ten members are created in a group. The leader will give the groups a word (i.e love, friend, dance, etc.), and give the teams one minute to think of as many songs as they can with that word in it. Once the minute has passed, one teams begins by singing a part of a song with that word in it. All team members must sing. If other teams have that song on their list, they must cross it off. No songs may be repeated. The other team then responds with a song from their list. The group with the most songs wins. The process then can be repeated with another word.
“Comic Strip Chaos”
This activity takes some preparation time, but it is well worth it. Find some old newspapers and cut out comic strips from the “funny pages.” Then, cut out individual frames from the comic strips and mix them up in a jar. When your group is assembled, give each person a different piece of the comic. They are then asked to find the other members of the group who have their comic and try to piece the comic together correctly. This educates the group on the power and necessity of teamwork.
Hand out individual nametags and writing utensils to each participant. They are then asked to write their name and three symbols on the nametag. These three symbols should either tell a story about the person or represent the person in some way. Then, each person can introduce themselves to the group, explaining the significance of their symbols.
This is a fun, active game that requires ample space. Balloons are blown up and attached to each participant’s foot. The goal is for each person to attempt to pop everyone’s balloons however they can. The last person left with an unpopped balloon is a winner.
“Artist, Clay, Model”
In groups of three, each person has the role of either being the “artist,” the “clay.” Or the “model.” The model strikes any pose and remains in that post until the activity’s completion. The person who is the “artist” must mold the “clay” into the same pose as the “model” without speaking. The trick here is that the “clay” cannot see the “model.” Groups can be judged and prizes can be awarded based upon the complexity of the pose and the ability with which the group used to communicate. Communication skills are at their peak in this activity.
Group members are asked to arrange themselves in a line in order of birthdays. However, they are asked to do this without speaking. They may use their hands to flash numbers and symbols or they may use Driver’s Licenses to show birthday, but they are not allowed to speak. This can be adapted using height, age, etc. Another option is to ask the group to simple “arrange themselves.” Do not give them any other instruction and see how they end up arranging themselves. The discussion afterward can be interesting.
Final a local area that specializes in providing teambuilding through a ropes course. This is a great way for groups to learn to work together. It is also a lot of fun! Reflecting upon this activity afterward is key to bringing closure to the activity.
(A simple google search on 3/18/13 came up with 2 local options)
“Favorite Snack: Accomplished”
At the beginning of a meeting, simply ask the group members to introduce themselves and their favorite type of snack food. At the end of the meeting or at another meeting, provide each member with that favorite snack food. This may require some money, some time, and a little coordination, but the group will feel listened to and very appreciative!
“The Human Pyramid”
Give the group the following instructions: “Make a human pyramid.” Each group is then required to form themselves into a human pyramid in whatever creative ways they can think of. Some may choose to form a pyramid “cheerleader style” while others may choose to each form individual pyramids with their bodies; the possibilities are endless! Groups can be as small as three or as large as the group itself! Working together is key!
First, ask individuals to write down the keyboard of a standard computer from memory. Then, allow groups of four to compare keyboards. When individuals or groups feel they have the perfect keyboard, they should turn their paper over and wait patiently. If a group of four is not certain they are correct, they can merge with another group, and so on. Display a keyboard for them to check their answers. Stress the concept that none of us are as smart as all of us combined.
“Photo Scavenger Hunt”
For this activity, each group needs a list of objects and a disposable camera. Give each group 30 minutes to find the objects on the list. Rather than retrieve the objects and have to worry about getting the object back to the owner, they must take a picture of the object with at least one group member in the picture. This can be done either in a residence hall or in the community. Record the time for each group, have the pictures developed that night, and post poster boards with each group’s pictures the next day. Ideas for objects: Elvis record, yo-yo, merry-go-round, big wheel, Christmas lights, vacuum, a specific movie, etc.
Take a ball of yarn and have the person who starts hold one end and wrap it around their wrist. They throw the yarn around the room and either say something positive about the person you throw to something you have in common with them. Then when everyone has gone, lay the yarn down and show everyone that we are all connected.
“12 feet off the Ground”
The object here is to get the whole group twelve feet off the ground. This is a timed event. The easy, yet not so obvious solution, to lift twelve feet (people’s feet) off the ground.
“Who am I?”
Before the meeting, write the names of famous people on several pieces of paper (one name per sheet- have enough sheets for each person to have one). Tape on sheet to each member’s back. Each person must go around the room asking yes/no questions about whose name is on their back. They can only ask each person one question then move on to a new person. Once someone guesses the name on their back, they remove the sign and sit down.
You marooned on an island. What five (you can use a different number if you choose) items would you have brought with you if you knew there was a chance that you might be stranded? Note that they are only allowed five (or however many items was chosen) per team, not person. You can have them write their items on a flip chart and discuss and defend their choices with the whole group. This activity helps them to learn about others’ values and problem-solving styles and promotes teamwork.
Everyone sits in a circle. Somebody starts off a beat by slapping their knees, clapping their hands, clicking their fingers, etc. one at time. When clicking fingers, the person says their own name twice, then goes through it again, but on the first click, you say your name; on the second click, say someone else’s name. The person who is called on carries on.
Split into two teams, one on each side of the room. The facilitator should hold up a blanket/curtain in the middle of the room separating the teams. While the curtain is up, one person from each team should come and stand next to the blanket, without seeing each other. Then, the facilitator drops the blanket and the two team members have to say each other’s names. The team member who says it first correctly gets the point. Repeat with successive pairs. The team with the most points at the end wins the game.
On a beach ball, write out numerous questions with a simple (or complex, depending on the group and intent) answer. Throw the ball around and have each person answer a question on the ball. Wherever their right thumb lands, take the question closest to the thumb to know what question to answer. Read the question aloud before answering.
“Concentration/Fight for My Attention”
Two people are challenged to come up to the front of the room and the audience then chooses a topic. The two people must talk about that topic for one minute in front of the crowd, but they are both talking about the topic at the same time. The audience must then vote which person held their attention longer.
“Make a Date”
Give each participant a paper plate. Have them draw the face of a clock on their plate with a line next to each number. Then, have the participants walk around to find a “date” for each hour, writing their name on the hour. The catch is that no one can make a “date” with more than one person per hour. After everyone has made their “dates,” speed up time and allow 1-3 minutes for each hour.
“Two Truths and a Lie”
Each person is given a sheet of paper. They are then asked to write down two true statements about themselves and one lie. The object here is for each person to guess which statement is the lie. This works with any group!
This warm-up is for groups with members who know each other well. Ask each participant to write his or her name on a piece of paper. Collect all the names in a hat. Ask each person to pick a name out of the hat. Give each person a turn to stand behind the person whose name they drew and give out as much information about the person as if they were speaking.
Take the letters in your name (first and/or last) and scramble them to form a new word. Then make up a definition of your new word, which describes you. The group can then share what their new names mean.
“Don’t Complete the Word”
Going around the circle, each participant should say a letter. They must not complete a word (four or more letter), but should play tactically to try and force participants after them to complete the word. If a participant completes a word, they are out, and a new word is started. Also, if a participant does not believe that the person before them had any word in mind, they can challenge that person to say the word they had mind. If he or she did not have one, he/she is out, else the challenger is out. Continue until there is a winner.
The first person in the chain decides on a word/phrase and s/he whispers it to the next person who whispers it to the next, etc. The last person says what s/he hear out loud and then you (usually) see that there is no connection between what s/he says and what the first person had in mind. Instead of saying the same word, say a completely different and unrelated word. At the end, go along the line backwards to see how it evolved.
“Count to 10”
The group must count to ten. Someone randomly must call out each number, but if two people call out the number at the same time, the group must start again at one.
All participants should stand or sit in a circle and hold hands. The facilitator should start off by squeezing the participants’ hand to their left. This pulse should be passed around the circle until it arrives back at the facilitator who should have timed it. At the beginning, the pulse will take up to half a minute to get around the group, but with lots of practice and intense concentration, the time can be reduced to less than two seconds. Hence this is an ideal game to play several times throughout a long event.
“The Chair Game”
Make a circle of chairs, one for each participant. Every person stands behind their chair and leans it forward. If the facilitator claps once, everyone moves one place to the right and catches the chair before it falls down. If the facilitator claps twice, they move to the left. If someone’s chair falls, they are out and remove their chair from the circle. The remaining chairs stay where they are and the circle does not close up. By the end of the game, people will have to run to grab the chair before it falls over.
Have the group form a circle and close their eyes. The facilitator circles the group and selects a “stinger” by squeezing an individual’s shoulder. The group then opens their eyes and spends time introducing themselves to other while shaking hands (and trying to spot the “stinger”). The “stinger” tries to eliminate everyone without getting caught. The “stinger” strikes by injecting “poison” with their index finger, while shaking hands. A person stung may not die until at least five seconds after they are stung. The more dramatic the death, the better! When someone thinks they have discovered who the “stinger” is, they may announce that they know. If they get a “second” from someone else in the group within ten seconds, the two of them may make an accusation. If the person does not get a “second,” s/he must wait to challenge again, after another person dies. If another person does stop forward to second the challenge, both point to who they think it is on a count of three. If they do not point to the same person, or they both point to the wrong person, they both are automatically dead. If they select the correct person, the “stinger” is dead and the game is over.
Each group needs a different puzzle. Prepare the puzzle ahead of time, removing one piece from each puzzle and inserting it in another group’s puzzle. Mix up the puzzle pieces and put it into a sealed envelope. Each group will receive a puzzle that has one piece missing and an extra piece from another group’s puzzle. Introduce the warm-up by saying that the activity is to see which group can work together to finish a puzzle first. The group that wins will get a prize. Each group will be given a sealed envelope will the pieces of the puzzle. When the signal to start is given, open the envelope and begin. Do not answer any questions when the teams begin to discover the problem with their puzzles. When a team finally figures out that they need to go to another group to get the missing puzzle piece, succeeds in negotiating for the part, and finally declares victory, award the prize and hold a group discussion on the activity. Emphasize the value of working as a team, how it feels to depend on others for winning, and what role each person played in the team effort.