Pump Students Up with Digital Icebreakers

Play Plato

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” by Plato

Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar with a new idea each day!

Throughout my teaching years, I’ve struggled with getting my students or trainees to readily participate. Learners are shy about exposing themselves to peers, especially if they do not know them well. Icebreakers can help alleviate our learners’ hesitation, because they relax the atmosphere, allow learners to share without the pressure of being graded, and help our learners get to know each other. In the slide presentation below I share some digital icebreakers I have used with learners of various ages. Find more in the bookmarks that follow the presentation. Find some of these icebreakers and other digital activities in my ebook, Learning to Go.


Here are a few of the ideas I talked about during my presentation:

  • Mobile Show and Tell– Divide students into small groups (3 to 5 students). Each student spends about 30 seconds sharing a personal photo from a mobile device and the anecdote behind the photo.
  • Recreate a Photo– Students choose one of the Mobile Show and Tell images to recreate as a group. They share the original then the newly created photo.
  • Selfie Adventures– Pair students or divide them into small groups. Show them the Animal Selfies Tumblr or the Selfie Animal Tips video. They choose a favorite and write down reasons they liked this selfie. Then give each pair a stuffed animal, doll, character, or sock puppet. They will have to create 2 or more awesome selfies of this character.
  • Draw and Dash– Each student will need to use a piece of paper or a drawing app like Tackk, Educreations, Magic Paintbrush, or Sketchbook Express. Name a category like favorite dessert, cartoon, sports team and so forth for students to draw the answers to on their tablets. Give them 30 seconds. When the time is up they should lift up their drawings and run to a peer they believe drew a similar choice. Give them 1 minute to talk about their drawings and exchange one fact or experience related to the choice. Find the Knowledge Swap handout that accompanies this activity in Learning to Go.
  • Mobile Me Pictionary– Give each student 3 notecards. Students write on one side a category like a talent, hobby, dream job, or favorite place. On the other side they write down an answer but show no one. Divide students into small groups. Each group will need to use a drawing app like Educreations, Magic Paintbrush, or Sketchbook Express. Students stack all the cards with the categories facing up. When you start the timer, one student chooses a card and draws the word(s) on the app. The group tries to guess the answer and who it describes before the time runs out.
  • Avatar Bucket Lists– Students write down 3 activities they want to complete within their lifetime. They get into pairs and discuss their lists. They choose one bucket list activity to animate in a short video or comic strip. Useful web tools include Plotagon, Powtoon,  and Makebeliefs Comix. Find more activities and ideas in this lesson plan I wrote, A Visual Bucket List.
  • Goal Collages/Vision Boards– Students can use digital poster and scrapbook tools and apps to create goal collages and vision boards. In the poster they include learning goals, personal goals, inspiring images, motivational quotes, and sayings to support them in achieving their goals. Try any of these tools: Buncee, Genial.ly, Smore, or Pic-Collage.
  • 3, 2,1 Introduction– Students use a web tool or app to create a video, comic strip, poster, book, or slideshow that includes the following: 3 things we should know about you, 2 hobbies, 1 dream job.
  • Avatar Introductions– Students can introduce themselves with a Voki avatar or try one of these free avatar creators! Find several student examples here.
  • Name Poems– Use a word cloud tool like Tagxedo or the Image Chef app. They can also do this as a digital poster.
  • My Timeline– Students create multimedia timelines highlighting significant moments using a tool like Popplet.
  • Icebreaker Mingle– Find my lesson plan that uses the Icebreaker question app here.
  • If you have icebreaker handouts like Human Bingo, use Nearpod (accessible on any device) to get students to fill them out digitally. Download my Human Bingo handout here.


Try any of these icebreakers with your students to motivate them to share throughout the year.

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More Resources

Find many more ideas, apps, and tools in my Pearltree bookmarks. Click the box to enlarge! that resource.
Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar! Scroll the image below and each day discover free web tools, apps, and resources.

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  1. 1
    Judy Bloxham

    Another new app for digital ice breaking is klickaklu, this allows you to create a digital scavenger hunt with questions as you find each object/place. Working in teams will get learners to collaborate to complete the trail.

  2. 2

    I’m familiar with Nearpod, but I don’t understand how you can use it to play Human Bingo. How can you have multiple things for people to match up at the same time and how would you write down the names of people in the boxes to get a Bingo?

  3. 3
    Shelly Terrell

    Thank you for visiting. If you select Draw Activity, upload an image of the Human Bingo handout, then your students can walk around and when they get a name they write it on that square with either the mouse, a stylus pen, or their fingers if it’s a touch tablet.
    Hope that helps!

  4. 5

    Okay. That makes a lot more sense to me now. Thank you for the explanation!

  5. 6
    william james

    I feel the affective filter is lowered with the draw and dash activity as students break the ice with a fun group activity. By sharing their thoughts and drawings the students collaborate which lowers the affective filter.

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