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About This Page

Although this topic fits best with our discussion of student/student communication and engagement, I'm placing it in our introductory Module 1 content for the benefit of those of you who intend to use the WISE discussion forums. Our discussion of Icebreakers here and the exercise below will help ease your own introduction into the forums before moving on to other forum topics and exercises. If you have no intention to participate in the forums at this time, you may move on to the next page of Module 1 and view the topic of Icebreakers later in the website as it relates to theoretical knowledge of student/student communication and engagement in Module 4. (If you join the Icebreakers forum in Module 1 and reach this page again later, go to the next page of Module 4.




cc licensed via Flickr by marcelgermain


About Icebreakers

Online courses often begin with some form of ice-breaking activity in a discussion forum. This helps students to acclimate to the online classroom, getting their "feet" wet before launching into more academic assignments, and allows us all to get to know a little more about each other. Icebreakers can make students feel more engaged in a new course by offering them the opportunity to connect with their classmates, and break down the barriers that can cause students to feel isolated in distance education.


Icebreakers can ask students to share short biographical statements (usually no more than 1-2 paragraphs), or ask unconventional questions. The latter might avoid the stress that students can sometimes experience from trying to define themselves in 1-2 paragraphs as a means of introduction to people they haven't met yet. After posting their own message, students should be asked to respond to __ other messages to facilitate the getting-to-know-you process. (2 can be a safe number for responses: enough to ensure that each student reads at least two other students' messages, without encouraging an overwhelming number of forum posts.)



A Few Sample Suggestions for Icebreakers

1.Tell three truths and a lie about yourself, then ask others to guess which one is the lie. (This implies that each poster will eventually give an answer.)

2. What do you listen to while you are in your car (or on the bus/metro/treadmill)?

3. What was the last book you read? (Children's Lit courses might opt for the alternative, What was your favorite book when you were a child?)

5. Tell a little about yourself in a brief biographical statement.


For more information on icebreakers

What is an icebreaker?

The Illinois Online Network offers reasons for using icebreakers as well as links to useful online sources for ideas for creating your own icebreakers.


Using Icebreakers to Promote Student-Teacher Interaction

eCollege's how-to guide with many creative icebreaker ideas.



Exercising Your Knowledge

Post a message to the WISE Icebreakers forum. You can respond to any of the suggested icebreakers above, or share another icebreaker you have used as an instructor or as a student. In addition to facilitating our discussion of the topic itself, this will help introduce you to other WISE scholars in our pedagogy program. Respond to at least two others' messages in this forum, in addition to your initial post, to pursue the Certificate of Completion.





  1. Photo: Breaking the ice, creative commons licensed photo via Flickr by marcelgermain http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcelgermain/2078076913/

Comments (1)

richardschmauss said

at 10:29 pm on Sep 15, 2009

Ice breakers for adult language learners with little or knowledge of the target language present quite a challenge. Telling lies to identify common nouns tends to elicit response. Further false comment about names, location of the learner or self build a controlled interaction between student and instructor. Focus is targeting the interactive pattern used in early lessons.

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