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An Icebreaker for When the Ice is Already Broken

Posted by Alan Magnan on 11/11/13 3:00 AM
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As trainers it’s pretty much a given that we’ll start a classroom session with some kind of icebreaker. We’re trying to warm up our learners and get them ready to work together. But what do you do when people are already warmed up? What if your learners work together every single day?

Here’s an icebreaker that’s worked well for me when training people who are already very familiar with each other:

I ask people to draw a vehicle that represents their department. I may ask people to work individually or in small groups, depending on the class size. I ask them to build in features to their vehicle that represent the things that are going well in their department, and the things that aren’t going so well.

I tell them they can choose anything from a skateboard to a spaceship. To fire up their imaginations, I also give them an example or two, such as: a race car with wagon wheels or an airplane with a helicopter propeller on top.

Within four or five minutes, people are ready to share their work. While watching learners explain their drawings, I’ve noticed some very interesting things. Their body language shows deep involvement, and the discussion is very productive and engaging. The learners enjoy the creativity involved in analyzing their workplace, despite their focus on some of the more negative aspects.

The benefit for me, the trainer, is that I can then relate the objectives of the training to specific issues they’ve explained. It’s like getting a crash course in what the learners are hoping to achieve and focus on during our time together. There is, however, one risk with this activity. If learners are deeply frustrated by an issue back at work, it can derail the icebreaker and devolve into a gripe session. But, using your facilitation skills, it’s fairly easy to keep the discussion constructive.

If your learners are tired of the same old icebreakers, or if they already know each other really well, this method might be just what it takes to fire them up before you get into course content.

For additional tips on using icebreakers in your training sessions, check out these blogs written by some of my fellow Langevin course leaders.

Alan has been a course leader with Langevin since 1996. He studied business administration at Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology. Alan’s philosophy on training is that it can be fun, engaging, and active, but that’s just what’s on the surface. Training must also be practical, realistic, and applicable. Alan is a computer geek at heart and enjoys programming and gaming in his spare time. He’s also a great fan of the outdoors during the summer months, and when the winter moves in, you’ll find him reading, or recording and playing music.

Topics: facilitation, instructional techniques, tips-for-trainers

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