A good teaching experience with students usually involves three key elements: an introduction, a main teaching time, and a wrap up. Different folks have called these different things over the years, but they are all pretty much the same. The introduction is when we help our students get excited about the subject for the lesson; it's vital in helping connect the student to the lesson's aim or purpose. In youth leader jargon, this is the "ice-breaker" time, the energy-drink minute, the ramp-up to the good stuff, etc.. Whatever you call it, here are some cost-efficient ice-breaker ideas to get your meeting or study started with some energy.
FUN WITH 3x5 CARDS
I love the simplicity and the cost effectiveness of the plain old 3x5 card. Here are a few of the ways I have used this card as an ice-breaker.
- Put portions of the Scripture for the lesson on the 3x5 card. If you have, let's say, twenty students, divide the Scripture verse into four parts and make five sets. Give each student a card to start the session and tell them to find three other students who help complete the scripture.
- Use the same technique as above but put the cards on the walls, ceiling, doors, etc. of your youth area. Divide your group of twenty into five teams and have them search for the portions of Scripture to make a complete verse.
- Tape a 3x5 card on the back of every student. Tell them when you say "Go" to find a student and write on the card their favorite thing or something nice about that person. Allow about one minute, and then say "Switch." Repeat five or six times then wait until the end of your session and allow students to look at their cards. This is great for lessons on love, encouragement, group unity, etc. Another way to do this is to let each student put their name on a card then collect the cards and pass them out randomly in the group.
- Ask the students to write their birthday, favorite color, favorite subject, school grade, and favorite book of the Bible on their card. Tell them to start looking for other students who match their answers and have them write names on each other's cards. Use this to point out how much students have in common with each other, and to help students bond with others in the group.
- If you have a list of students' birthdays, this one is a lot of fun. Make twelve cards with the names of students who have birthdays in January, February, March, etc. Let the oldest person on each list be the leader and tell that person to get all the students who are on the list together in a circle. You should have twelve circles. Next say that in each group every student has something in common with everyone else in the group and give them five minutes to try and find out what they all have in common. If your group is smaller you can divide them up by whether they were born in spring, summer, autumn, or winter. This really gets the students talking about what they have in common.
I know you probably don't let your students play with their cell phones during your group time, but here is a nice ice-breaker that lets them use their phone.
- Give them your cell phone number and say, "The first person to text me with the answer to this question will win a small prize." Give them the question, maybe a Bible question from your Scripture text, and then watch your phone light up. This is also a great way to get cell numbers of the students in your group. (Be careful how you word your question. Once I told a group of middle school students I would give $5 to the first student to text me the names of the four states that border Alabama. The very first text I got had these words, "The names of the four states that border Alabama." And, yes, I gave her the five bucks!)
These are just a few ideas to get your teaching time started. As you can see, it doesn't take an elaborate supply list, just a little creativity.
- What are some of your go-to ice-breakers that have worked for you in the past?