Need something fun or energizing to start your meeting with? Check out these 10 popular activities and icebreakers!
Activities are from various sources, all listed if known.
1) Common Ground - Source: Kerry Ashforth
Students and faculty advisors stand in a circle. One person begins by saying, "I've got a younger sister," or some other statement that is true for them. Everyone for whom this is also true steps into the center of the circle. Everyone who doesn't have a younger sister stays on the outside. You can always choose not to step into the circle. The game often brings up personal and important issues that students may not want to discuss in a more formal setting. This also allows us to recognize our differences and similarities.
2) Gender Stereotypes - Source: Various
Trace a male and a female body on butcher paper, then have a free-for-all where everyone writes/expresses as many gender stereotypes as they can think of, and place those stereotypes on the bodies where they would apply (i.e. "boys are smart at math" would be placed on the head of the male body). From here, you can talk about how gender stereotypes and traits relate to perceptions about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people - as well as how these stereotypes limit our possibilities, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. These exercises can also be done using stereotypes of gay men and lesbians - helping us to recognize that everyone has different traits that don't define our sexual orientation or gender.
3) Heterosexism in the Media - Source: Various
Bring in popular, mainstream magazines or other forms of media, and cut out images you perceive to be heterosexist. Explain what you think heterosexism is and how it affects people. This can be an eye-opening experience for those who have never looked at how media plays a part in the formation of our identity. With all the images you collect, your GSA can make a collage or exhibit that examines heterosexism. To go a step further, bring in LGBT publications, and make posters of images that are not heterosexist. Show lots of different sexual orientations, genders and gender identities exhibiting the spectrum of diversity that is society. You can compare the posters you make, and even display them somewhere in your school, like in the library or a display case. You might include some statements about what heterosexism is and how it affects all of us, especially LGBT youth.
4) Three Chair Listening Exercise - Source: Various
Three Chairs are set up, the outer two turned toward the inner one. The chair on the left holds the position of the "specialist"; the middle chair, the "listener"; and the right chairs the "real story". The specialist person and the real story person talk to the listener simultaneously, while the listener tries to listen and respond to both, as best they can. The two talkers are competing for the listener's attention, and the goal is for the listener to see which talker holds their attention more. The Specialist talks as if they're a doctor or clergyman or professional in some field related to LGBT youth and issues in the schools. He or she may site statistics, give medical information, etc. The Real Story person is the one who speaks as if they're someone you met on the street. He or she can tell a true story from their life or make up a story related to the experiences of LGBT youth in the schools. The story should be "personal". When playing with more than three people, let each trio act for two minutes and then call time. The Real Story person then leaves the trio, and the other two players move into the seats to their left (the Listener to the Real Story Chair and the Specialist to the Listener chair). The next player in line takes the chair of the Specialist. This is a good exercise for gagging your own personal feelings. After the game has been played for a while, your group can discuss which "chair" they found themselves listening and responding to more attentively. You can then discuss how different techniques are used to portray LGBT persons in different lights. You can discuss how your own listening style might make you more apt to internalize information presented according to one approach or the other.
5) Concentric Circles, Inner/Outer Circles - Source: Jason Fleetwood-Boldt.
This exercise works great to open dialog. Recommended 6-8 people, works best with 20 or more. (Must be an even number). Lets people talk in pairs.
Have people count off by twos (1, 2, 1, 2...). Tell the ones to make an inner circle and the twos to make an outer circle. The inner circle should face outward and the outer circle should face inward, each person having a partner in the opposite circle. The facilitator instructs that she will ask a question and the outer circle is to talk for one minute as the inner circle listens. After the minute is up, the inner circle answers the same question. Then the outer circle moves clockwise two people over, so everyone has a new partner. A new question is asked of the outer, then inner, circles.
When finished, the participants should talk in large group about what kinds of things came up.
If it is a group that doesn't know one another, you can have them introduce themselves to their partners before they begin answering the question asked.
Sample Questions to ask are:
Growing up, what were all of the names (positive, negative, neutral) that you heard related to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals?
Growing up, what were some of the stereotypes you heard about lesbians, gays, and bisexuals?
What were some of the things you heard about these groups growing up that you have come to find out are not true?
6) Culture Walk - Source: Kerry Ashforth
There are one or two mediators, and they begin by asking a group of people, for example, women, to move to one side of the room. The people who then haven't identified as women ask questions, and the women give them answers. Then the women get to say what they'd like other people to know about them. You don't have to "talk" or "walk".
7) Dictionary - Source: Linda Boldt.
A fun word game for groups of four or more. Requires a good dictionary (preferably a large one, but it needn't be unabridged), pens, paper.
Each round: A player is chosen to be the dictionary. (At the next round, someone else is the dictionary) That person chooses an unfamiliar word in the dictionary and says it outloud. If anyone in the room knows what the word is, they must say so (this is on an honor code). Everyone writes down a fake definition-- but one that sounds like it could be the real definition (remember-- the players don't really know what the word means) except for the person who selected the word-- who writes down the real definition. On each card the players should write their definition along with their name. The dictionary person collects all the papers and reads them aloud, but doesn't read whose definition it is. Once all the definitions have been read twice, they are read a third time and everyone votes one which they think is the real definition. If you vote for the correct definition, you get a point. If someone else votes for your definition, you get a point. (If you vote for the wrong one there is no penalty.)
Optional: The dictionary person gets a point for each person who votes for the correct definition. Also optional: You get two points if someone votes for you definition (instead of just one).
8) Name That Person - Source: Ann-Bevan Hollis; Adapted by Chris Tuttle.
Entertainment game with teams; for fun; too long to be an ice-breaker
Materials: Pencils/pens (1 for each person), paper, hat or box for holding names.
SETUP: Teams of 4-8 people work best (teams of 4-5 are most preferable). Maximum of four teams total. Each person playing is instructed to write at least five names and rip off each one. (That is, each person should put five scraps of paper into the hat, each scrap with one name on it.) The names can be anyone related to LGBT issues (pro or con) - including politicians, sports players, actors/actresses, community leaders, performers, people from history. Rules for choosing names: (1) More obscure names are better. Easy to identify names are not at much fun. IMPORTANT: Tell no one what names you put in, if you do, those names can't be used. (2) The name must be common. While it is not necessary for everybody playing to know who you are talking about, at least a few must. Unless otherwise decided, co-workers, friends, teachers, family, etc are not allowed.
RULES OF PLAY: Player to start grabs a name out of the hat and proceeds to describe that person or name to her teammates in the first person. For example, if her clue were Bill Clinton, she could say as president of the United States I signed into law the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. The teammates call out any name they think it may be. She may not say any part of the name unless her teammates have already called out that part. For example, if the clue was Bill Bradley, you can't say: "Rhymes with 'key'" because sound "ey" is written on the paper. You may, however, describe what it rhymes with by saying "Rhymes with that metal thing you stick in a lock to open a door...".
When someone in the group guesses correctly, she chooses another name. She has exactly one minute to get her team to guess as many names as possible. For each name they guess, the team gets one point.
If a team gets stuck on a name and the time expires in the middle of a name, that name must be passed on to the next team. You may not reject a name for any reason whatsoever. Only if one name goes through all the teams without being guess can it be discarded, and the team who first started with it gets one point for it.
Team members who do the reading rotate each time around. Play continues until hat is emptied.
OPTIONAL SCORING RULE: Team to empty hat gets double points for that round. VARIATION: Play without teams altogether.
9) Cultural/Identity Linking - Source: BiGLTYNY Leadership
Cultural Experiment. Everyone is instructed to close their eyes and look into the "inner mirror of them". Examine what culture means to you and what you think of as your own cultural identity. Look for the cultural identities you claim and, when you are ready, open your eyes and look around the room. Without talking, find someone who you think shares a cultural identity with you. Approach that person and link hand. If you do not think that person shares a common cultural identity, you may refuse to link hands. If someone offers his or her hand to you, try to find a cultural commonality. Link hands only if you think you have found one. Remember, no talking. Once everyone is linked, stand the group in one large circle, and go around and answer the questions "why did you offer your hand to someone you linked to, and why did you accept/refuse someone's hand?"
- How did it feel to assume someone's cultural identity?
- Were you always correct?
- Was it easy to find a cultural connecting?
- How did it feel to not make a link?
Note: The word culture is use to keep this activity open-ended. People often interpret "culture" as race, ethnicity, religion, color, queerness, gender, gender identity, clothing, multi-racial/ethnical identity, non-conforming/represented race, ethnicity, etc.
Additional Note: You can expand on this game if everyone ends in a large pretzel, or knot - see game # 10 below.
10) Pretzel, Knots - Source: various.
Group building cooperation game.
Everyone stands in a circle. Everyone puts his right hand forward into the middle and grabs the right hand of someone. Then, take your left and hand grab the left hand of someone else in the circle. Thus, with your right hand you are attached to one person's right hand, and your left hand is attached to someone else's left hand. You are all now in a tangled ring of bodies. Without letting go, untangle yourselves. You may switch positions of your hands, but do not break the ring.
Sometimes the group is tangled in one big loop, but sometimes it is tangled in several smaller ones.