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Breaking the ice and building relationships

The following icebreaker works the best at the beginning of the school year and/or the beginning of a new semester. This activity provides opportunities for students to get to know one another and to build relationships among their classmates.

Skittlemania

First, the teacher passes out a paper towel or napkin to every student to serve as a “placemat” for the Skittles. Then, the teacher explains the rules:

  • Each student is to use the spoon to place 4-10 skittles on his/her placemat.
  • A student may not eat his/her skittles until after his/her turn.
  • All students must listen to each class member’s response.

If you sense some students will eat some of their allotment once they find out how the game is played, you may want to ask all the students at the beginning of the activity to write down the number of Skittles they took. Distribute several bowls of Skittles at the same time to speed things up. Then, the teacher models the activity by taking five or six Skittles, introducing himself/herself, and telling the class something about his/her life for every Skittle taken. Remember to only share information that you are comfortable revealing to your classes. For example:

Good morning class. My name is Mrs. Mathews and (picks up Skittle number one) I have taught English at Stevenson High School for 37 years. (Skittle number two) You will probably be surprised to learn that my favorite sport is downhill skiing and once I won a bronze medal in a NASTAR race. (Skittle number three) I have two grown children; one is a senior at Central Michigan University, and the other is a junior at Albion College. (Skittle number four) My favorite radio station is WOMC because I enjoy listening to Dick Purtan in the morning. (Skittle number five) Finally, my most thrilling experience occurred last year when I swam with the dolphins in Cozumel.

Sometimes, students will have a burning question that they need to ask because of something you mentioned. Don’t be surprised if the students want you to go into a little more detail as high school students always seem interested in learning about their teachers. After the teacher “breaks the ice,” it’s time for the students to have their turn. Encourage anyone who gets stuck to talk about their favorite food, tell about any pets or name their favorite hobby. Once a student has taken a turn, s/he may eat the Skittles.

You will be amazed at how much information you and the class will gain from this activity. The teacher may want to jot down a few notes while each student is taking a turn. (See Skittlemania interest inventory). Often classmates will want to ask a follow-up question about something a classmate mentions. Encourage this exchange of information and continue the activity the next day if you run out of time.

Use this tool to record information that may help you make connections with your students throughout the year.

Supplies needed:

Plastic bowls
Plastic soup spoons
2 large bags of Skittles per class
Paper towels or napkins