Design Challenge #5: The 5-Minute Icebreaker Activity (Solution)

Design Challenge #5: The 5-Minute Icebreaker Activity (Solution)

Those who work with me or who have ever been part of a workshop or class I’ve facilitated, know that I am a big fan of using different learner engagement activities for contextualizing and personalizing learning in a fun and non-threatening way. I advocate the use of activities that encourage:

  1. Creative, outside-the-box thinking (usually fostered through a time or materials constraint)
  2. Inquiry and contextualization related to the larger learning goal of the environment
  3. Open-ended answer possibilities (no right answer)
  4. A strong feedback loop to move learners forward positively into the larger learning goal

I enjoyed creating a LEM for this work and, not surprisingly, I found that I use a fairly consistent model for all my activities (click on the image to see a larger version).

5-Minute Learner Engagement Activity

For me, it’s important to begin these activities with some form of contextualization that sets the stage for “why” we’re doing the activity in the first place. Sure, it’s going to be fun, but where is it taking us? What are we supposed to be getting out of this? This contextualization is generally a form of feedback/personal reflection, and often takes the form of a simple inquiry or a meditation on a statement. I generally allow approximately 1 minute for this contextualization.

Contextualize 5-Minute Activity

After this contextualization, I describe the activity carefully to the group. I’ve learned that is a critical step because, without a clear description, the time constraint becomes ineffective. This description also takes about 1 minute.

Next, we move into the actual engagement activity. Again, I am a big fan of tight time constraints as they force quick interactivity and foster unfiltered, creative thinking. I prefer activities that last between thirty seconds and 2 minutes.

Presenting the 5-Minute Activity

Note that I encourage participants to keep thinking and discussing their effort after the time limit has passed. I allow them to keep talking and comparing their efforts even as I ask others to share the results of their work.


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