Students your favorite Ice Breakers from Profs? Any really memorable?

Well we are coming to that time of year again…and as with evry year since I started teaching full time, I have tried t make the first day of every class every year a memorable one. Even when I am teaching upperclassmen who have had me before, I always try to do something new…Because I have been teaching for nearly 10 years at my current institution, I am running low on things to do…some are time honored and can be done with every incoming freshman class. Such as who you are, where you are from, etc…etc… however, as with last year there are more invasive ice breakers that I really have to think about…such as one of my favorites - pretending to be a student, and waiting to see who the more outgoing students are…by who pipes up first spouting the rules for when a student can legally leave class if the prof. doesn’t show up…:slight_smile: 20 minutes at the college I teach at…

So does anyone have any particularly fun ice breakers? This year I am running a small psychological test on my incoming freshmen…Often used by the FBI here it is:

Hmmm…I just remember an econ professor who came in and said

For Halloween he tried doing his whole lecture wearing an Incredible Hulk mask, but the heat got to be too much for him.

Indiana University had a Business Law prof, Dr. Michael B. Metzger, whose lectures were famous. He wrote out the entire lecture’s outline on the board (3 chalkboards’ worth) before class started, then never touched the board during class. But what made him famous/notorious was that at the stroke of 8AM he would tell the most disgusting dirty joke imaginable. Sheep jokes (about Purdue, typically), veins in hot dogs, sex with chickens, you name it… Upperclassmen would hang out in the back of the classroom/auditorium just to “catch the monologue”, then run off to their own 8AM classes.

Probably not something that would work in these PC days, but it worked then (late 70’s). We were ALL on time for class.

And Dr. Metzger periodically won “instructor of the year” honors at IU.

I haven’t really had any professors do an ice breaker, but there was a bit of one from one of my religion professors. He started off the class telling how Jewish children started out learning Hebrew, then passed around candy. The idea was that education is sweet, or something like that.

I am told that there was a professor at Drake University at Des Moines who opened his first lecture of the new year by announcing that he gives the same final exam every year, same questions, same answer choices – anyone who wants a copy of the test and last year’s answer sheet can pick them up at his office, but it will not do any good because he changes his mind about the right answers – last year’s right answer will be this year’s wrong answer.

Back when I was student teaching, I’d have my students take turns tell everybody their name, something else (can’t remember offhand, something generic, like major, if they had one) and the worst job they ever had. Wound up hearing some real doozies. It was fun and it gave me an idea what personalities I was dealing with quickly.

Thank you! This is the exact premise to why ALL incoming freshman must do this when they enter my classes :slight_smile:

I had an anthropology professor who had all of us break into pairs and conduct short (~10 minute) interviews with our partners. In that time, we were supposed to learn their major, their name, and what they thought was the strangest or most unusual thing about themselves. At the end, we each stood up and introduced our partner to the class. My partner was a belly dancer majoring in english literature, but I don’t remember her name.

It’s great to hear that some professors actually take time and think about doing something interesting on the first day of class. I’ve seen a few good ones in my day.

  1. Professor immediately (I’m talking first words out of his mouth) admits that it will take him a few weeks to learn our names. “It used to take me all semester, but then I learned a little trick” he continues as he opens his briefcase and pulls out a camera. Every student is pulled to the front of the class for a picture while they tell everyone their name, hometown, and favorite joke.

  2. Professor comes to class slightly late, puts down his things stands at the podium and waits. He waits until everyone starts laughing due to the extended silence, quiets down, and starts laughing again. It’s a theology class, and is supposed to teach us all something about how we’re all afraid to be alone but we need to listen to ourselves and the silence to hear God or something.

  3. HS Physics teacher goes through all the basics (intro, syllabus, etc.). Just when it seems he is about to start going into course material on the first day (not a good omen) he asks “Does anyone feel like learning Physics today? No? Good, cause I don’t feel like teaching it. Let’s go watch Star Wars.” It wasn’t planned as a first day intro, rather something he did on days he really didn’t feel like teaching.

  4. One Professor, at some point in the year, sometimes the first day, would wait until ten minutes after his Intro Biology course (read all freshmen) started and burst into the room wearing a hockey mask and wielding a running chainsaw, with the chain taken off of course.

I’ve had that one, but we had specific questions to ask them, and first had to answer them based solely on their appearance.

I wonder, am I the only one who loathes ice-breakers? I’m not there to get to know you, Prof, or to get to know my fellow students. I’m there to learn about history/english/whatever. Why are you wasting my time? Seriously, I couldn’t care less about my neighbor’s major or her dog’s name or anything equally inane and pointless.

Anywho, my boss is the Queen of Ice Breakers and I think she makes me participate in them at the beginning of ever year just to torment me. I’ll email her tomorrow and ask her what her favorites are.

I took a class called Intimate Relationships, it was sociology cross-listed with women’s studies. I don’t remember if it was the very first class, but certainly early on, our instructor told us to take a piece of paper and write down any question whatsoever that you had about sex and relationships. It was totally anonymous. So we all wrote questions down, folded the paper in half and passed them down the row. She didn’t read all the questions aloud, just the ones she thought were good. Anyway, in a class like that, it was good to break the ice of discussing potentially tender subjects. That was a great class. :slight_smile:

Phlosphr, I forget what subject you teach, but maybe you could use this idea? Whatever questions the students want to get out of the way about you or the class, they can do it anonymously. Hm maybe that actually works against your intentions. Ah well, YMMV.

I took your “test” for fun (before looking at the answer code.) My pig had a tail. It was kinky.

(This is probably funnier in my head than will be posted, but I’ll submit it anyway.)

No, you’re not the only one.

I go to the hassle of scheduling and registering, I get screwed by the price of the textbooks, and I fight traffic to get to class. Let’s just skip the folksy introductions and get down to business.

If I remember right, Phlosphr, you’re a psychology professor. Maybe you could have some “stranger” come in at the beginning of class and start yelling at you for something and making a big scene about a grade from last semester and then make some loud announcement to the class about what a jerk you are. After the “disgruntled” student leaves you could say you’ve never seen them before and ask the class for a description of the person so that you can file a report. I’m sure you could find something in psychology about first impressions or being able to remember details (like when reporting a crime) to relate it to. After that you could tell them it was a joke.

I think that would be funny. Maybe not the best ice breaker to set everyone on edge, but funny!

Dignan - that is a good one. And it has much to do with psychology, specifically, individual perceptions of singular situations. That would be covered in either intro to psych or Personality. In fact I show a video of as famous study out of the University of Ohio where two groups of fans are showed the same football game. The fans are an exact cross section of people rooting for the opposite team. It is amazing to see how they both have completely differing perceptions on what actually happened. Though not well suited for an ice breaker, good nontheless.

Oh and for all those who think ice breakers waste time: It is usually written all over your face how you feel…and guess who the first ones to be called on are??? :slight_smile:

My junior high geology teacher earned quite a reputation with students by pulling a funny stunt with his classes. On the first day of class he had a huge pumice stone (lightest stone in the world) waiting on his desk. At a certain point during his lecture he would have a student stand up and he’d make a dramatic and overblown show of lugging the huge pumice stone (as if it weighed a hundred pounds or more) to the student. Everybody was convinced it was a huge, heavy, stone. He’d then tell the student to hold out their hands and yell, “Catch!” and let loose. Of course the student would catch it easily, to their own surprise, and the whole class would gasp.
I heard the story from my siblings, but unfortunately he stopped doing it by the time I had him. He was a great teacher and devoted his time and some considerable resources to getting me started in German (he was the teacher of a short-lived Jr. High German course that was no longer available when I attended).
He didn’t have to, but he did, and it made all the difference in my life.
Thank You, Mr. Blum. God bless and rest in peace.

This is not an ice breaker in the sense I think you are looking for, but it was one beginning of the semester lecture I’ll never forget. The words which follow are similar in spirit but probably not his exact words. The class was a required senior year chemical engineering course called “Plant Design”.

Professor starts class by saying “I want you all to die . . . " (pause)“several decades from now, in a clean well lit room surrounded by friends and family”( shorter pause). As opposed to dying alone and friendless due to unethical or unprofessional behavior. Or dying of some disease caused by exposure to a lethal chemical. Or dying in jail of some disease or because of illegal or unethical behavior. Or dying in an explosion caused by your unprofessional behavior. or dying of poverty . . .”
He elaborated more than I can on various ways he didn’t want us to die. Basically, he wants us to die in ways that had nothing to do with our chemical engineering careers. And since Plant Design had large components of professionalism, hazards awareness, and perhaps a dollop of ethics, this talk was also his “OK People, pay attention. . . this class is important” talk.

I loathe the usual ice-breakers. I absolutely hate the name games. Don’t do that to people. Going around the room telling names is okay, but I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate the stupid games.

I did, however, have a useful ice-breaker experience at the beginning of a human sexuality class. Everybody was given a word that while not dirty was the uncomfortable sort that comes up in such a class, and while I had no problem with words such as “condom” or “penis” some other people did. We had to go around and say our embarassing word with confidence. I don’t remember what I had, so it couldn’t have been too embarassing for me. Then the professor said something to the effect of, “You see, you said it once. So don’t be embarassed about saying it again. This is a class about sex, after all.”

I absolutely hated ice breakers. I was a “nontraditional student” (which translates into “I was in my early 30’s, working part time, going to school full time, up to my eyeballs in school loans because I didn’t have Mommy and Daddy footing the bill for 12 hours a week of fun and keg parties the other hours of the week, taking care of three kids and running a household singlehandedly”). Personally, I could care less who was in my class and why they were taking the class. When we would be forced to do the “let me introduce my new partner” speil, I would lie. Outright, over the top lies. I was in the witness protection program and was forbidden to divulge further information, I was the daughter of an infamous Mob Boss, I was really a guy (I’m female) whose birth name was Bob, I was newly released from a Prison-To-Work program…the list got a little bizarre each time I was forced to have a 5 minute “chat” with my “partner”. What was the best part was sitting there, attempting to maintain a serious look on my face while my “partner” stumbled her way through my introduction, then for me to stand up and say, “This is Jennifer and she’s a sophomore and has three brothers and a dog named Fifi. She lives on campus and like beer, beer and more beer, and balling guys whose names she can’t remember when sober.” (No, I really didn’t say the last part–I didn’t need to.)

I was so glad to graduate, however, my feelings about icebreakers still hasn’t changed.

When I have taught classes, I have done “the dreaded icebreaker” but prefaced it this way:

“I want you to introduce yourself to me, and tell me a favorite band (and/or a favorite book or tv show) and yeah, it’s a pain, and yeah, you hate icebreakers, but you know what? I have to teach stuff to you and if I get a sense of what you guys have read, watched and listened to, I know what analogies are going to work for you - so this helps me and ends up helping you. Sound fair?”

I get a much better response, and since I am reasonably current on cultural phenomena, I can follow up their statements with questions and observations and draw them out and get them comfortable talking with me from day 1. (“Really, you like Buffy - ah, but wasn’t Faith cooler?” etc…)

The other thing I will sometimes do is ask “okay, how many people are in this class because they have to be?” And ask them how they are going to think about the topic to keep it at least a little interesting over the course of the class…I do that with my young son when he doesn’t want to read and I get him to tell me why reading is ultimately a good thing…