As you plan your orientation or staff training for the fall semester think about ways to get staff members to get to know each other better in an informal way. Such ice breakers can ease tensions and help build relationships right from the start. Here are some suggested ice breakers:
• Interview Introductions: Pair up staff members and have them interview each other for five minutes. Ask each student to find out three interesting or unusual facts about the person they're interviewing. Encourage staffers to go beyond the obvious questions: major, position on the paper, where the person is from, etc., and ask deeper questions, such as the most exciting place they’ve ever been or the craziest thing they’ve ever done. Have each person introduce the person they interviewed -- and the three things they learned -- to the rest of the staff in 30 seconds or less.
• Hopes and Fears – Have each staff member introduce themselves and talk about one thing they are excited about for the coming semester and one fear or thing they are anxious about. This gets people’s anxieties out on the table right from the start and builds an instance sense of intimacy.
• Line Up: Organize participants into equal-size groups of 8 to 10. Direct each team to line up in order of their birthdays. When a team is finished they should all clap their hands. Then check that they've got it right. The first team to line up successfully wins. (A variation of this is to have people line up by height, smallest to tallest, but not allow them to use words.)
• People Bingo: Draw or print a 5 X 5 grid, like a bingo card, on a piece of paper and write things such as "born in another country," "is the oldest child in family," “plays a musical instrument” into each square. (If you know the people, you can actually tailor the criteria to specifically fit your group). You might want to throw in some journalism references, such as “has seen the movie Shattered Glass,” “has read The Elements of Journalism” or "has done an internship at a newspaper." Make a copy of the sheet for each person. Instruct people to mingle and get the signature of one person who meets the criteria for each square. Unless you have fewer than 25 participants, don't let people collect the same signature twice. The first person with a completed card wins.
• Pocketbook Scavenger Hunt: Divide participants into two or more equal-sized teams of four to seven people. Give each group a pocketbook scavenger hunt sheet and give them three minutes to come up with as many of the items as they can from their pockets, purses, or other belongings they have with him.
Pocketbook Scavenger Hunt List
A yellow highlighter
A frequent-customer card from a bookstore, cafe or restaurant
Picture of a close relative
Something with your college or university’s logo
Contact lens case
If you’ve got other ice breakers to share, describe them in a comment below.