Ice Breaker Games

Since a number of teachers have posted about summer camp ideas over the last few weeks, I thought I’d share a couple of activities that I like to use with new groups of students.  I typically use these at our first group lesson in the fall, but they’d be great ice-breakers for camps!   (Note: Both of these activities are based on Dalcroze Eurhythmics.  The basic ideas for these games came from a summer intensive session I attended a couple of years ago.   For any of you who enjoy off-the-bench teaching and aren’t familiar with the Dalcroze method, I would HIGHLY recommend finding a workshop or training session in your area and checking it out!)

The Name Game

1) Ask students to start standing in a circle, a step’s distance apart.    As a group, establish a steady beat by taking a step to the right, then closing with the left foot.   Then, step to the left and close with the right.   Repeat these 4 actions (step R – close – step L – close) continuously.

2) Once the group can maintain a steady beat, select a student to begin by speaking his or her name.  The group will echo it back.   Maintain the step-touch movement during the entire activity and encourage students to speak their names in tempo.   Continue around the circle with all students speaking their name and the group repeating it.

3) Repeat the solo & group response a couple of times until students are comfortable with each other’s names.   For a challenge, try to speak everyone’s names in order as a group (without the solos). Can you do it without any pauses?

4) Variation:  Ask students to speak their name.   Instead of repeating the name vocally, the group will respond by clapping the rhythm of the student’s name.  (Ex. Student says “Em-i-ly” and group responds “clap-clap-clap”).     After a few times around the circle, an advanced group can try clapping all of the names in a row without the spoken solos!

Ball Pass

This is a steady pulse activity that doubles as a great team-builder/ice-breaker game.    You’ll need one or more tennis balls (or similarly-sized balls) for this game.

1) Have students start seated in a circle, close enough they can easily pass the ball.   You (the teacher) will start with one ball in your left hand.   Using a steady motion, pass the ball to your right hand and say “right.”   Continue by passing it to the left hand of the student on your right and say “left.”  He or she will then transfer the ball to their right hand and say “right.”  The ball should continue in a steady motion around the circle, with each student grasping it with both their left and right hands.

2)  Once students can maintain a steady tempo, try it with recorded music.    Pause the music randomly, and instruct students to freeze the ball whenever they hear the music stop.   When it starts again, they should resume passing the ball, but in the opposite direction.

3) Variation:  For older students, you may explore different levels of pulses in this activity.   Have students establish a moderate beat and specify that this is a quarter note pulse.  If you yell out half note, they must pass the ball at half speed.  If you yell eighth note they’ll double, etc.    Try mixing different beat level commands (quarter, half, etc.) with the “Freeze” command (or pause music) and it really turns into a challenge!!

If you have a large group of students, you may choose to use multiple balls and space them evenly through the circle.


Ice Breaker Games — 4 Comments

  1. These are some fun ideas. I especially like the name game one. As a variation for a group lesson about music history, students could be assigned names of composers from a specific era instead. They could wear “necklaces” with pictures of their composers or nametags to help them remember their identity at first.

  2. Thanks for sharing!

    I have done a similar version of the name game, but instead of stepping, we sit cross-legged on the floor and tap the beat by alternating on the right leg then the left.

    The tennis ball game sounds super fun! Especially the variation for the older students. Especially since a lot of older students (mostly boys) like FAST tempos – this would be a fun one to have them try as a challenge 🙂

  3. Heidi – I love composer idea! I haven’t done that one before. I have used the circle to teach order of sharps and flats, though. We came up with a pneumonic as a group, then each student was assigned one or two words to speak as their “solo.” The necklaces could be really fun, too…

    Mariel – You’re right about boys and the tennis ball game – mine love it!! I’m going to remember the left and right leg idea for the name game. Sometimes my younger students take a while to get the hang of the stepping; the taps might be a great way for us to warm up to the steps!

    Thanks to both of you for sharing ideas!

  4. Thank you all so much for sharing…..I will use these ideas. I have been teaching elementary classroom and am just branching out to private piano and need all the help I can get.

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