Action - Syllables

Grade level: Elementary and Secondary
Players: Groups of 20 to 30
Duration: At least 30 minutes

This is a great warm-up that also helps a new group to learn each other's names.

Everyone stands in a circle. The first person says her name, making a gesture (an action) for every syllable. Mary has 2 syllables, so she does something like "Ma-" (wave right hand) "-ry" (claps in hands). Everyone repeats this. Then the second person calls his name, again with a gesture per syllable. Group repeats, and then repeats all previous names and syllables.

Animal Sounds

Grade level:Elementary and Secondary
Players: Unlimited
Duration: At least 30 minutes

This fun activity allows students to entertain the group and should be preceded by an icebreaker. Its success depends on how comfortable students feel and how well they know each other. Works well with groups of 10 or more.

  • Invite people into a circle.
  • Ask them to close their eyes.
  • Explain that each person will be an animal.

The facilitator moves around the group, giving each person the name of animal (e.g. from the list below).

  • The challenge will be to find the other two animals belonging to the same family. No one can talk - only animal sounds are permitted.
  • Very loud chaos ensues, and then gradually order emerges as animals find one another.

List of possible animals (aim to have families of 3 or more).

  • Wolf, Cat, Pig
  • Dog, Snake, Lion
  • Crow, Monkey, Frog
  • Elephant, Horse, Cow

Here is a different twist to the activity:

Each student is given a small piece of paper with the name of a well known nursery rhyme or other song written on the paper. (i.e. Ô Canada, Frère Jacques, etc.) All the students who have been given the song must hum the tune and find the other ones who received the same song. They then form a group.

Are You Observant?

Grade level: Elementary and Secondary
Players: Group divided in pairs of two players
Duration: At least 30 minutes


  • The partners of My Friend-Mon ami(e) are paired up.
  • Participants are given approximately 30 seconds to look at their partners, taking in all details about the individual.
  • The facilitator instructs each pair to stand back to back.
  • The “observed” partners have 15-20 seconds to change something about their appearance (i.e. change a watch to a different wrist, unbutton a button, remove a belt, etc.). The change must be discrete, but visible to the partner.
  • The players face each other and have 30 seconds to discover the physical changes that have been made.
  • Players get to interact with each other and have fun!
  • Repeat the activity asking the players to change five things this time.

Beach Ball

Grade level: Secondary
Players: Unlimited
Duration: At least 30 minutes

Get a large inflatable beach ball and use a marker to write questions on it.

You can use it in a large group and throw it around. The person who catches it has to answer the question which is under their hand. They then say their name, answer the question and throw it to someone else.

The following questions are simply suggestions. You can add more serious or in-depth questions.

  1. What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
  2. Approximately how many jokes do you know by heart? Tell us your favourite one.
  3. What do Martians do for fun on Mars?
  4. If your life was being turned into a feature length movie, who would play you? And why?
  5. What is the worst place you’ve ever been stuck waiting?
  6. What is your "15 minutes" of fame?
  7. If you were invisible where would you go?
  8. What's your favourite flavour of jelly beans?
  9. What object in your home are you most embarrassed about owning?
  10. Approximately, how many books have you read in the past year (excluding school books)?
  11. Fill in the blank: When I dance, I look like ___________.
  12. If you could be a famous actor, writer, athlete, artist or musician, which would you choose and why?
  13. What is the worst occupation in the world?
  14. What two television channels do you watch most frequently?
  15. What is your greatest phobia?
  16. If you were given a canvas and water colors, what would you paint?
  17. What celebrity irritates you the most?
  18. What is the meanest thing you can say to somebody?
  19. What is your lifelong dream?
  20. What is the scariest movie you've ever seen?
  21. On a scale of 1 to 10 how "hip" are you?
  22. What's the biggest advantage of being really tall?
  23. How many minutes does it take you to get ready in the morning?
  24. What hobby have you always wanted to pick up?
  25. What is it about you that people find irresistible?
  26. If you were an animal, what would you be?
  27. What store is represented most in your wardrobe?
  28. What do you need more of right now?
  29. If you were a nationality other than your own, which one would you choose? Why?
  30. What is the most beautiful word you can think of?
  31. What beverage do you find nauseating?
  32. What three adjectives best describe you?
  33. What is the first thing you notice when you meet someone?
  34. What was your favourite book growing up?
  35. What Canadian city does not deserve a place on the map? Why?
  36. What is the most common compliment people give you?
  37. What is the best purchase you've ever made?
  38. If you could add any word to the dictionary, what would it be?
  39. What is your favourite pet name?
  40. What word best describes your Internet knowledge?
  41. What is the longest period of time you have spent in a car?
  42. What is the best costume you ever wore for Halloween?
  43. If you were a teacher, what subject would you teach?
  44. What latest trend simply baffles you?
  45. What is the worst grade you ever received? What class was it for?
  46. What would you like your nickname to be?
  47. What do you consider your nicest feature?
  48. If you could bathe in a vat of any drink or food item, what would you choose?
  49. What song do you keep hearing over and over and over again?
  50. What are you most proud of?

Birthday Partner

Have participants mingle in the group and identify a person whose birth date (not year - just month and date) is closest to their own. They must find two things they have in common.


Grade level: Elementary and Secondary
Players: Unlimited
Duration: At least 30 minutes

Required: Lipstick, or washable markers

Depending on the number of participants, you may want to pick a few helpers for this icebreaker game. The helpers will all have a small tube of lipstick in their pocket or hidden in their hands before the game starts. They can pretend at the last minute that they decide to join in the game.


Have all the participants line up in a straight line, side by side. Instruct them that they have to look ahead and they can’t turn their heads. Tell them that you’re playing the Cheeky-Cheeky game and everyone is to repeat what you do but must not move. Give them an example by lightly pinching the person’s cheek on the right of you and say “Cheeky-Cheeky”. You should be at the beginning of the line. That person is to do the same and then the next person all the way down the line until it reaches the end. Start out with Cheeky-Cheeky but this time you discreetly put lipstick on your fingertips. After you’ve done Cheeky-Cheeky, then do Nosey-Nosey. After that, do Chiny-Chiny, Eary-Eary, heady-heady and right Eary-Eary. Each time add more lipstick to your finger tips without them noticing. In the process the person next to you should end up with lipstick all over their face. Pick a person that is a good sport to stand next to. If you’ve planted helpers in the line, there should be other students with lipstick on their faces.

Circle of Friends

Grade level: Elementary and Secondary
Players: Unlimited
Duration: At least 15 minutes

This is a great greeting and departure activity for a large group. Form two large circles, one inside the other and have the people in the inside circle face the people in the outside circle. Ask the circles to take one step in the opposite directions, allowing them to meet each new person as the circle continues to move very slowly.

Famous People - Places

As each participant arrives, tape a 3 x 5 index card on their back with the name of a famous person or place. Participants walk about in the room and ask questions that can ONLY be answered with a YES or NO. The objective is to find out the name of the person or place on the index card. Examples: Fredericton, the Prime Minister of New Brunswick, Santa Claus, School, Moncton, Kings Landing.

Gotchya! (Grab the Finger)

Grade level: Elementary
Players: Unlimited
Duration: At least 5 minutes

Stimulating group activity to get people together, focused, challenged, having fun and ready for action. Useful to get focused attention when students arrive, get off the bus, or to fill 5-10 minutes.

  • Works with any group size, indoor and outdoor.
  • Participants stand in a circle. Right index finger touching the left palm of the neighbor on the right.
  • "When I say the word go, do two things.... grab the finger in your left hand, and prevent your right finger from being grabbed... 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... [add suspense] ... Go!".
  • Repeat several times.
  • It is important to put energy and use your imagination. It always grabs students’ attention.
  • The trick is to dramatize the "Go!", and to build-up suspense. Most will jump the gun, adding to the fun.
  • Try a different trigger word, e.g. "Cheese", and mention lots of other "eeze" words for humor - peas, sneeze, wheeze, please and freeze. Or use the word/theme of the day e.g. "outdoor" to help get people listening.

Group Juggle

Grade level: Elementary and Secondary
Players: Unlimited
Duration: At least 30 minutes

This is a fun way to get to know each other. It can be used to learn names and develop group cohesiveness.

Instructions for level 1 of difficulty for Group Juggle

  • Arrange participants in a circle, not too close, not too far from one another
  • Include yourself in the circle
  • Explain that you are going to throw a ball to someone - pick someone out and ask their name, then say :
  • "Hi Freddy, my name is you go!" [throw the ball to Freddy]
  • Freddy then says "Thank you James", picks someone and says "Hi X, my name is you go!" [throw]....they say "Thank you, Freddy" and on we go.
  • The challenge is simply to get the ball thrown around to everyone in the circle, and finally back to the facilitator.

Level 2 of difficulty for Group Juggle

  • The facilitator then says, "Right, well done, now let's see if we can do that again - making sure we use the same order, and using each other's names. Remember to say the name of the person you are throwing the ball to, and thank the person, by name, for throwing it to you, OK?"

Note to the facilitator: In level 2, most students will be challenged to remember who to throw the ball to, and the names of their partners! Take it slow; help the group out, so that each person has a successful round.

Level 3 of difficulty for Group Juggle

  • Proceed the same way as for level 2. This time, the objective is to go faster. "Good, so let's see how fast we can do this, OK? Here we go...Hi Freddy, my name is James...." [throw]

Note to the facilitator: Go faster even if students are challenged to remember who to throw the ball to, and the names of their partners! Once again, help the student out or ask the group to help each other.

Level 4 of difficulty for Group Juggle: let’s add energy and enthusiasm!

  • I then say, "That's great, but I think you can do faster than that. Come on; let's see how we can really go..." [I then throw and say the name with energy and enthusiasm to set the tone!]
  • After the first ball has passed through a few hands, I take a 2nd ball out of my pocket (surprise!), and casually, but earnestly say "Hi Freddy...." [throw].
  • By now everyone is so well trained, the 2nd ball will automatically keep going, and there will be a detectable sense of challenge/excitement.
  • After a bit, I introduce a 3rd and 4th ball, up to about 6 balls.
  • Usually I let 4 to 6 balls be juggled for a while (Note that the balls will be coming back again to the facilitator - just keep them going). A group of 12 students can usually handle 4 to 6 balls quite well.
  • Once the group seems competent with 6 balls, I gradually introduce an unmanageable number of balls into the juggle and maybe also weird objects (e.g. kids’plush toys); it gets crazy, fun, out of control, etc. and ends in a hilarious shambles.

 Have You Ever?

Grade level: Elementary and Secondary
Players: 20 to 30
Duration: At least 30 minutes

This is an active, fun way to explore and celebrate the rich diversity of experiences that different individuals bring to a group. Works best with larger groups.


  • Students stand in a circle.
  • A student asks a question starting with Have you ever… If the item applies to you, then run into the middle of the circle, jump in the air, and do a high 5 with anyone else who runs in.
  • A list of about 20 items should be tailored to the particular group, setting, and program goals, but some suggestions are below. Usually the items are of a "Have You Ever....?" form, but also free to ad lib, e.g., "Does Anyone Have....?"
  • Items should be carefully considered in order to prevent embarrassment, ridicule, etc.
  • Participants’ motivation often needs some tamping up.

List of Possible "Have You Ever?" Questions:

  1. Have you ever climbed a tree?
  2. Have you ever lived overseas?
  3. Have you ever sung karaoke?
  4. Do you have both a brother and a sister?
  5. Have you ever ridden a horse?
  6. Have you ever eaten “escargots”?
  7. Can you speak 3 or more languages?
  8. Have you swum in 2 or more different oceans?
  9. Have you ever been on a snowboard?
  10. Have you broken 2 or more bones in your body?
  11. Have you done volunteer work?
  12. Have you ever climbed a cliff?
  13. Have you ever had a relative who lived to over 100?
  14. Have you ever cooked a meal by yourself?
  15. Have you ever kept a bird as a pet?
  16. Have you ever been parachuting or done a bungee jump?
  17. Can you click your fingers on your non-dominant hand?
  18. Have you ever seen a polar bear?

Human Knot

Grade level: Elementary and Secondary
Players: 10 to 15
Duration: At least 30 minutes

This is a stimulating group activity to get people together. The students will have to work as a team and have a good sense of humor in order to untangle the human knot.

Note to the facilitator: Be aware that the activity involves close physical proximity!

Ideal group size is approximately 10, but it can be done with anywhere from about 7 to 16. Much higher or lower and the task doesn't really work. The more there is in a group, the more difficult the task, partly because of the complexity, and partly because there is physically less room to move.

If there are two or more groups doing the task simultaneously, have the groups reasonably spaced out, so that they don't feel distracted or disrupted by a sense of competition.


  • Ask participants to form a circle, shoulder-to-shoulder, facing the centre of the circle. Encouraging/urging participants to all stand closer can be a subtle way of helping to prepare them for what is about to come.
  • Ask participants to extend their right hand and to grasp someone else’s hand. Same thing with their left hand.
  • To emphasize learning of names and get a bit of fun going, ask participants to introduce themselves to the person they are holding hands with.
  • Explain to participants that what you'd like them to do is untangle themselves, without letting go of hands, into a circle.
  • Participants may change their grip so as to more comfortable, but they are not to unclasp and re-clasp so as to undo the knot.
  • Stand back and monitor the situation to avoid injuries.

Let's dress the Mummys

Grade level: Elementary
Players: Groups of 5 to 7
Duration: At least 20 minutes

Required: Rolls of toilet paper


One person on each team is the mummy and each team is given 2 rolls of toilet paper. They have 5 minutes to complete the game. The team players are to circle around the mummy and pass the toilet paper to each other while wrapping the mummy in. The facilitator decides which team has created the best mummy.

String Toss

Grade level: Elementary and Secondary
Players: Groups of 8 to 12
Duration: At least 30 minutes

Required: Ball of string or yarn

Set up small groups of 8–12 players and have them sit or stand in a circle for this icebreaker. Player A is given the ball of yarn and finds the end of it. A tosses the ball of yarn to player B within the circle while she is still holding the end of the ball of yarn. A asks B one or two questions. If this is a new group that doesn’t know everyone, they are to introduce themselves first before answering the questions. Here are some ideas as to what questions to ask: What is your favorite color, music group, what are you afraid of, your favorite food, your favorite season? B holds part of the yarn and then tosses the ball to C. You repeat this until everyone has had the ball of yarn. At the end, a unique web connects all the players.