Submitted by Anne Bentley / Lewis & Clark College on Sat, 08/15/2020 - 22:37
My Notes

We have developed a set of icebreaker activities that could be used at any course level, either in an online video chat or in a classroom. These are based on the popular Mad Libs game in which some words are left out of a story and players are asked to provide words to fill in the blanks without knowing much about the story. We've provided an introduction to the game, definition of typical parts of speech that are requested (ie, adverb, noun, adjective, etc), and three starter activities. These include: a story about a first-year student's journey to campus, a list of expected etiquette points for Zoom meetings, and a list of lab safety practices. The latter two activities could be used to start a discussion of the actual Zoom expectations and lab safety guidelines for the course.

Learning Goals

As a result of completing this activity, students will have smiled (hopefully), felt more comfortable in the classroom setting, and will have realized that their instructor has a sense of humor.

Equipment needs

None.  The instructor could put each completed story on a single powerpoint slide to help students read the story in addition to hearing it read out loud.

Implementation Notes

The first page of the attached file contains background information about this type of activity, including definitions of the parts of speech typically used. We recommend sharing this page with students either in real time (as they activity is taking place) or ahead of time, so that students who are not familiar with the format can be on equal footing with those who are very experienced. If the class is meeting in a video chat format, the instructor might lead the entire class in one activity and then put the students in breakout rooms to carry out the other activities in small groups. (This would necessitate assigning one student as leader of each breakout group and providing them with the script.)

We brainstormed other topics that instructors may want to use in developing their own activities for their classes.  These include:

Getting lost on campus

First morning of class

First day of lab

How to join a research group

How to study for an exam

Quarantine (last semester) in HS

First year orientation

Journey from general chemistry to graduation

Campus traditions  

Campus fight song lyrics

How to ask for a recommendation letter

How to ask questions at seminar

Going to your first ACS meeting

How to write a lab report

Tips for giving a presentation

How to dress for zoom

Time Required
10 minutes


Evaluation Methods

The best part about an icebreaker is that students are not assessed on their learning.  Instructors will have to gauge the room for student response.

Evaluation Results

None of the co-authors has tried this yet, but we will report results in the comments below.

Creative Commons License
Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike CC BY-NC-SA
Sheila Smith / University of Michigan- Dearborn

I used the Zoom etiquette one for my first day of Inorganic 2.  Its 18 students, so I Let Zoom put them in four breakout rooms and we got four different stories.  


Interestingly two groups independently chose the same items of clothing for Zoom meetings.  It was a great icebreaker and took very little time.


Wed, 09/02/2020 - 11:53 Permalink
Meghan Porter / Indiana University

I used the Zoom etiquette and lab ice breakers for my first day of Inorganic.  It is 200 students so I put them in breakout rooms of 5 and had them work through them on a google doc.  I selected a few to then show to the entire class, but everyone had access to the google doc so they could check out stories from all the groups.

It was a great ice breaker to allow students to get to know each other.  I used it to help students get a bit more comfortable prior to them working on creating our community contract while working in their same groups.

Wed, 06/09/2021 - 09:02 Permalink