March 7 is National Cereal Day. But today’s post isn’t about cereal.
As a professional development provider I have the opportunity to work with amazing groups of teachers. Sometimes they all know each other and sometimes they don’t. It just depends on the setting. It is important to get to know who is in the room and help participants connect with each other at various levels – even if they already know each other well.
Instructional coaches often wear a hat of facilitating professional learning. Knowing who is in the room is essential. Choosing an introduction technique takes purposeful planning. An important element to consider is the size of your group. Let’s look at a variety of ways to use the concept of cereal as an example.
For smaller groups you may be able to have each participant introduce themselves and their position. Along with their introduction you could have them simply state what their favorite cereal was as a child and why. Soon participants are going to start making connections with each other. The childhood memories may evoke smiles. You have now increased the mood and helped participants feel more comfortable. They made connection and got to know who is in the room. (The favorite cereal is just an example. Change the prompt to fit your needs.)
Introductions are important, but as groups expand there may not be enough time to do individual introductions. In that case it may be necessary to develop structures that allow for introductions, but on a smaller scale.
One example is a 4-corner activity. Sticking with our cereal theme – you could put a different picture of a cereal type in each corner of the room. Examples could represent types of cereal – sugary, grain (rice, wheat, or corn), hot, and something unique. You could have participants choose a cereal they can relate to and head to that corner. Once groups have formed in each corner they could introduce themselves and share their stories and ties to that particular type of cereal.
Or to go a bit deeper you could use the cereal type (or other icon) as a thinking device. Pose a question or discussion topic that ties your session topic with the item. Making connections and analogies to the item can allow participants to start sharing ideas on the area of study.
Individual introductions in large groups can take a lot of time. The movement of a 4-corner activity described above may be to daunting and unrealistic with an auditorium or large conference room full of participants. One idea is to confine the introductions to smaller areas such as the tables they are sitting at or with people in close proximity. A simple wrap around the table with introductions described for small groups can help table-mates get to know each other, make connections and helped them feel comfortable with each other.
The ideas listed here are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to icebreakers and introduction techniques. Internet searches can yield a wide variety of ideas. The key is create positive energy and help individuals get to know each other at another level. Here are a few resources to add to your toolkit. Do you have others to share?
Creative Facilitation Techniques (pdf) This resource includes icebreakers, energizers forming groups, living metaphors, dynamic lead-ins, dynamic reviews and brainstorms ideas.
Facilitation Tools for Meetings and Workshops (pdf) This resource includes ideas for introductions and endings, building trust, participation and discussion, tackling difficult issues, prioritizing and planning, waking up, warming up and winding down and evaluating meetings and workshops.
Ice Breakers, Introductions, Energizers, And Other Experiential Exercises (website) This site describes a wide variety of icebreaker/introduction ideas.
Creative Icebreakers, Introductions, and Hellos for Teachers, Trainers, and Facilitators (pdf) Includes 15 icebreaker ideas with detailed directions.
FACILITATION TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES Ice Breakers (pdf) This resource has many ideas described in condensed directions. A quick read!