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The sessions were well planned yet flexible enough to allow group dynamics to flow towards areas of need. Our facilitator made himself aware of the Department’s functions and issues prior to the retreats in order to custom the events to target our problems. I was informed of potential benefits and risks inherent in this process. Following each session, he called to give a synopsis and recommendations about the group on which to build the next retreat.

Department Director

Large Group Icebreakers, Set I

We received a request via email from a colleague in Hawaii who wrote "I have been assigned the role of leader of icebreaker games for 125 teachers at my high school. We will be in the gym and I'm looking for fun things to do with 125 teachers!"

Properly sequencing activities is key to achieving your learning objectives and making the session challenging and enjoyable.  Add to this the variables associated with a large group, especially if you haven't tried this before, and you've got something to make your palms sweat.

Below is the first half of a series of activities that I've used on a number of occasions with very large groups.  Although my progression has some slight modifications, thanks and credit largely go to Faith Evans, a superb facilitator and all-around neat lady -- I first participated in her version of this progression at the 1995 AEE International Conference.  We heartily recommend her book 99 of the Best Experiential Corporate Games We Know!, co-authored with Sam Sikes and Simon Priest.

Given the number of activities, I'm going to present the essence of each activity below and forego detailed "here's what you say in what order" type instructions.  If you can't visualize what I'm describing or want some further tips, email me.  HINTS: Start everyone in a BIG circle, and keep coming back to the circle formation; smile a lot; laugh a lot; play along with your participants.  These are FUN!

Next Month: Part II


    1. Every time you, the facilitator, say "alright," your participants respond with "OK."  Each time you say "OK," your participants respond with "alright."  This game is played for the rest of the progression.

    1. Explain the value of positive recognition, and then demonstrate the unique way that you will be showing this to each other the rest of the day.  Perform, in rapid sequence, 2 hand-to-thigh slaps, 2 hand claps, 2 finger snaps, and then show both "thumbs-up" like the Fonz while saying, ever so cooly, "yeah."

    1. With everyone in a big circle, call out a category; if the named category applies to anyone in the circle, they run and form an inner circle in the middle, perform a "positive recognition" (see number 2 above) for themselves, turn and face the outer circle, and then the outer circle performs a "positive recognition" for the inner group.  The inner group returns to the large circle, and then you the facilitator call out another category.  After you've called out a few, invite the group to call out categories that work for them.
    2. Categories I've Used: You'll want to choose categories that are relevant for your group.  For a group of AmeriCorps volunteers, I used Under 25; over 25; from Jackson, from north, south, out-of-state, a wife or husband, a mother or dad, a primary caregiver, exercise at least twice a week; currently attending J State, USM, Alcorn others; if you have completed a 2 year degree, a 4 year degree, if you have a masters or PhD, if you think that work is about more than getting a paycheck; if you have big dreams for the difference you can make; if you are an AmeriCorps member.  Try to end your category list with one that brings everyone together.

    1. With everyone in a large circle, instruct each person to place their right hand palm up in front of the person on their right's midsection; they are then to position their left hand directly over the palm in front of their own midsection with index finger pointing down approximately one inch above the palm.  On the count of three, each person should try to grab the finger above their right palm while simultaneously moving their own left index finger up, out and away to safety.  One, two, three . . . do the activity at least twice so folks will get the hang of the movements.  A fun way to illustrate the concept that you can't concentrate on more than one thing at a time very well.

    1. Instruct the participants to find three people they don’t know (one at a time), shake their hand and look them in the eye.

    2. Now find three more people you don't know, and one at a time look them in the eye, and perform high fives.

    3. Now find three more people you don't know, look them in the eye, and perform over the back high fives.

    4. Finally, find the only remaining three people in the room you don't know, look them in the eye, and create, between you and your partner, a completely "new" handshake.  Each of the three handshakes must be unique (although all of your participants will be watching and learning from the creative attempts going on around them).  Ask any who are particularly proud of their handshakes to demonstrate for the whole group.

    Folks should be thoroughly warmed up, having a wonderful time and ready for more.


  • Learn how to facilitate activities in ways that promote real learning and long-term behavior change
  • Enhance your facilitation skills - learn from leading practitioners
  • Experience the activities yourself!

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