Do you use ice breakers in your school counseling sessions? If not, stay tuned because I am going to show you how they enhance a school counseling program! If you already use ice breakers, let me give you some new, super fun ones that you can add to your toolbox! On a side note, it’s a bit ironic that I am writing this post on effective and fun icebreakers in school counseling, since I am not the most enthusiastic person when it comes to adult icebreaker activities. In fact, this husky meme below perfectly sums up my feelings about ice breakers in professional development. (Btw, I’m the husky on the right.)
But, of course, with children it is a totally different ballgame. Ice breakers are really helpful to use with students in various school counseling situations- mainly groups and individual counseling, when building rapport and bonding people together is so crucial.
ICE BREAKERS IN SCHOOL COUNSELING- DEFINITION AND CHARACTERISTICS
First of all, let’s determine what exactly an ice breaker is so that we are all on the same page. I really like the definition and characteristics from the site icebreakerideas.com. Here’s what they have to say:
An icebreaker is an activity, exercise, or experience designed to break the ‘ice’ that typically limits or inhibits interactions of a group of people who may or may not know each other. A group is exhibiting “ice” if there is little or no talking, reluctance to make physical contact, and poor eye contact. Additionally, group members stand alone, displaying a lack or initiative and absence of trust.
To qualify as an icebreaker, an activity, exercise, or experience should have most of the following criteria:
- highly interactive
- simple & easy to understand
Icebreaker Ideas, 2014. Retrieved from https://icebreakerideas.com/what-is-icebreaker/.
Now that we know exactly what an icebreaker is, let’s discuss how we can use them in school counseling.
ICE BREAKERS IN SCHOOL COUNSELING: INDIVIDUAL SESSIONS
Initial individual counseling sessions usually need some kind of ice breaker in order to begin the process of establishing rapport between the counselor and student. Of course if you already have a relationship with the student, you probably won’t need an ice breaker. However, if you and the student don’t know each other, there will likely be feelings of resistance, fear, and/or anxiety during that initial session. A great way to handle these feelings is to have an arsenal of creative ice breakers that allow connections to form between the counselor and student in both verbal and non-verbal ways. Let’s look at a few fabulous individual counseling ice breakers:
- Personal Interest inventory– During the initial session, have your student fill it out and then discuss their answers with you.
- The Talking, Feeling, and Doing Game– I love this game so much! It is such a helpful, no pressure way to get the student comfortable and talking.
- Comics are a great way to break the ice with teens and kids because almost everyone likes comics! You could simply provide a paper with 5-7 blank squares and pick a topic together with the student like the funniest day ever or a trip to an amusement park and then create the comic together- you might illustrate and caption the first frame, the student does second frame, etc. Make Belief Comix is a fantastic, free website if you want to create the comics together electronically.
ICE BREAKERS IN SCHOOL COUNSELING: GROUP SESSIONS
There are few things in life more awkward that that first group session, especially if you work with middle or high schoolers. It is so important to have an engaging activity that the students can dive into right away in order to keep their minds and bodies busy while they also learn some details about each other. An ice breaker activity starts the group member bonding process that is so crucial to group counseling.
Effective utilization of ice breaker activities will help also members relax and associate positive feelings with the group experience. Everyone wants to feel like they share some commonalities with other members and the ice breaker lets them discover what those commonalities are. Furthermore, the more comfortable the members feel, the more they will gain from that initial session. Plus these good vibes don’t hurt the chances that group members will want to return for that second session.
Below is my all time favorite ice breaker from my new trauma-informed group counseling book: Sending Students Soaring. You can find lots of other creative group activities and ice breakers by checking out the electronic version of this trauma group guide in my TPT store where it is being housed until it is ready to go into hard copy book form this spring!
Beach Ball Bonding from Sending Students Soaring: A Trauma-Informed Group Counseling Guide
Have group members introduce themselves by tossing a beach or foam ball to each other around the room for 5-10 minutes. Whenever a member catches the ball, they should share one thing about themselves- they can choose what to share on their own or pick an idea from the following list. This is a bonding activity to help them get to know each other; bonding leads to feeling safe which is a key element of a trauma-informed group setting. During this sharing time, encourage the group to ask questions and express commonalities that they have with the sharing member.
- What is your favorite candy?
- Do you ever have conflicts or arguments with other people?
- What do you do to calm yourself if you are upset?
- Tell us something you’d like to improve in school.
- What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
More Group Ice Breakers
- All of the 6 group guides in my Get Your Goal On books start out with an ice breaker, such as this very simple one on page 6 of Be Cool: An Anger Management Guide
- I really like the Where We Come From Map ice breaker from educationworld.com. It is especially good for transient populations!
ICE BREAKERS IN SCHOOL COUNSELING – GUIDANCE LESSONS
You can even use icebreakers in your guidance lessons, though it is less likely you will need them here. Generally, the counselor is a classroom visitor in guidance lesson situations, so the students usually know and feel comfortable with each other and with their classroom environment. However, you might use a guidance lesson icebreaker at the beginning of the year or semester when you start with a brand new class that has just been established. Or you might want to employ an icebreaker if you are going to be discussing a sensitive topic such as dating violence or child abuse prevention. In case you need them, here are three ideas for fun guidance lesson ice breakers.
- If your students are feeling stressed during testing season, the opening activity of Stress Management Guidance Lesson-Mindfulness & Growth Mindset can be used as an ice breaker where students watch and then discuss the Michael Jordan Failure video in order to reframe their own thoughts on how failure can be a good thing. You can find this lesson on my School Counselor Stephanie website resources page.
- Game like Good Grades Bingo, work really well to break the ice in a classroom by getting students to relax and have some fun together while introducing effective academic habits. This game promotes bonding if you have students play in pairs or in teams.
- Weareteachers.com has two fabulous movement-oriented icebreakers for the classroom setting: Learn Names with Movement and State Your Opinion.
NEWSY & NOTEWORTHY
- I’ve just started a new feature on my Instagram page called Tuesday Tips where I share a video clip of a school counseling hack I’ve discovered over the years. You can follow my Instragram Page here so you can see each school counseling tip as I present it on Tuesdays!
- I’ve just uploaded a new guidance lesson to my TpT store called Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness. you can check it out here.
- My monthly enewsletter just went out with a free guidance lesson on ice breakers! Join my mailing list at the top of this page to get the freebie today!
This brings me to the end of my February post. Please leave a comment because I’d love to hear how you use ice breakers in school counseling! Catch up with me again in March for my monthly counseling post that I share during the first weekend of every month!