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Creative and Playful Ways to Engage Your Students on Zoom: Activity Descriptions



This is an ice-breaker to help participants who are meeting for the first time to connect with one another and see what things they have in common.


  1. The host begins by asking everyone to stop their video.

  2. The host then states a prompt that begins with “Show yourself if…” and can be followed by whatever you’d like. Ask participants to start their video if the prompt is true for them. Example prompts include:

    1. Show yourself if you have a pet

    2. Show yourself if you are you the oldest sibling

    3. Show yourself if you like ice cream

  3. Once the participants have shown themselves, pause a moment to allow all participants to take in everyone who has shown themselves. Then ask everyone to stop their videos again.

  4. Repeat for as many times as you’d like. Once you have done several rounds, you may choose to ask other participants to provide their own prompt. Feel free to give them the option to do so vocally, or to type their prompts in chat where you can then read the prompt out loud for them.


This is another ice-breaker to help participants connect with each other in small groups.


  1. The host informs the participants that they are going to be split into groups of 2-4 (depending on how many are in the session) using breakout rooms. While in the breakout rooms, they are to find 3 things they have in common that are not obvious based on their appearance. This encourages participants to get deeper and look beyond the surface.

  2. Create, then open the breakout rooms. You can review how to do this by watching the video of our session that will be distributed to you shortly. 4-5 minutes should be sufficient, depending on the size of the breakout room groups.

  3. Once time has expired, close the breakout rooms and ask participants to share what things they found in common with one another. You can ask them to do this vocally themselves, or to type in the chat and read aloud for them.


This is a great warm-up activity to get participants engaged and present. We often use this before having them engage in more involved storytelling activities like Story Spine.

  1. You may choose to have participants do this activity all together in the main session, or if you have a group larger than 10, you may choose to split them up into breakout rooms.

  2. Assign a number to each of the participants and ask them to rename themselves by placing their number in front of their names. This creates an order -- essentially a “virtual circle”. We find it easiest if the host assigns number 1 to themselves.

  3. The host holds an imaginary ball and “passes” the ball to the next person in sequential order by throwing the ball directly into the camera. When passing the ball, the host says a word.

  4. The next person “catches” the ball, repeating the word that was passed to them by the previous person. They then pass the ball to the next person, saying the first word that comes to mind.

  5. This continues until the last person catches the ball and then passes their new word ball to the first person. The cycle repeats for as many times as you wish.

Notes: This activity should be done quickly. When people play this game for the first time, they may want to spend a lot of time thinking of the “right” word. It’s helpful to remind them the right word is the first word that comes to mind and the objective is to be as quick and spontaneous as possible.



Story Spine is great at keeping participants engaged and gets them to create a fun story together, which in turn helps to establish a sense of community. You can keep this general, and it's also great for incorporating themes or content from class.

  1. The host will ask participants to rename themselves by placing a number in front of their name, from 1 to 9. At this stage, it's also helpful to paste the Story Spine in chat so the participants can easily follow along. You'll find the complete story spine at the end of this description.

  2. The first person will start off with number 1, "Once upon a time" and finish the sentence with whatever they would like.

  3. The rest of the participants will continue in order until they reach number 9.

  4. This activity can also be done in smaller groups, or even just in pairs like the two of us demonstrated in our session with Leo the Matzo Ball.


   Story Spine:   

  1. Once upon a time….

  2. Everyday…..

  3. But one day….

  4. Because of that….

  5. Because of that…..

  6. Because of that…..

  7. Until finally…..

  8. And ever since then….

  9. The moral of this story is….



Objective: Develop “group mind”. Reading the room, being present with each other. 


  1. The group will be counting one person at a time in a random order starting with 1.

  2. Whenever two people two people say the same number at the same time, the group resets and starts back at 1.

  3. The facilitator can state that the group is trying to attain a specific goal, like reaching the number 10. They can also make the goal to reach as high a number as possible.


Notes: This game is a great closing activity for a session. It can be done repeatedly throughout the class term. It’s fascinating to see how much higher the group is able to get over time. It’s a wonderful way to observe the group mind that they are developing and how much more connected they are getting with each other as they get better at counting. Just keep in mind that they may not be really great at this at first, and that’s fine too!

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