ACTIVITY DESCRIPTIONS FOR
CREATIVE AND PLAYFUL WAYS TO ENGAGE LEARNERS PART 1
Creative and Playful Ways to Engage Your Students on Zoom: Activity Descriptions
SHOW YOURSELF IF
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.
The host begins by asking everyone to stop their video.
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:
Show yourself if you have a pet
Show yourself if you are you the oldest sibling
Show yourself if you like ice cream
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.
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.
THREE THINGS IN COMMON
This is another ice-breaker to help participants connect with each other in small groups.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first person will start off with number 1, "Once upon a time" and finish the sentence with whatever they would like.
The rest of the participants will continue in order until they reach number 9.
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.
Once upon a time….
But one day….
Because of that….
Because of that…..
Because of that…..
And ever since then….
The moral of this story is….
This activity gets participants thinking creatively and working cooperatively in very small groups.
The host announces that they are going to send everyone to breakout rooms of 2 each (and possibly a room of 3 if there is an odd number of participants). Once they are in the breakout rooms, they are to think of a team name of one to two words.
The host creates, then sends everyone to breakout rooms. For this first round, about a minute or so is a good amount of time to leave them in breakout rooms. Once time has expired, close the breakout rooms.
Ask everyone to rename themselves to their new team name.
Instruct everyone that they are going to be sent back into breakout rooms in groups of 2 with a new partner. This time, they are going to think of a mash-up of their team names. Another way to word this is that they are trying to think of something that is “in between” their two names. For example, if one person is “eggs” and the other is “flour”, maybe they become cake. If one person is “zoo”, and the other is “spatula”, maybe they become platypus. Encourage the participants to really let their imagination loose, rather than trying to figure out the one “right” thing.
Recreate the breakout rooms. Before you open the rooms, check to see that everyone is now with a different person. If two people from the same team have been assigned to the same room again, you can choose the “exchange” option to the right of their name to switch places with someone in another room. Open the breakout rooms again for another 30 seconds to a minute.
Repeat steps 3-5 as many times as you’d like. 3-4 times tends to a good number of times.
The last step is to send participants to breakout rooms again with their most recent partner (so, instead of “recreating” the breakout rooms this time, you will just open them up again). Their task is to come up with a secret handshake/greeting collaboratively. Encourage them to make use of their bodies and even their video window! Once everyone comes back you can ask each team to share their secret handshake/greeting and then have the rest of the participants repeat it.
10 SECOND SCENES
This activity is great for physicality and creativity.
This is best played in groups of 5-6 participants. You can have participants that aren’t participating stop their videos.
Call out a theme and give the participants 10 seconds (countdown from 10 aloud) to take on a pose of a “character” in that theme. Encourage them to use their imagination and think creatively. For example, if the theme is “beach” encourage them to not only pose as a person sunbathing, but also consider that they can pose as an umbrella, a seashell, the sun, the water, or anything else that might be found at a beach. By the time you’ve counted down from 10, they should be frozen in a pose. If it is appropriate for your group, you might even consider taking a screenshot at this point. These are always fun to look back on later.
Then you try to guess what each participant is posing as. Make sure to have fun with this. The faster and sillier you make guesses, the more enjoyable is it for participants. If you’re stumped after guessing a few times, it’s helpful to use language such as “you stumped me!” or “give us the big reveal!”. This helps the student maintain a positive experience even if you weren’t able to guess what they intended.
*Some themes to consider:
Under the sea