Breaking the ice…

For many schools across the country, especially inner city schools, one of the first challenges of the new year is creating a culture of collaborative and partnership between teachers.  This is a particularly challenging task when, schools see a turnover of teachers and the staff looks new from year to year.

This year, that challenge is facing my school head on as we welcome 11 new teachers (1/3) of our staff to our school for the 2011 – 2012 school year.  And while some schools just introduce the new staff with a quick “hi” during the first staff meeting, ignoring the fact that there are new personalities, strengths and areas of growth with the new staff is something that should not be ignored.

And while we all have been subjected to “ice breakers” and wondered why we have to go through the process of finding someone who likes our favorite flavor of ice cream, or milling around the room looking for everyone who has a birthday in the same month as ours, there is some merit to these activities and a purpose that is deeper then just wasting time.

That said, my school staff will not be working together to put themselves in order based on the date and month they were born, but we will be engaging in some ice breakers that have some deeper underlying implications and will hopefully help people understand the ways in which we work and think.

Personality Compass

It is rare that I engage in an activity that completely changes the ways in which I work with people but this activity did just that for me.  The activity breaks people up by their personalities;

Everyone is asked to determine on their own where they fit in.  Then in groups, you work together to highlight your strengths and then share with the group what you do well.   What makes it so great is that one of the biggest problems in working with groups is people’s different personalities, but knowing what type of personality you are as well as the types of the people in your team definitely help to bring a better understanding of where conflict may arise and how to get past it.

If you facilitate this activity it is a great one to start with because the rest of your professional development activities can work around the varying personalities, you can group people together that work well together or on the flip you can easily pair opposite personalities (North/East) (South/West) creating more of a challenge.  I think that is activity is a must for all teams that work together!!!


What I like about this activity is that it is asking people to come to a decision in a short period of time.  If you add the element of the different personalities then this one really challenges the team.

Working together to decide what items to save if you were stranded on a remote mountain in the middle of the winter is a great way to encourage people to work together to get to the heart at what is not only important for them but also for the group.  It also challenges people to make compromises.

Creating a Yacht

The activity is more of a paired one that could create some interesting dynamics if you have people work together that have had difficulties in the past.  It is also a great way to help merge the new and the old and provide someone that the new people can turn to as they transition in.

Because of the hands on nature of this one, it is a great way get people to have a little fun while also promoting friendly competition as only the best yacht will hold the most pennies.  Additionally, it is a great science activity and it opens the door to modeling a lesson for teachers.

Totem Pole

This activity is also very hands on.  The supporting document is simply the options for the participants to chose from as the activity itself is pretty easy to explain.  Everyone should be given a piece of paper, and art supplies to create their own section of a Totem Pole.

What is great about this activity is that brings art and history together (Art for the obvious reasons – your creating your totem pole segment picture) and history because the facilitator can touch on the significance of totem poles and why they were used.

I also like the idea that it is something the whole staff created and it can be kept in the teachers center or room the staff works in as a reminder of each persons different strengths.  If it is posted on a wall with the key it is a great way for people to be reminded of where each and every staff members strengths are.


Even though there are a ton of activities about there, these have come out of intense research and planning in an effort to find ones that not only showcase possible teaching strategies but to also model lessons as well as provide people some self reflection and some insight into the people who they will be working and collaborating with.  The goal is ultimately to  facilitate an open line of communication between the old and new staff as well as create relationships and partnerships with the entire staff from the beginning.


One thought on “Breaking the ice…”

  1. The Compass is great! I have heard (but never experienced) the idea of taking personality tests and having someone discuss the results. I think most people have a good basic awareness of their personality so self sorting saves time. It makes it more of a warm up activity rather than an entire staff development session.

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