‘We’re All In This Together’–the Perfect Icebreaker!

Helping our students effectively communicate with each other is constantly on the minds of CPM teachers.  At the heart of this is the burning question: what does ‘effective communication’ really mean?  My team and I are researching the powerful combination of equity in time talking and active listening and how we can best model, develop, and observe these important skills in our students.

Today we started Chapter 3 which means new teams!  After using alphabetical order in Chapter 1, and a puzzle pieces team sort in Chapter 2 (I make 4-piece puzzles out of my old family Christmas cards), I decided to directly assign teams for Chapter 3.  I was thrilled to see that I would have enough time to try an AWESOME icebreaker and it went so well that I will be using it at the start of every new chapter for the rest of the year!  It’s one that we did in our Phase 2 training over the summer, and I loved it so much I just had to try it.  Not only did it help team members get to know each other, but the equal talking AND active listening that was instantly required was just PERFECT for our TRC theme and research!! 

This icebreaker is a quadruple Venn diagram, meaning there are 13 blanks created when 4 circles overlap (instead of the normal 3 spaces created when 2 circles overlap).  I’ve named it “We’re All In This Together” (cue the music—and yes, I sang it when I passed it out to my teams, I recommend it!)  The goal of this activity is to fill in things that team members have in common with each other and to learn about what makes each of them unique.  Each team gets 1 board.  Not only is communication essential to this activity, but my students learned quickly that they could not simply dominate and share a bunch of facts about themselves–they HAD to take turns and listen and think about what each other was saying.  This activity truly promoted equity of talking and a necessity for active listening.  It was PERFECT!

I’ve included a picture below from one of my teams.  They did OUTSTANDING with this…every single one of them was forced to talk AND listen from the very start, and they really took their time to find meaning with each other. 

I look forward to doing this again in Chapter 4 as students continue to improve their talking, turn-taking, and listening skills with each other.  It was truly the perfect activity to promote the effective communication skills that we are looking for! 

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