In advance, prepare a large set of ‘ice-breaker’ type questions on a series of index cards.
Distribute one card to each person in your group.
Form into pairs.
Invite each person to ask their partner the question on their card, and vice-versa.
After each person has shared, swap cards.
Each person seeks a new partner, and repeats this process over and over.
Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
Video Transcript for Ice-Breaker Question Exchange presented by Mark Collard
I’ve got a set of playing cards here, although they’re clearly a little bit bigger than what you normally play with. I’m going to ask you each to take a playing card each. So just anything won’t matter whether it’s the top one, middle one, just anything random. You’re welcome to look at it, there’s nothing, there’s no secrets here. Other people will get to see it shortly. Are you sure you want that one? Yeah, okay.
(Group continues to pick a card)
Great, okay, any card, any card, any card. Alright, okay, so you’ve got a card, excellent. Oh, he’s changed his mind at the last minute.
(You didn’t get these off the plane.)
No, I didn’t get these off the plane that’s true. That set of cards is now…
Now every card, apart from its ordinary face value, has a question on the back. I’m going to invite you to do is that you’ll start with one person, it might be the person that is standing next to you or it could be someone you know on the other side it won’t matter.
And your object is having first of all maybe introduced yourself, for example I don’t know your name. What’s your name?
My name’s Mark, pleased to meet you.
And then having perhaps introduced yourself is that you’re going to ask your partner the question that is on the back of your card.
For example I might ask him what’s your most precious possession? He then tells me whatever that might be whatever that might be. And then he will then share his question with me to which I will then answer. When we’ve each answered that question, we swap cards, and then we go find a new person to then exchange with.
Again, you ask the question that’s on your card and then you swap over once you’re finished. Do that as often as you can over the next ninety-two point six seconds. Go!
(Groups starts to ask their questions.)
How To Play Narrative
In advance, prepare a set of ‘ice-breaker’ type questions on a series of index cards – one question per card.
There are hundreds of questions you could use, but to get you started, click the Resources tab to download a set of 40 great ice-breaker questions ready to print onto index cards.
When ready, randomly distribute one card per person. Then, ask each person to find a partner who has similar length of hair to them (or any other fun, random way of splitting your group into pairs).
The action starts with each person introducing themselves, and then one person asking the question on their card. After this person has responded, it’s their turn to ask the question on their card.
Once this sharing has occurred, each person swaps their cards, and then seeks a new partner to repeat the process, over and over again.
With large groups, you could keep this process going for a long time, but normally 15 to 20 minutes is sufficient mixing and sharing.
The key to the questions you develop is that they are non-threatening, interesting and fun to respond to. Questions such as “What is your favourite memory as a kid?” are more likely to generate an enthusiastic response than “Tell me about your most embarrassing moment?”
A useful tip – remind people that they may respond to the question however they choose. They can share as much or as little as they want, with humour, drama or whatever.
On occasions, two people may end up meeting for a second time. That’s okay because more than likely they will have different cards.
It is rare for all pairs to be ready to swap cards and seek a new partner at the same time. Indeed, this is expected. So, encourage people to swap and seek whenever they are ready. Sometimes, this means a couple may have to wait a few moments before another pair have completed their conversation.
Hats off to Ryan McCormick who first demonstrated this exercise to me.
You could integrate Ice-Breaker Question Exchange as part of a well-designed SEL program to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
This icebreaker activity is ideal for practising the highly refined skills of social interaction. Over and over, your group will have the opportunity to practice and develop key full value norms such as being here, being honest and caring for others in their various conversations. Consider inviting your group to reflect on the quality and attributes of their interactions in regards to the development of building positive and trusting relationships.
Core emotional competencies such as empathy, active listening, the ability to read social cues and cooperation are all called upon in this interactive exercise. Consider facilitating a discussion that explores what positive and healthy conversations look like, sound like and feel like (and their opposites) with your group.
Two Answers: As above, but invite each partner to respond to the questions on both cards.
Small Groups: Form groups of three or more, inviting each person in the group to respond to each question, before swapping cards, disbanding and then each seeking new partners to form a new group.
Action-Oriented: For more energetic groups, replace the questions with actions. For example, ‘Perform ten star-jumps in a row,’ ‘Shake the hand of five different people within 30 seconds,’ and ‘Run around the outside of the group as quickly as possible.’
We Connect: Take a look at We Connect Cards, a commercial set of fantastic questions which will help your group interact, connect and share. Dozens of variations.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
If possible, divide your participants into random groups (breakout rooms) of two people (pairs) to get started. Every two minutes, mix these pairings so that each person is invited to share with someone new.
Pre-select a series of questions to pose to your group in advance. If you have a small group, you can all share the same ‘room.’ Invite people to share their responses via video or (if time is limited) by typing their answers into the chat room facility. Honour challenge by choice to ensure safe play.
If you have a large group, consider dividing into smaller groups (2 to 8 people) first and invite sharing inside their respective breakout rooms. Supply the questions in advance, or direct each group where to source their questions, eg PDF.
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Useful Framing Ideas
There is nothing worse than having just joined a group and then being asked to stand up in front of everyone and sharing a little bit about yourself. That’s not going to happen today. Better still, you get to decide what and how much – if anything – you wish to share. And, all of the sharing takes place within the relative safety of a pair…
Ever been to a party, or any social environment for that matter, and got stuck for conversation with someone you have just met? Do you dread the typical “Who are you, where do you come from and what do you do?” type chatter? In this exercise, you don’t have to stress over what to say to kick-off a wonderful and interesting conversation…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this wonderful ice-breaking game:
What did you notice as the activity progressed?
How would you describe the atmosphere within which you shared? Did this assist or limit your sharing?
In the context of our group, is this type of sharing important or beneficial?
Did you notice a shift in the feeling of the group at the end of the sharing? Why?
What character strengths make conversations engaging and successful?
Fun & Interactive ‘Ice-Breaker’ Session 1
What You Need:
10+ people, 30 mins, ‘Ice-Breaker Question Exchange’ Cards (Print+Play), Nonsense Numbers sheet (Print+Play)
Who? – energising name-game that does not require a knowledge of names