Icebreakers for Students – Gotcha Energiser

I know this post is titled ‘icebreakers for students,’ but honestly, the activity I’m about to share with you WILL WORK with any group you can think of. Across my 35+ year career, I have never known it to fail.



Icebreakers for Students That Work


As Chad describes in this video, we get sucked into lots of activity videos too that promise the world but fail to deliver little more enthusiasm than a “meh.”

If this is your experience too, let me introduce you to Gotcha.

I tips me hat to good friend and extraordinary youth leader Ron Townsend, who shared this no-props activity with me in the early 1980s. If I’ve presented this exercise once, I’ve presented it a thousand times. I give thanks to Ron every time I hear the delighted shrieks of joy it evokes.

Its beauty lies in its flexibility. I know of at least a dozen variations. It can be played in pairs, small groups, large groups and whole auditoriums of people if required. But most of all, it’s just super fun.

My generic delivery involves two people facing one another, with right hands outstretched and palms facing the sky. With the index finger of their partner poking into their palms, you probably have everything you need to know to spark engagement.

Indeed, I could be speaking a foreign language and yet, with this set-up, every person in the room will know what’s about to happen.

Of course, with a commanding “GO” you invite every


Why Does this Energiser Work?


It’s important to understand that there is NO magic in any of the activities I play or feature in playmeo’s online database.

Which should cause you to wonder why some activities work better than others.

I think the answer to this question requires a lot more space than I want to devote to this blog today, but…

It’s fair to say there are a handful of reasons that make Gotcha such a wonderful icebreaker for students as much as a fun energizer:

  • It’s super easy to describe, demonstrate and play. There’s no special knowledge or skill level required;
  • There are ample variations, so you can very quickly move on from the dreaded “we’ve done this before…” syndrome;
  • As demonstrated in the video, you don’t even need to touch your partner to play the game; and
  • It works with groups of all sizes, ie you need only 2 or more people to make it work.


But… Will It Work with MY Students?


Students can be a tough crowd, especially those in their pre-teen and early teenage years. There can be a lot of peer pressure to “fit in” and “be cool,” ie plenty of ice.

That said, I don’t see any difference in their behaviour from that of any other group. At our core, humans are basically comfort-seeking machines, and this describes every group of people I have worked with.

Icebreakers are explicitly designed to break the ice, and for some groups, there may be a lot more ice than others. This means it’s on us as group facilitators to carefully design an appropriate sequence of activities that will land sensitively for any group, no matter their age.

If you’d like to learn more about the superpower of sequencing or what makes an icebreaker an icebreaker, click the relevant links below.

Sequencing for Success    What Is an Icebreaker?



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