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Icebreakers and Openers

Posted by on March 19th, 2014 Posted in: Blog


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Should you start your classes with an icebreaker? Or an opener? And what’s the difference?

I think of icebreakers as a way to create a comfortable and safe atmosphere for the class or a way for participants to learn a bit about who is sharing the class experience with them. An icebreaker is typically not tied to the content of the course and can be especially useful if the class is going to meet several times or work in teams or small groups.

An opener, on the other hand, is relevant to the content and allows for a bit of networking. I like to start classes with openers because they send a message that there will be active participation in the class and prime the participants to start thinking about the subject of the training. As an opener, you might ask participants something such as:

  • What question do you most want answered about X today?
  • What barriers have you encountered in using X?
  • What do you most often use X to do?
  • What would you do if X happened?
  • What’s your favorite tip for X?

In eliciting responses, you might have your participants jot down their responses first and then share with a neighbor. You might have them write on a sticky note and post it in a shared space and highlight some of the answers together.

There are many ways to engage you participants with an opener, but remember that it should be connected to the content of the session.

Share your best ideas for openers with us on Facebook or Twitter (@nnlmntc)!

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