Chris Schnell
Head of Program Higher Education Art and Design

warmer/ ice-breaker exercise

Hi all
I am wondering if you use any warmers/ ice-breaker exercises
in your creative learning environment you want to share.

Thank you.
Have a great day


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Dan Ross

Posted on 2/6/18 12:48:36 AM Permalink

While teaching animation, I find a big vocab word like "interpolation". I then split the class into teams to see who can find the MOST and LONGEST words (without their cell phones) in a predetermined amount of time. This allows them to 1) start working with each other and 2) they tend to never forget the definition.

Sharon Paster

Posted on 8/6/18 10:55:26 AM Permalink

Very cool and practical​

Shelly Asche

Posted on 6/21/17 5:21:25 AM Permalink

​Great question. I only have 5 months of teaching under my belt and haven't used any icebreakers yet. Would like to implement some of the ideas I see here.

Westminster PT Academy

Posted on 5/8/17 5:20:29 PM Permalink

​I realised that you might not be aware that in the UK the new grading system will be used for a furst time in this summer:

This is one of these I would put my money on the bet that it would not happen: not in the UK and I would lose.

Westminster PT Academy

Posted on 5/6/17 10:31:41 PM Permalink

​I usually ask to draw the gradibg system i.e. the relevant colour and shape for grades D, C, B, A and A* . When they are nearly coone I remind them that the grades should support learning and encourage to get better. Havibg collected their ideas I remind them that we are unlikely to agree about the colours and shapes for each grade. I am looking for the overall theme and it's implementation. ....

Lauren Petiti

Posted on 3/6/17 5:47:47 PM Permalink

​I'm in the process of revamping my warm ups. Currently a typical warm up looks like this: Students are given an image to view, and asked to analyze it. Typically, the analysis consists of identifying various Elements of Art and Principles of Design and explaining how they are used. That works for a while, but I'm starting to wonder if my students are indeed engaged with these...especially if I'm starting to not be excited about them. Next year, I am planning on including things like skill drills, explanation of processes, drawing exercises and even warm ups that allow them to practice their storytelling skills (I'm teaching an animation class).

Antony Pelosi

Posted on 11/10/16 1:25:06 AM Permalink

​I run a lot of workshops with students, I get them drawing different things, often starting with just lines, and moving through different tasks quickly, getting the students to swap there drawings, so they are drawing on someone else's drawing. This allows a freeing up of the drawing. I will also them get the students to lay the drawings on the floor and start moving them around depending on different criteria. get the group to move.

Albert Thomas

Posted on 12/2/16 5:31:23 PM Permalink

Great ideas for movement and collaboration. Thank you for sharing!

Jeff O'Brien

Posted on 11/7/16 6:59:20 PM Permalink

​I teach video, film and broadcasting. To get students situated with the cameras we warm up by having them explain themselves through video. Students partner up and create videos that represent who they are, but they can only use video.

Bernice Young

Posted on 12/21/16 9:13:55 PM Permalink

Awesome idea. I love it! Thanks for sharing.​

David Amore

Posted on 1/13/17 12:01:04 AM Permalink

That's an awesome idea!​

Sharon Paster

Posted on 8/6/18 10:56:39 AM Permalink

Do you offer one of yourself? ​What do you tell the class?

Ella Park

Posted on 10/19/16 11:40:31 AM Permalink

​Yes, Students have sketchbooks. I have used, "21 day Drawing Challenges" but make them 21 week challenges. There are also interesting 5 day challenges. I teach graphic design and Illustration in Houston, TX

Rhitt Growl

Posted on 10/19/16 12:06:08 PM Permalink

Thanks for sharing the 21 day drawing challenges via Lynda. I may have to look into those.​

David Badgley

Posted on 9/23/16 12:39:23 PM Permalink

​Possible suggestions would be found in books like The Process: A new Foundation in Art and Design by Judith and Richard White who are at SVA in New York; Creative Sparks by Jim Krause; and How magazine has a pdf file of past columns complies into one publication titled Creativity Exercises and Inspiration. Lastly there are two iOS apps that are interesting: Whack Pack which offers 84 creative prompts and IDEO offers its deck of prompts called Method Cards with 51 (some are free while others are purchased)

Lauren Petiti

Posted on 3/6/17 5:49:17 PM Permalink

These are great! I might also recommend the book The Imagineering Workout; it's a collection of creative exercises. ​

Michelle Cox

Posted on 9/13/16 12:01:26 AM Permalink

​These are great ideas! Thanks for starting this post, i'm going to implement some into my classroom activities.

Kathleen Dunne

Posted on 9/12/16 8:44:47 AM Permalink

​My go-to is a variation of 'Draw my Life'. Students divide their page into 4 and in each section draw/write about/cut and paste something that is important to you. I give four categories but encourage the students to include whatever they feel is most important. Categories could include 'if I was an animal I would be...', 'in my spare time I like to...', 'a person that is special to me' and 'in the future I want to..'. I always complete one and share it with the class first. Students could present theirs, pass it around the room or display it in the classroom. I love that just from this post I can see ways to improve this activity and have loads of new ones to try out. Thanks everyone!

Deborah Myers

Posted on 9/6/16 11:11:09 PM Permalink


I recently tried this ice breaker with great success:

Cut 8x1/2 papers in half and hand one out to each student. ask a question and have each student write their answer in the upper left hand corner of the paper. (You do one also!) Students are instructed to crumple up their paper into a ball and throw it at another student (avoiding faces:-) It may get loud, but it's ok! Next, each student picks up a paper from the ground and opens it up. Call on each student to share the answer they picked up (no names involved.)

This is a great way for students to get to know something about others in class without having them put themselves on the spot. You will be surprised at how much your student population may have in common!! This can be repeated several times.

Questions can include:

1) Name and describe a talent you possess.

2) What is something you absolutely cannot stand?

3) What is your favorite kind of food? What kind of food do you dislike?

4) Who is the one person you trust most in your life? Why?


Snowball fight in September- so much fun!!


Chris Schnell

Posted on 9/7/16 1:05:50 PM Permalink

thank you Deborah

Rhitt Growl

Posted on 8/4/16 10:04:46 PM Permalink

Chris Schnell

Posted on 8/6/16 1:31:03 PM Permalink

thanks Rhitt

cydney debenedetto

Posted on 10/13/16 10:27:47 PM Permalink

So fun…thanks!​

Leon Irigoyen

Posted on 8/3/16 11:14:43 PM Permalink

Hello! I can recommend many of this activities. Most of them are not design related because are more personally focused. The first one I think is to distribute in your class a whole domino set, one piece per student, so they have to distribute or align themselves accordingly to the one they get. That way you avoid previously established groups or people who don´t want to leave their seats.

Another one that I can think right now, is to make everybody stand up and form a queue according to their birthday (from Jan 1st to December 31th, avoiding the years) but in less than 3 or 5 minutes, depending on your student quantity but, without talking. Nobody can say anything in that time and they have to figure out how to organize themselves, showing ID cards, or writing down the info or things like that. This can be very funny and is a good way to establish a better relation with them.

Depending on the topic, you can use some activities like the "Marshmallow Challenge" or a metal map in groups about some issue, subject or class and that way you make them organize in teams to solve something from the start. Good luck!

Chris Schnell

Posted on 8/6/16 1:31:22 PM Permalink

Thanks Leon

Sylvan Adams

Posted on 7/30/16 8:50:00 PM Permalink

Chris, I am a novice, but learning fast because I am teaching a Introduction to Graphic Design/Digital Arts class for the first time using apps and iPads only. I came up with a plan to help us get to know each other and use Adobe apps straight away. (Adobe Mix and Fix)

Find images of 4 things that define YOU in some way. Create a grid collage with these images. Next have someone take a picture of you. Import it into the app and adjust the opacity of the layers so that we can see YOU and what you love.

Add text: Your Name.

Print them and display them around the room.

Chris Schnell

Posted on 8/6/16 1:32:10 PM Permalink

Thanks for sharing Sylvan

Michelle Cox

Posted on 9/13/16 12:03:07 AM Permalink

​Love this idea!

Ladisha Lee

Posted on 12/5/17 8:55:15 PM Permalink

I love this idea, thanks for sharing!​

Sue Lemmer

Posted on 5/16/16 10:19:28 AM Permalink

We 'play' with images to see what we can create. Students choose an image to begin with, and add something to it, before passing it to the next person. We've done it with set time limits, and pass images around the class with each person adding their own ideas, similar to Chinese whispers

Janet Wentum

Posted on 6/13/16 2:38:26 AM Permalink

love this idea. I'll definitely use it.

matthew leckron

Posted on 7/5/16 11:36:34 PM Permalink

How do you have the students pass the image back and forth? Do you have them save it to a shared folder on the schools server?

Rhitt Growl

Posted on 9/9/15 1:28:41 AM Permalink


I hate to revive this old thread but I came across some creative exercises the other day and thought I'd share. I got these from a post by Amy Burvall but they originally came from Foursquare's Product Experience Team. You can check out the list of their activities here. If you liked the Caffeine for the Creative Team stuff you'll like these.

You may also want to check out some of the resources that Amy posts on her G+ page. She usually shares some good drawing and photography exercises.

Chris Schnell

Posted on 6/14/16 3:49:25 PM Permalink

thanks for sharing Rhitt and thanks for reviving the thread :-)

Ian Upton

Posted on 4/22/15 10:00:43 AM Permalink

A technique I use regularly is 'post-it buddying'. If I have set an activity in the class, where students are working on something creatively, I create post-it pairs (A/A B/B C/C etcetera) as I wander around checking stuff out pair up students. I try and match by ability and as much physical distance as possible.

At the end of the activity I shout A / B / C. Hands get raised so students can see buddies and I ask them to share / criticise what they have been doing with each other. Creates lots of energy and movement. Room is usually buzzing so much it is difficult to move on!

I am sure this kind of stuff is in the books referenced here. Will demo check out (thanks David and Rhitt)!

Good suggestions Wendy and Tim too. Noted as 'to try'! Thank you!

Chris Schnell

Posted on 4/22/15 1:43:57 PM Permalink

thank you Ian
sounds like a very energising activity.

will try it out in one of the next sessions

Chris Schnell

Posted on 4/22/15 1:43:57 PM Permalink

thank you Ian
sounds like a very energising activity.

will try it out in one of the next sessions

Tina Krosse

Posted on 6/22/17 1:13:01 PM Permalink

​I only teach juniors and seniors, so both groups came up with the idea of pairing up a junior(1st year student) with a senior(2nd year student). My juniors love getting feedback from their senior and the seniors enjoy giving their wisdom back to the juniors. They even want a project where the juniors start it and the seniors finish it off...will use this one in the coming year.

Tim Bateup

Posted on 4/17/15 3:57:32 AM Permalink

In Photoshop, to recap on a previous lesson of using the Clone Tool and Spot Healing Brush, I give students an image and tell them to create a "Spot the Difference" puzzle in 5 minutes. They will then swap computers with their elbow partner and complete the puzzle they created.

Just a short and sweet activity to refresh their memory from the previous lesson.

Rhitt Growl

Posted on 4/18/15 11:51:13 AM Permalink

Like the idea of including something from a previous lesson and the "Spot the Difference" puzzle. Might have to try this one. Thanks for sharing.

Chris Schnell

Posted on 4/22/15 1:10:06 AM Permalink

thank you tim for sharing your spot the difference activity.
We use the spot the difference in illustrator and students like it a lot

Chris Schnell

Posted on 4/5/15 11:23:31 AM Permalink

thank you for sharing Wendy.

Wendy Turrentine

Posted on 4/2/15 9:38:28 PM Permalink

Hi Chris --

I started something called The Doodle Assignment. I post a creative quote (found on Pintrest), and allow the students the first five minutes of class to do a doodle in an Art Journal or composition book. I supply color pencils for those that want to provide a more detail interpretation of the quote. Some tend to go back between assignments to do a more detailed illustration. This is a way to get the students "creative juices" started. Most of the students love the concept. Those that don't, just draw stick figures to earn the grade. Yes, I grade them weekly. I have seen some great interpretations of plain everyday quotes. This was shared with a fellow staff member and has been adapted for use in the ESL curriculum.

Anitza Geneve

Posted on 4/22/15 10:42:49 AM Permalink

I think this exercise is a great way to help people get into a 'creative' space or flow:)

David Conover

Posted on 2/15/15 2:43:33 AM Permalink

Hello Chris,

I recommend that you explore this author Sivasailam Thiagi Thiagarajan.

Chris Schnell

Posted on 2/15/15 2:34:29 PM Permalink

thank you David

Rhitt Growl

Posted on 2/13/15 2:59:27 PM Permalink


I picked up the book, Caffeine For The Creative Team a few years back. It is filled with fun warm-up/ice-breaker activities for creatives (and non-creatives). I like if for the classroom because all of the activities require at least one partner, you complete most of them with the materials you have in your room, and they can be completed in a short period of time or be stretched to fill a whole class period.

Chris Schnell

Posted on 2/15/15 2:35:11 PM Permalink

thank you Rhitt. I will have a look at the mentioned book.