Re-Purposing “Ice-Breaker” Activities for Academic Review, Reflection, Context Setting and Formative Assessment

The educators I work with are constantly trying to create a balance of learning in their classes and groups. The challenge is to stretch their time to include building positive relationships and a strong learning community, and promoting important 21st Century skills such as communication, problem solving, and empathy along with the requirements of covering academic or training curriculum content.

Teacher Staff DevelopmentLast fall and winter I shared a series of my favorite tried and true activities to help educators make the most of their time by integrating academic content with group building, problem solving and social-emotional skills development. These interactive strategies help learners practice, review, synthesize, discuss and reflect upon academic material. These activities also act as engaging formative methods. Through playful collaborative learning teachers increase active engagement, promote retention, and enhance learning outcomes.

Here are links to some of those articles:

Recently I shared two versions of “Team Tally” as a group building and “back to school” get to know you ice-breaker and community building strategy. Below is another variation with an academic focus. Last summer I taught a course for teachers at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. We used Team Tally as an ice breaker on the first day of our summer course. Later in the week I challenged the group to find a way to apply it to an academic context. Samantha Parker, a high school science teacher from LSRHS, took on the challenge and created this “Science Team Tally” to use in her physics class to build community among lab groups, introduce physics concepts, create context for upcoming lessons, and promote inquiry. Thank you to Sam for sharing her variation!


Click here to download a PDF: science team tally


Hopefully these examples of “upcycling” activities for multiple purposes will inspire you to adapt activities you already know and use. Please share your thoughts and ideas about making the most of your time with multi-purpose activities that combine community building and social-emotional learning with academic content review, reflection, and formative assessment.

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