I have never needed to lead an icebreaker – until #TMC13 when I facilitated the Middle School Math Morning Sessions. I teach at a small private school. Almost all of our kids have known each other since early elementary school. The class size goes from 16 to 32 from 5th to 6th grade. However, they have tons of bonding time and activities together before they go to math class so I don’t really need to do an icebreaker.
I was nervous about leading the MS Morning session, especially since we had almost 40 people signed up! Several participants had told me they were nervous too so I wanted an icebreaker that would be fun and get us moving. Since there were too many people in the room to do musical chairs, we had a snowball fight instead! This was my first time every doing a “Snowball Fight” but I think it turned out pretty well. I sure had fun and people were laughing, so I think it made us all loosen up a bit that first morning of TMC. I wish I had taken a picture!
SNOWBALL FIGHT! – How to Play:
- Don’t tell them you are having a snowball fight!
- Give everyone a half sheet of paper. You should play too!
- Have everyone write their name and three things about themselves on the paper. You can let them write whatever or chose things for them to write about. @pegcagle suggested two truths and a lie, which incorporates TWO icebreakers!
- After everyone is finished, tell them to crumple their paper up. You will get strange looks.
- Then, tell them to have a snowball fight! We kept picking up the paper and throwing it for a few minutes. I would suggest this as the first throw is someone curious/skeptical/reserved and people have more fun as they throw more. Don’t let them throw too much or it could get crazy. 😉
- Call cease snowball! Then have everyone grab a snowball.
- I start to model what to do. I called out the name on the paper and then read their three things. Then they read and so on.
** Warning – You may lose a snowball! We did! In that case, you will have to improvise. This ended up funny and then even more funny when we found their snowball later. I would tell the lost snowball that their snowball has magic hiding powers and then offer them a treat so they won’t feel bad.
- You could leave the name off and let students guess who it was after reading the things? I’m not sure I like this as much though bc I really liked looking at the people when they were being talked about. However, it may be less embarrassing for students if people aren’t looking at them when their items are read. Thoughts?
- It would be fun for everyone to get in a line according to whose snowball they have. Then they would all have to ask names and talk to each other (if they didn’t know each other) in order to line up.
- I think this could also work really well as an activity instead of an icebreaker using math questions. Students could make up a math question, have a snowball fight, and then solve the problem on a snowball they pick up. They could then get with the person to see if their answer’s matched.
I have only done this once and never in a class of students. I think that it would be fun as an activity in addition to an ice breaker. I would love to hear any variations that you have done – or can come up with – in the comments!
Hi. Thank you for all your great ideas. I have used Snowball Fight with math problems where each person has to find the other person with their same problem and then solve it together. I also was at a workshop where an instructional passage was cut into pieces, we played Snowball Fight and then the pieces of the passage were read in order. One caution: Be sure to tell students (middle schoolers in my case) to avoid the face and eyes. One student said she was hit in the eye and went to the school clinic. I was worried I would be called in to explain to the principal, or that I would have to deal with an angry parent. These scenarios never materialized, but after that I had them throw the papers into the middle of the room, and not at each other. I know it made it less fun, but they were still happy to be up, throwing something, and then finding their work partner.
Hahaha! Yep, that sounds just like middle schoolers! 🙂 How did they know the order? Were they numbered? I really love that idea. It would be a GREAT to have a first day of school message!
Yes, the pieces of paper were numbered and we gathered in a circle to read the pieces in order. I like your idea of a first day of school message. We start school Monday August 12. This is my first year in high school and I will have 3 sets of 9th graders (Algebra 1 with CPM) for a 2 hour block each set. This would be a great way to go over the syllabus maybe and make it a little more exciting.
Awesome! Thanks so much for clarifying that for me. 🙂
I have done the snowball activity in my classroom of 6th graders last year. We used it as a review activity with colored paper. Which ever color they picked up they had to go find that math problem and solve it. The kids loved it and I did too! 🙂 I might try it as an ice breaker as well!
Did you have the problems posted around the room on the same colored paper? This is neat – I love anything with colored paper!
The math problems were labeled based on the colors of paper. They were laying on a desk in front of my room but I think it would be great to hang them up and make it like a scavenger hunt. My students would always ask to play as a review before test days.
Yes, mine love scavenger hunts too! They love moving around the room. Middle schoolers. 🙂
It was the perfect type of icebreaker for the session! The most interesting aspect of the activity was the am-I-really-supposed-to-throw-the-paper?-look on everyone’s faces. Imagine what students must think! Although your students already know each other, perhaps a snowball fight will relieve some first-day of school jitters.
Yes – I loved how no one really threw it, the FIRST time. Then, we got into it! I was worried it would bust until all of the fun emails started up. Then, I knew we would probably have fun with it. lol! I think it would be a great intro to show students how much fun math class can be!
Great activity! I have done this activity with problems, and the students love it. The students will write the problem on a whiteboard, and I put the answers to all of the problems on the smart board. This activity is great, but I would not use it until your students understand your class routines and what you expect of them otherwise it can get out of hand. I usually do three rounds each time we play.
Can you explain more about your set-up? Do you give them the problems and then they work them out on the whiteboards? Do they write on the “snowballs”?
The students will have the whiteboards at their desks before we start ( paper and pencil work too), then I will pass out the problems (usually 2-3 per person) and they will wad them up if necessary. They have the fight for approximately 30 seconds, then I tell them to stop and work out their problems. I am free to walk around and check understanding while the students work on their problems. After a few minutes, the answers are revealed on the board, and students collect more snowballs and we repeat. At the end of class the students put the snowballs in a basket to be reused for the other classes. Your students could write on the snowballs, but then you would be limited to the number of times you could solve problems.
I first saw this activity at a conference put on by Heather Hart. She has put together many games and fun ideas to practice problems. She also sells sets that are already put together.
Oh! That’s brilliant so you can re-use the snowballs! Thanks so much for clearing it up for me. You should blog about it! It’s a great activity!
I have used this often when presenting for adults at staff development and only once with students. I like that you just let students throw the paper. I think I tried to regulate it too much, telling them how many times they could throw. Love your idea of using it as an icebreaker. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much Kim. I actually didn’t even think about it. But, our first throw was pretty inhibited (with adults). So, when people started throwing more I encouraged it. It didn’t really have a “snowball fight” feel until they really started flying. It was really fun for me. With students, I would probably (have to) cut the lights to have them stop.
I did something similar to this last year for a test review. Students worked a several problems on a blank sheet of paper, crumpled it up threw the balls around for a minute then we stopped picked up a snowball and graded it. Snowballs were then returned to the original owners so each student could review and ask questions if needed. The students loved it, however I noticed two small negatives: we had trouble locating all of the snow balls and after more than one round of problems the crumpled papers were too hard to read. The kids love it though!
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A way to organize this idea for students is as a review game. I create 5-6 different sets of problems (10-12 problems per set) that need to be reviewed. I make 6-8 copies of each problem set but on a different color paper. (Ex: adding fractions on blue, subtracting fractions on yellow, word problems on green, etc.) I put the students in a large circle around the room, all facing in. Students need a piece of scrap paper, a pencil, and whatever else you allow/need for the given problems. Students write the color names at the top of the scrap paper and as they do the different problem sets, they cross off the color name. This scrap paper is where they record all of their work and solutions. To start, I randomly hand out colored papers to all students. I set the timer for 4-5 minutes and students work individually, NOT writing on the colored paper but on the scrap paper. I circulate to help. When the timer goes off, students crumple up the colored paper and on my “GO” they throw the snowball (colored paper) across the room. Then, they go find a different color and the process starts over. At the end, if I am feeling brave (which I always do), I stand in the middle and let them throw the snowballs at me! Kids LOVE it, work very hard during the short time given for practice and in the end, how much can a paper wad really hurt!?! .. Hope you have fun!
I like it. That first day of school is so boring (teachers and students).