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4 Activities to Skyrocket Engagement

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Struggling to get students engaged in virtual or in person classes? Here are 4 simple, no cost, energizing ice melters that can be used to boost engagement throughout the year.

Hot Take

This is a good activity for the first few minutes of a meeting on any virtual conferencing platform, or for a short brain break. It gets people moving and laughing a little, reacting to popular culture references, foods or fashions.


This activity requires very little preparation. It’s good to have a list prepared ahead of time. The list should include things people are likely to have an opinion about. Be sure to have things on your list your group will be familiar with. It works best and is the most fun if the group have their cameras on.


1. Invite the group to turn their cameras on or to be ready to put their reactions in the chat.

2. Give directions: “We will be learning things about each other in a series of ‘Hot Takes.’ I will say the name of a thing or a category and your job is to react. Your reactions are only ‘Yes, I really like that thing!’ Or ‘No, that thing is not for me.’ Yes is designated by waving your hand in front of the camera. No is designated by crossing your arms to make a big X in front of the camera. It’s important to be able to see your screen when you do it so you can see others’ reactions."

3. Practice the signs, making sure you and the group can see each other when they do them.

4. If people can’t turn on their cameras, they can put their reactions in the chat.

5. Read a list of foods, pop culture references, fashion faux pas, etc. For example, your list might include:

-Oatmeal raisin cookies

-Pineapple on pizza

-Socks with sandals


-The Star Wars franchise

-Jar Jar Binks

-Superhero movies

Whatever you can think of that is appropriate for your group will work. It’s fun to throw in things that are “controversial,” but not serious.

*Facilitator tip:

-Invite additional explanations or clarifications in the chat too. It’s a good way to get conversation flowing.

-It’s important to have a sign for both the yes and the no options. This encourages participation and gives a signal that both opinions are respected.

-After the group sees what kinds of things you’ve listed, ask them to give suggestions of their own, either by unmuting or by typing them in the chat for you to read out.


Reflect: Usually, reflection is very short or not done at all. What questions do you ask when you process this activity?

Connect: Look at how much we have in common! Grow: Generally, moving on to the next activity right away allows the facilitator to use the energy built during this activity. It can be a great tool to get people comfortable turning their cameras on & off and using the chat. It allows the facilitator to model the expectations they have for utilizing the chat during the meeting and gives people the opportunity to practice in a low-consequence environment. It’s also a good conversation starter, which can improve participant engagement.

Source: Jessa Lytle, Assistant Director, University of Michigan Adventure Leadership and Timmy Foster, National Trainer, Sources of Strength

Tiny Teach (VIRTUAL)

Activity in partners that facilitates laughter and learning.


For this activity, participants should come prepared to teach one another a small skill that they possess. Hence, it can be helpful to give them advanced notice or some time to brainstorm before beginning.


1. Prepare to split the group up into pairs and give them their own virtual room.

2. Give pairs some time (10-15 min) in which to teach each other a small skill that they have. This skill can be anything, so encourage participants to be creative and/or silly!

3. Once each pair has finished teaching, gather the group back together and ask individuals to share the skill that they learned.


Reflect: What adjectives would you use to describe your experience learning something new in this activity? How were you surprised during this activity?

Connect: What about this activity helped you to feel more comfortable with your partner? Why?

In this activity, everyone had a unique skill that they got to share with others. What other unique traits do you possess that you want to share with the group?

Grow: What is a skill that you want to learn or develop? Share one that is physical (like the ones shared in this activity) and one that is more personal (a trait you want to practice more, etc). Moving forward as a group, how will we make sure that the skills and talents that everyone has are shown off and appreciated?

Intuitive Handshake (VIRTUAL)

An engaging opener relying on nonverbal cues.


In person, this is done in mingling pairs. Set up breakout rooms that participants can pass in and out of in pairs.


1. Each participant picks a number from 1 to 5 in their minds: this is how many “shakes” they will do for their handshake.

2. Participants meet in breakout rooms and offer their hand in view of the camera to virtually shake with their partner. Using nonverbal cues, each participant will try to find out if this person has the same number in mind.

As a closer, instead of choosing a random number, have participants chose the number of nuggets of knowledge you will take away from this session or another point of reflection. After finding a matching partner, share what those takeaways are.


Reflect: Did you find someone who was thinking of the same number as you?

Source: This activity is a virtual variation of an activity created by Nate Folan.

The Number Game

Individual challenge that facilitates goal setting and efficiency.


For this activity, each participant will need a copy of the numbers sheet. The link to the sheet is provided in the "Source" section. The game can be played in person (safely distancing if needed) or virtually - instructions are provided where the number sheet is found.

Unique Prop: numbers sheet (see "Source")


1. Explain the goal of the activity to participants: to, starting at "1", see how high they can count by finding each number in sequence on the page (1, 2, 3... to a maximum of 60). To do this, they will hover their finger over each number in order.

2. Begin the first round with participants looking at the sheet and trying to count as high as they can for 60 seconds.

3. Once time is up, have participants hide their paper and record the number that they got to. Take some time as well to discuss how the round went, any tips that participants discovered, and any goals that participants would like to set for themselves.

4. Continue to play more rounds in this manner. A good minimum is 5 rounds, and a good maximum is 10.


-Participants will only get to look at the numbers sheet while they are being timed (no studying between rounds)

-Every number 1-60 is provided on the page, so participants may not skip numbers

*Facilitator Tip: at some point in the activity, you can give group members the following hint (if they would like): the sheet is organized by odd numbers on the left side of the page and even numbers on the right side*



-How did this round feel?

-Create a goal for the number you want to count to. How did it feel to meet this goal? How about to fall short of it and/or surpass it?

-What were you thinking during each round?


-What is an example of a time when you felt similarly to this activity? Why?

-What are some other goals you have made (in life, school, work, etc)? How do those compare to this activity?


-If you were to do this activity from the beginning again, what is something you'd like to do differently from the start?

-What is something you learned from this activity that you'd like to take into the next one?

Source: Chris Cavert

For more information about this activity and access to the numbers sheet required for it, check out this blog post:

Learn more about these activities and how to go beyond melting the ice with Bryn and Lucinda at the first session of our Play and Grow Interactive Web Series on Tuesday, January 19. In this series of interactive webinar work-and-play-shops from Kikori and Whole Planet, you will experience the activities for yourself and learn how and why to use them in YOUR classroom. Register for the entire series on our Facebook Events page - for FREE!

About the Presenters:

Lucinda Martinelli is the creator of Whole Planet Consulting, an education consulting company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During the last three decades, Lucinda has worked in classrooms, after school programs and outdoor experiential education settings transforming groups of students and adults into fully functioning teams. She is passionate about helping educators of all kinds transform the classroom and the learning process into a collaborative and exciting adventure. Her interactive, engaging training programs teach educators to guide Social Emotional Learning, build a collaborative culture, empower students to learn and rekindle their joy of teaching. Learn more about Whole Planet Consulting at

Bryn Lottig is the co-founder of Kikori, an app for educators that aligns experiential education activities with teaching and social emotional standards. Bryn is a sought-after expert in experiential education and an Adventure Program Coordinator at Arbor Vitae-Woodruff, an Expeditionary Learning school. She received her Master's degree in Adventure Based Experiential Education from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Although she has over a decade of experience working with youth, she really refined her facilitation skills by working in the Leadership Program at Camp Manito-Wish YMCA for the last 10 years. She lives with her husband, two children in Northern Wisconsin. To learn more about Kikori and their work, visit

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