4 Activities to Skyrocket Engagement

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.