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Instructional Support: BOPPPS Model: Bridge-in / Ice-Breakers

What is a bridge-in and why is it important?

A bridge-in, or ice-breaker, is a way to begin a session or workshop, set the tone, and introduce the content.

Bridge-in activities serve several purposes:

  • helps set the tone of the session and gain the participants' attention;
  • allows participants to feel comfortable and get settled before launching into the content; 
  • helps to build motivation and community within the session;
  • allows the presenter to better understand the participants and their prior knowledge as well as allows the participants to learn more about the presenter.  ​

Sample Ice Breaker Activities

Start Class with a Mind Warm-Up

Ask students to find the mistakes planted in material written on the board. (You can use this idea in any subject area.) But instead of asking them to work silently and alone, and then debrief in a classic question-and-answer session with one student at a time (while many sit inattentively), use a mix of collaboration and competition to eliminate what could potentially become dead time

Here's how: Organize teams of three students and ask them to work together (quietly) and raise their hands when they think they have found all the mistakes. After the first team signals it's done, give a bit more time and then have teams indicate with their fingers -- together on the count of three -- the number of mistakes they found in the work. The team that found the most describes its answers until another team disagrees politely or until they are finished" (source).

Sentence Stems

Form dyads (2) or triads (3) and have participants complete the rest of the sentence. This can be done by the instructor saying the sentence to all or have sheets of paper with these listed so that participants can take their own time in covering them. Here are some examples or think of your own and relate it directly to your content.

  • Before I came to UofS my main interests were... 
  • The way I would describe my family is... 
  • The thing I remember most about high school is... 
  • My fondest memories of another person are... 
  • My most unusual friend is... 
  • My favorite pastimes are... 
  • The things I value most are... 
  • Where I hope to live five years from now ... 
  • Some of the things that make me happy are... 
  • The thing that concerns me most about school is... 
  • The thing I would most like to accomplish this year...

Response Cards
Create a series of response cards to distribute to participants. Cards can be used to elicit responses such as agree/disagree (e.g. thumbs up / thumbs down), true/false, yes/no, and specific emotions (e.g., happy, sad, confused). These cards can be used as an icebreaker (e.g., "how is everyone feeling today?", "How many people have attended this workshop in the past?"), as well as throughout the session (e.g. "who agrees with the statement made by author x?") (source).

Note: the SLS office has a set of 12 small white board to borrow for activities such as this. Ask your coordinator for more information.

Stand Up If You ....
Ask the participants a series of questions; these questions can be general, such as "stand up if you speak more than one language" or can be related to the content of the session, e.g., "stand up if you have taken a session on this topic in the past year".   

Telling a personal story or anecdote is a powerful way of personalizing the topic, humanizing learning and building community in the classroom; plus everyone loves a good story. Start the session with an interesting story about the topic or perhaps a short personal story about how the topic is related to your life (source).

Birthday Partner
Have participants mingle in the group and identify the person whose birth date (not year - just month and date) is closest to their own. Find out two things they have in common. 

Where Were You?
Pick a year or date before the meeting and then give each person a chance to tell what they were doing on that date (e.g. January 1999 or Summer 2012).

Other ideas:

  • Show a relevant video
  • Relate material to current events or interesting trivia / fun facts
  • Ask a hypothetical question, e.g., "Have you ever wondered ..."