Philip L Hayes, EMT, EMS-I, FO
An “icebreaker” can be your first opportunity to get your students talking. Some students may not look forward to coming to class if they are juggling many work responsibilities or have just been assigned to attend the course by their employer. It is very important that thought be put into what activities would work best for your students to put them at ease right away.
When conducting icebreakers, give ample time to get the group to warm up. This sets the tone for the rest of the course. The time is well invested.
What Works Best
Icebreakers work best when they are simple, not too personal and are not embarrassing. Offer the option for a student to pass on the activity if they are not comfortable. Clarify to make sure the group understands the directions to create a comfort level upfront. Explain what the group will gain by performing the exercise. Time the exercise to keep the group on track with their mission.
My Favorite... The "Get To Know Ya" form.
Below is a link to download one of my favorite icebreakers, the "Get To Know Ya Form". It's a simple form that students bring with them as they get up and walk around the classroom to introduce themselves to each other. As they speak to each other, I ask that they learn a little about each other's personal interests. As they make their rounds, they are to try to find someone who can "sign-off" on one of the blocks in the “Get To Know Ya” form. I let them know that I am also going to participate in the exercise and can sign off on a block in their form. This often makes it a little easier for the shy or timid to get started. Some of the blocks, just about anybody can sign off on. Others, there is a good chance that I may be the only one who can sign off on it. When you look at the PDF form, you will see what I mean. My "Get To Know Ya" icebreaker is really customized for me and my style of teaching. I strongly suggest you make one that works for you.
My "Get To Know Ya" Ice Breaker can be found at:
While you can find extensive resources about icebreakers on the Internet, I recently put out a request for some feeback for creative ice breakers that work for EMS Instructors. I got some great responses:
Kevin Brennan of the Westwood Volunteer Fire Department and Westwood Volunteer Ambulance Corps likes to use the "Tell the group about MY BRUSH WITH FAME" ice breaker because it gives him instant flavor for his audience, and because it avoids the issues of international customs, etc.
David Andrade, EMT-P, EMS-I gave some examples that he has used in management training, the military and in High School Science classes. Many of the examples he cited can easily be modified to work in the EMS teaching environment. For Instance, "Marooned" is an exercise in which you divide the class up into small groups and tell them that they are marooned on an island. Each group is allowed only five pieces of equipment off an ambulance. What five pieces would they choose and why?
I hope you enjoy these suggestions. I am sure there are other great ones out there. Lets be sure to pass them around and share the wealth.