So school started yesterday, and I tried an ice breaker for the 2nd time, that I designed a few years back. Overall, I think it went great!


Intended outcomes 

  • Recognition of the benefits of developing a plan before taking action.
  • Team work – students must work together to accomplish this task.
  • Problem solving – Odds are, they students will need 3 to 6 “three minute” attempts with minor modifications to their approaches each time to complete this task. This means the students will have to identify problems and propose solutions
  • Meet & Greet – self explanatory.
  • Final product makes a great wall decoration for the room.

Resources: A3 or similar size heavy weight poster paper, scissors, rulers and colored pencils / markers.

  1. Draw out as many puzzle pieces as you need on the paper. Try to avoid obvious points of connection as you want this to be difficult to reassemble. For example, mix curves and straight edges, but have multiple pieces connect at corners or in the middle of a curve.
  2. Cut out each piece
  3. Give each student 1 puzzle piece and have them decorate it with their name and imagery / colors that represent themselves. 15 minutes.
  4. Ask the students to quickly present their puzzle piece and describe the significance of what the drew.
  5. Divide the class into 3 groups and give them 3 minutes to “assemble” their puzzles. Odds are, no group will achieve any significant success.
  6. After 3 minutes, ask the students why they were unable to assemble the puzzles. Take notes on the board, and then ask them to provide solutions.
  7. Repeat the process until they have completed the task.

Do not give any front loaded advice or guidance. Allow the students the chance to figure our for themselves what they don’t know, or need to know to be successful. examples:

  • Which side of the pieces goes “face up”? – Not all students will color the correct side of their puzzle pieces.
  • What is the final shape of the puzzle supposed to be?
  • Do they have all of the pieces? – You might not want to hand out all of the pieces at the start as this is great for them to realize they might be working with an incomplete puzzle.

If they need guidance, here is my advice:

  1. Attempt 2 – Recognizing their pieces probably don’t fit together, I encourage collaboration by allowing each group to send a student to trade pieces with other groups
  2. Attempt 3 – What’s missing? Asking the students about doing a real puzzle, how do you know you have all the pieces? Here I hand out the unused pieces.
  3. Attempt 4 – Shape? I ask the kids how they will know when it is correctly assembled. What is it supposed to look like. I tell them the paper size
  4. Attempt 5 – Up or down? Assuming they have not figured this one out, we talk about how to identify which side of the pieces should face up. It can be identified by finding the pencil lines you original drew to cut the pieces.