When a new team of peers or coworkers convenes for the first time, it may be helpful to play an icebreaking game. This enables people to understand each others' styles, strengths and weaknesses. One way to mix up the traditional icebreaker is to play silent games—games in which team members must find ways to communicate and work together without ever opening their mouths.
Designing in Silence
For this activity, the group should be split into smaller groups of about three or four people. Each group is given a large sheet of paper, like one from a flip chart, and markers. The team members are not to speak to each other, nor are they to communicate by writing on the paper. Instead, the person leading this activity instructs the group to design something, like a t-shirt, shoes or a sports car. Each mini-group has 10 minutes to design the object as a team without communicating, and at the end, each must present its design to the larger group. At this time, groups may also share anything that they discovered about themselves or the communication process.
This game does not involve any actual electricity, but instead tests the reflexes of its players in a competitive setting. Establish two teams with the same number of members. Each team should stand shoulder-to-shoulder, holding hands and facing the other team. At one end of these parallel rows is a ball on a chair, and at the other end is the person leading the activity. Everyone is to close their eyes and remain silent except for the leader and the two opposing team members closest to the leader.
The leader then flips a coin and shows it to the two opposing team members closest to him. If it is tails, they should do nothing, and he will flip again in 10 seconds. If it is heads, the team members start a chain reaction—each person squeezes the hand next to him, and then that person squeezes the next person's hand, and so on. When the last person in line feels his hand squeezed, he must attempt to grab the ball before the opposite player. Whichever team gets the ball first earns a point, and if a player grabs the ball on a “tails” flip, the team loses a point. The first team to 10 wins.
This game allows team members to get to know one another and have fun while doing it. Team members pair off and are given three minutes to share three facts about themselves with the other person—without speaking. They must act these things out so that the other team member can understand. When time is up, team members take turns presenting their partners to the group, reciting what they learned about them or conceding that they did not understand. This activity invites team members to open up, let loose and learn about each other in a relaxed environment.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.