Ice breakers do exactly what they say on the label – they help break that layer of cold nervousness and comfortability that always exists when people who don't know each other so well are thrown together to form a new group. You will need to run a few ice-breakers at your Birthright orientation day but don't think once you've played one or two games your work is done, once on the trip at least for the first few days you'll need to be in ice-breaking mode until the group gels and bonds and friendships start to form.
Here are five great icebreakers to get you thinking.
1. Meeting Time
Write up a schedule running from 9am-5pm and give each participant a copy. Next to each hour write a subject such as interests, family, Israel. You can repeat these subjects if you wish. Next allow the group three minutes to mingle around the room and book appointments with other participants. At the end of this time, everyone should have a busy schedule of meetings ahead of them at which they will get to know those people a little more.
Tell the group that each meeting will last 5 minutes and the time is now 9.05 and they are late or their first meeting. Every 5 minutes call out the new time, e.g. 10am, 11am 12. etc. After the 12 O clock meeting you can invite everyone to take a quick snack before running off to their 1 O Clock meeting. At the end of this activity you will have helped get the group meeting and greeting and these conversations will hopefully continue.
2. Name Ball
The most important part of an orientation is giving the group the chance to learn each others names.
You should give everyone a name label which will help, especially since people cannot be expected to remember 45 new names at the first time of asking.
One idea is to split the group into 2 teams as if you are playing netball. Choose one person from each team to be the basket for their team and they should stand at the opposite end of te room to their team. Next simply explain that whenever a person throws the ball they have to shout their name. There is no physical contact allowed.
3. Name and Action
The name and action game is great for getting people to loosen up and share their names and personality with others. Everyone has to make an action which describes their personality whilst saying their name. For example, Adam might say his name by waving his hands in the air while David might take a bow when saying his name. After each person says their name and action the whole group has to repeat it which is often highly entertaining and helps the group to loosen up.
4. Introducing my neighbour
As simple as it sounds, the group is asked to sit in a circle preferably next to someone they don't know so well. Next, give each 5 minutes to meet each other and find out as many interesting things they can about each other, because when the time is up they will have to introduce that person to the group. This game is fun, allows people to share information, and helps build a relationship with another group member.
5. Concentric circles – Speed dating
Sit the group in two circles facing each other with an equal number of people in each circle.
You should have a whistle and explain when you blow the whistle the two people facing each other should start talking. They need to introduce themselves and then speak about a given subject for example, their families, interests, connection to Israel, favorite Jewish holiday etc...
This game is one of the best for helping people to meet new people and facilitating those awkward conversations.