Pictogram icebreaker


This is an icebreaker that works well for group sizes from 4 people upwards. It could be used at any time early on in a course. The fact that the prompts are pictorial gives a very interesting spin to the activity – it helps create a relaxed, fun, open-ended atmosphere and means that everyone can contribute. Some hidden artists might emerge!


1 This is the teacher demo stage. Go up to the board and draw three quick sketches (no words at all):

  • one to represent something you do in your free time
  • one to represent something interesting that you once did in your life
  • one to represent something about your job

Now ask the students to try to guess what the pictures represent. Engage in a little light banter about yourself as a way to create a relaxed atmosphere.

2 Hand out a sheet of blank paper to each student, and ask them first to fold it down the middle to make a long thin strip, and then to fold it in again at both sides to make the long strip divided into three. The idea is that when they unfold the paper there should be six sections.

3 Draw a diagram on the board with the six sections, and write these words in the boxes:


Free time

Something interesting

I once did

My company’s business activity

Something I like

about my job

A current project

Now ask the students to unfold their sheets of paper, and draw pictures in the six sections to represent the topics in the boxes.

4 When they finish, they talk about their pictures with a partner. With a small group you can put the students into pairs, with a larger group they can stand up and mingle and find a partner themselves.

5 (Optional) If time allows, you can regroup the students into new pairs and they can repeat the discussions of the pictures with a new partner.

6 When the discussions have finished, tell the students that you would like them to introduce their partner to the rest of the group. (A large group who have been mingling should sit down first). Nominate a confident student to go first, and then continue with pairs introducing each other.

Notice that students are not directly introducing themselves – they are being introduced by a partner – so be aware of cases where someone wants to add or correct something about themselves to avoid misunderstanding.