Icebreakers and Discussion Starters with Nearpod and PollEverywhere

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Pamela Levine. 

Using technology for ‘First Week of School’ activities serves multiple purposes: 1) conveying to students that their classroom is a place where learning will be engaging, 2) emphasizing the importance of expression and peer learning, and 3) providing safe, low-stakes opportunities to build skills and appropriate practices around our classroom technologies.

I’ve had many First Weeks of School: in elementary school classrooms (in Washington D.C.), in Massive Open Online Courses (at Stanford), and even in Tanzania (as a Peace Corps Volunteer). I currently teach rising educators at the Stanford Graduate School of Education to incorporate technology into their teaching in pedagogically-sound ways. Below are two First Week of School activities using Nearpod and PollEverywhere that can build classroom culture and help establish technology norms and routines.

“1+1=1” Icebreaker on Nearpod.
This icebreaker inspires creativity and collaboration while familiarizing students with Nearpod. 1+1=1 involves combining two objects to design and describe a new invention. Nearpod’s ‘Draw It’ tool is great for this activity: it gives students a canvas on which to draw and insert images, and enables me to collect and share their work in real-time. Students (and adults) get a kick out seeing each other’s 1+1=1 inventions projected on the screen. Alongside engaging with the activity, students learn processes for connecting to, interacting with, and submitting work on Neapod. I also use this time to establish device usage cues and norms (such as “screens up/screens down”). The 1+1=1 icebreaker is appropriate for students and adults of all ages. Give it a try here, and download a copy to use in your own class or presentation here.

Community Building Discussion Starters with PollEverywhere.

Student response systems like PollEverywhere can be a great way to create a safe environment for participation, provide teachers and students with instantaneous formative feedback, and catalyze discussion, debate, and peer learning.

During the first week of school, I familiarize students with PollEverywhere while probing for their expectations and concerns and crowdsourcing their ideas. PollEverywhere’s Word Cloud question type can reveal shared student perspectives on questions like “How can we make the classroom a safe space?” and “When have you felt particularly successful in school?” The Clickable Image question type can be used to collect responses to visual questions, like “Where along this continuum would you describe your communication style?” After surveying the students, I display and use their responses to facilitate dialogue by asking discussion questions like “What trends do you see?”, “What response(s) make you think about the question in a different way?”, or by having students explain and elaborate with a partner about their answer. I think the real educational value in deploying student response systems for teaching and learning comes from these active discussions that follow from using the technology.

There are a myriad of ways to use Nearpod and PollEverywhere for teaching and learning beyond the First Week of School. Using education technology for introductory activities like the ones above provide opportunities to communicate values, teach skills, and model behaviors so that students are prepared to participate with these tools during later lessons and tasks.

It’s been my pleasure to share on Free Technology for Teachers! I welcome your feedback and continued conversation @PossiblyPamela on Twitter and at Have a great First Week of School this Fall!


Thank You Readers for 14 Amazing Years!