At a Glance


  • Physics

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP


  • Mechanics

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Discussing
  • Debating

Technical Details

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)

Inclusivity & Accessibility

  • Variety of action & expression

Instructional Purpose

  • Preparation & knowledge activation


Purpose: This ice-breaker is designed for first-semester CEGEP students, aiming to alleviate the typical apprehension and discomfort associated with transitioning to a new academic environment. Its goal is to create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere in the first class.

Teacher introduction: The session commences with the teacher’s introduction and a recognition of the learning space, setting a positive and open tone for the course.

Ice-breaker prompts: Students participate in four ‘zero-stakes’ prompts that encourage them to move around, interact, and share opinions in a non-verbal manner. This phase’s design emphasizes risk-free active participation over passivity, thereby fostering engagement among all students.

Forming groups: As students become more comfortable, the core activity begins. The classroom is set up with several areas designated for group discussions. With groups of approximately four students and their specific locations displayed, students need to form their initial groups. Although the initial grouping may require some time, the process becomes more efficient as the activity progresses and student confidence increases.

Prompting discussion: The class is then given a statement about the nature of science along with a social prompt. The teacher starts a 2-3 minute timer for each discussion. Groups are told to discuss the nature of science statement in the group, and find a consensus within the group by agreeing or disagreeing with the statement, facilitating the groups to think critically about scientific concepts.

Facilitating discussions: Following each discussion round, groups share their consensus on the prompts. As the activity progresses and prompts delve into more complex or controversial topics, different groups in the class might not reach the same conclusion. The teacher should share and explain their opinion, adding depth to the learning experience.

Group dynamics: After 2 or 3 rounds of discussion, groups are reshuffled, giving students the opportunity to interact with more of their peers. While it’s not feasible for everyone to meet each other, this approach ensures substantial peer interaction.

Time management: The duration of this activity can be adjusted by varying the frequency of reshuffling groups and the number of discussion prompts. In an 80-minute class, I have spent 5 minutes on the introduction and 40 minutes for the activity, with the remaining time reserved for pre-instruction baseline tests or assessments such as the FCI.

Follow-up: This ice-breaker serves as a foundation for future lab sessions that delve into the scientific method and lab practices in more detail.

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Engage with peers through structured interactions, ensuring they meet and converse with several classmates.
  • Critically analyze and discuss predetermined statements about the nature of science, identifying and clarifying common misconceptions.

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

  • Enhances social comfort: Reduces student apprehension in a new environment by promoting interaction and community building.
  • Encourages active participation: Students actively engage in discussions, fostering a dynamic learning atmosphere.
  • Introduces scientific concepts: Initiates critical thinking about the nature of science through interactive discussion.
  • Initial group formation: organizing students into groups quickly and efficiently during the first round of the activity can be challenging. To facilitate this, keep the pace lively and use visual aids to indicate group locations, enabling quicker transitions.
  • Facilitate inclusivity: in discussions, more confident students may tend to dominate, potentially overshadowing quieter peers. Utilizing social prompts can help balance this dynamic. After addressing the scientific prompt, the social prompt provides an opportunity for more confident students to engage the less confident ones, inviting their opinions and fostering inclusive dialogue.
  • Finding the right prompts: it’s important to create prompts that challenge students. If possible consider prompts that don’t have right or wrong answers. This approach helps to stimulate discussion and critical thinking. By focusing on prompts that encourage exploration rather than correctness, you can reduce students’ anxiety about making mistakes on the first day.
  • Clear instructions: provide explicit directions for group formations.
  • Facilitate inclusivity: encourage quieter students to share their thoughts and ensure all voices are heard.

Applied Strategies

Related Activities

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Controversy in the Science Classroom: Nature of Science Quiz