Ice breakers can be used at the beginning of some intergenerational sessions to help people of different ages feel comfortable with each other. An ice breaker should only last 5-10 minutes and can be followed by a short discussion of what participants learned from the activity.
Round up: Kindergarten and Older
- Ask the group to stand or sit in one large circle.
- The facilitator stands in the middle and announces a category such as:
- Likes chocolate.
- Loves to travel.
- Is named after an ancestor.
- Is a first child.
- Likes to dance.
- Ask all those who think they fit a category to come into the center of the circle and look around to see who else is there. Continue picking categories until everyone has been in the middle of the circle.
- End with a discussion about differences and commonalities among and between age groups.
Me Too: Elementary and Older
- Start with the whole group seated.
- Ask one person to stand up and make a true statement about him/herself. Encourage participants to state facts or to name characteristics that they think are:
- a. True for many people, such as “I love ice cream.”
- b. Unique to them, such as “I was raised by my grandmother.”
- Ask those who feel a statement applies to them to raise their hands or stand up and shout “Me too.”
- Lead a discussion about what group members have in common and what sets the apart.
Same and Different: Late Elementary and Older
- Ask the group to form intergenerational pairs.
- Create a list of questions about such topics as:
- Books they like to read.
- Favorite TV shows or movies.
- Types of music they like.
- Hopes and dreams.
- Ask pairs to pick questions from the list and talk about their similarities and differences.
- Ask each pair to share two similarities and two differences with the large group
Concentric Circles: Middle School and Older
- Arrange the chairs in two concentric circles. The inner circle should face the outer circle.
- Ask the older adults to sit in the inner circle and the young people to sit in the outer circle. Chairs in both circles should face each other. Everyone should have a partner.
- Ask a question for each pair to discuss. Sample questions include:
- What is the best and worst thing about being your age?
- What is the most important thing an older person has taught you?
- What do you want to learn about people of a different age?
- What is your favorite childhood memory?
- When each partner has had time to speak, ask all the young people to move one seat to the right. The older adults should not move.
- Now that everyone has a new partner, ask a new question.
- Continue this for at least four rounds.
Two Truths and a Lie: Middle School and Older
- Ask participants to sit in age-integrated groups of three or four.
- Ask each group member to tell other group members two true things about him/herself and one lie.
- Ask the partners to guess which statement is the lie. Stories about adventures, famous people they have met, and/or major life achievements all work well in this exercise.
- When everyone has told their truths and lies, ask participants to introduce one of their partners to the larger group by reporting one interesting thing they learned about him/her
Extended Intergenerational Activities That Foster Cross-Age Understanding
Longer duration activities can help participants build cross-age trust and understanding. These activities usually take 20-40 minutes, depending on the number of people.
The Age Line Exercise: Late Elementary and Older
- Ask all participants, including staff and volunteers, to place themselves in a circle from the youngest to the oldest member of the group. You can add an element of difficulty to the exercise by asking people to find their places without saying a word to each other.
- Taking turns, ask people to state their age. If participants are in the wrong spot, ask them to change places.
- Depending on the size of the group, ask people in each 5- or 10-year period what they like best about being their age. Once you have gone around the circle, ask each age group to share what they find most difficult/challenging about their age. Ask people to listen for commonalities and differences across age groups.
- After participants are seated, ask them to share what they observed or learned.
- Did anything surprise them?
- How did it feel to share their age with the group?
- Did people have more in common or were the differences across ages greater?
Timeline: High School and Older
- Divide mural paper into 10-year periods.
- Ask participants to identify major historical events and key personal events in each period.
- Divide into intergenerational pairs and discuss how historical events influenced participants’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
- Share insights with the larger group for further discussion
Cross-Age Interview/Discussion Questions: Middle School and Older
Asking participants to interview others of a different age is a good way to build relationships and enhance communication skills. Before you engage in cross-age interviews, help participants develop and practice good interviewing skills. Emphasize how to ask open-ended questions that require more than just yes-or-no answers.
Some of these sample questions can generate powerful stories for participants to share:
- What you are proud of?
- Where were you born and what was your life like growing up?
- What is something significant that happened to you this year?
- If you could choose an age to remain forever, which age would you choose?
- What is one important skill every person should have?
- How would your friends describe you?
- What would be the best gift you could ever receive?
- What is the most important personal characteristic that you bring to this program?
- What was going on during the happiest time of your life?
- What would you like to be known for?
- If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
- What is the greatest bit of advice a parent or mentor has given you?
Encourage participants to learn how to ask follow-up questions to explore answers in more depth.
These follow-up questions might include:
- How did you feel about what happened?
- Why do you think that is so important?
- Why do you think that happened?