Class Activity: Paper Cup Icebreaker

Document created by Bethany Gordon Employee on Sep 22, 2016Last modified by Beth Sindt on Jan 2, 2018
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For this exercise, you will need a package of mini Dixie cups and toothpicks. Follow the steps for this exercise and follow up with a discussion of the experience. Students will find it not only amusing but also eye opening as they discover where their priorities lie.


  1. Pass out one Dixie cup and one toothpick per student.
  2. Tell the students that you are going to read them some questions. They are not to speak. If their answer to a question is “yes,” then they are to do nothing. If their answer to a question is “no,” then they are to poke a hole in the bottom of the Dixie cup.
  3. Read each question, providing enough time for those students to poke their cups as needed. (Students may begin to laugh as they hear the sounds of multiple pokes throughout the classroom.) Make sure it is quiet before moving on to the next question. Consider adding more questions regarding additional topics that have been addressed in class.

                 Questions for Paper Cup Activity

      • Have you gone to all your classes so far?
      • Have you arrived to all your classes on time or early?
      • Have you bought all your required textbooks for all your classes?
      • Are you keeping track of all your activities? (for example, keeping a planner)
      • Have you completed all your reading assignments on time?
      • Have you completed all your writing assignments on time?
      • Have you stayed awake in all your classes?
      • Have you paid attention in all your classes?
      • Have you taken notes in your lecture classes?
      • Have you tried to participate and ask questions in your small classes?
      • Have you come prepared to all your classes? (paper, pen, book, assignments)
      • Are you managing your stress well?
      • Have you made at least one friend on campus so far?
      • If you are working a part-time job, are you working no more than 15–20 hours a week?


  1. After you have finished reading all the questions, tell students to look at their cups.
  2. For fun, consider asking them to place the cups above their heads and pretend that you are about to go around and pour water in their cups.
  3. Ask them to imagine: If their cup represented their college life and the water that filled it represented their success, how are things looking right now for them? Are they successful so far? Are their priorities focused on college? If they have a bunch of holes already, what is the likelihood of having more holes later? Remind them to make sure they start out their college careers on the right foot. There will always be bumps in the road or more holes in the “cup of college life,” so it is important to prevent too many holes. Discuss how they might change their priorities.
  4. You might consider repeating this activity again later in the term as a “check” on how things are going.