Curious "Show & Not Tell" Icebreaker

Subgroup Size



30 minutes

External Cost


Lesson Plan


Adapted by Margaret Sheble, CILMAR, Purdue University, from a Purdue Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center activity conducted by Associate Head of Archives and Special Collections and Barron Hilton Archivist for Flight and Space Exploration Tracy Grimm.

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  1. User eemercie's profile picture eemercie 8:48 am 03 November 2022

    I used the  "Show and Not Tell" icebreaker activity with a select group of Latin 101 and Greek 101 students as a test run for my study abroad trip. They loved this activity! I also loved the activity. I felt that it brought everyone much closer as a group in a relatively short period of time. We were all amazed that a single object  could carry with it so many assumptions about its owner and that the same object could elicit so many interesting details about the person who selected to bring it. I did this activity with 23 students. The one downside was that some students didn't put much effort into their chosen item, pulling things last minute out of their backpacks with relatively little personal connection to their objects. This is not a criticism of the activity, but just a caveat to insist that students who participate submit something truly meaningful. I was floored with the items that some people submitted, things which included a pride flag, a wedding band, and a necklace pendant containing the ashes of a beloved pet. It was very important to me to preface this activity with clear instructions to be very respectful and  kind when communicating any assumptions about each chosen object. I was touched by the vulnerability expressed by the students who took the activity seriously and chose an object very close to their own hearts. Many went out on a limb in disclosing details about their lives, so it was critical that the students assigned to those objects be very respectful when making assumptions about each object and its message. This activity was designated as enhancing the ICL competencies of openness and curiosity.  In looking over my qualtrics results on the ASKS2 Post and RetroPre assessments, my students averaged a half to three quarters of a point of growth on the  four questions designed to measure openness and curiosity. There was a very healthy .86 growth on questions measuring communication and self-awareness, so I'm hoping that this activity is flagged for those competencies as well. Overall, I loved this activity, will use it again, and  felt that it yielded many positive results and fostered closeness and compassion for one another.