By Sphero Hero Megan Lowe
Take your “beginning of the year” icebreakers to a whole new level with Sphero! There are tons of fun and easy ways to have students skipping out of your classroom and feeling great about being a part of a new team. Get your class excited about returning the next day and ready for learning all year long!
Here’s a few tips to help make sure your Sphero icebreakers are a huge success:
- Try and make sure that all students are equal participants. It’s helpful to assign roles for each team member and either set a timer or have an agreed upon point in the process to switch roles.
- I’ve found it useful to brainstorm rules before starting an icebreaker. I recommend recording this on an anchor chart so that everyone has a visual reminder of what is most important. Here’s an example:
- Use the educator tips in each lesson, as they often include great suggestions on how to organize and personalize the learning for different groups of students.
Each Sphero needs a device to control it as part of your supplies. I recommend having one Sphero for every 2–3 students, although I’ve included a number of activities that you can do with fewer Spheros (check out the classic icebreakers, relays, jousting, and bridge building activities).
These icebreakers encourage students to get to know each other and build a shared understanding of class/team goals. Incorporating Spheros just make the games and activities that much more engaging and exciting!
Do you remember playing hot potato at school? Here’s a new take on the old classic! Students pass the Sphero until it buzzes and flashes red. Whoever is holding it answers a question, shakes it for an applause then continues with the game.
Grades: Any, but probably best suited to K-6
Supplies: No extra supplies needed. Check the questions in the script and change them up, if you want to!
Great For: Having fun and getting to know the entire team in moments with questions like: Would you rather summer or winter? or What’s your favourite thing to do on a rainy day?
Supplies: paper, markers, large paper, paint
Great For: exploring the elements that makes a class an amazing place to learn. Students get to express themselves in a highly engaging and unique way — through drawing and painting with the Sphero robot.
Most students love to get the opportunity to put some Science concepts to work, build something, and test its strength and stability with a hands-on experiment using Sphero. There’s a number of bridge challenges in the Sphero Edu app. Here’s one that I recommend.
Supplies: tape, string, glue, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, uncooked pasta, balsa wood, cardboard or other building material, measuring tape or rulers, 2 tables or other objects to span the bridge across
Great For: You could jump to Step 5 and make the activity shorter, but I recommend taking the 2–4 hours and go through each step. They have created great resources, including videos with background information, examples, and step by step instructions. Not only is this a sure fire way to encourage teamwork, this activity has strong links to the Science curriculum too.
This is fantastic icebreaker that is sure to get everyone excited and engaged. Basically, teams make battle-bots to drive around in an arena. The last Sphero standing with their battle-bot gear on, wins!
Supplies: plastic cups and variety of supplies to attach to the battle shells (cups). Some could include wire hangers, straws, pipe cleaners, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, etc.
Great For: Building team spirit! If you have a makerspace, this would be an awesome activity to start your year off. Students could use whatever materials you have available to make their bots.
Check out these fantastic examples of battle-bots in action. I love the adaptation of using balloons and pencils on their bots: Sphero BattleBots
If you really want to impress students the moment they walk into your space, you might want to consider a water game. Spheros are, after all, waterproof robots that can swim!
Supplies: large tub of water, rubber bands, tape, stopwatch, string, washers, balloons, plastic folders, styrofoam, glue, other waterproof craft materials
Great For: The time for this activity is around 1 hour. If you or your students have never used a Sphero before, this is a good place to start. It introduces the robots and how they move using the ‘Drive’ mode — which is similar to using a remote control. Once you set up the water and supplies, you just have to show the videos and let the students get creating.
Supplies: large tub of water, light-weight ball, materials to build fins and paddles
Great For: This is a more complex water game, suitable for older grades. Students work in teams to enhance their Sphero’s swimming ability and then play a water polo game. Those that touch their opponents wall score a point. First team to three points wins!
Relays and Races
Millions watch auto racing for good reason! Who doesn’t get excited with designing, engineering, and then racing vehicles around a course?!
Supplies: some space (e.g., gymnasium), create a circle in the middle of the space that the Spheros cannot cross.
Great For: If you don’t have many Spheros, this could be the activity for you — teams can hand off the robots once they have finished their leg of the race. It’s also an easy activity that could be set up in moments.
This is a more in-depth multi-day challenge that involves teams designing a chariot to carry a coin around a track. The creator has 4 set roles for team members: project manager, Engineer, Writer/Photographer and Programmer to take teams from design to time trials and finishing with a final race.
Grades: 3 and up
Supplies: assorted craft supplies for chariots
Great For: Older students or students with some block programming experience.
Grades: 3 to 12+
Supplies: sumo mat, clear plastic cups (preferably), sumo wrestler cutouts
Great For: This Sumo activity has a bit more set up for teachers, but I think it’s worth the effort! There’s a mat to create, some printing of the wrestlers, and ILSE recommends clear cups so you can identify each wrestler by their main LED light colour. Almost all Sphero activities work better with clear cups, as it makes it easier to aim and see the lights of the robot. Check out the rules this group came up with in the uploaded pic. They make good sense!
Supplies: craft materials, tape or pool noodles to create a small area to wrestle in
Great For: This activity is quick and easy and could be done in an hour. Students use whatever materials you have to design their wrestler. There’s also a link to Brackify to help you organize your tournament.
Music and Dance
If racing and battling isn’t quite your speed, then these activities are for you! It’s easy to create the atmosphere you want with music and dance. These activities are also a sure fire way to encourage students to collaborate and express their creativity. As students continue to test their code and modify it so that their Sphero moves in sync with the music, they are developing proportional reasoning, computational thinking, and a growth mindset all at the same time.
Supplies: craft materials to dress Sphero up: fabric, paper, card stock, markers tape, pipe cleaners, feathers…. Dollar store here we come :)
Great For: Non-competitive, creative fun! You could have a multitude of prizes so that everyone feels included: best dance, best spin, most creative, simplest design, most ornate design, most in sync with the music, best representation of the meaning of the song….
Supplies: something to play music from
Great For: Here’s another lesson that is well resourced with how-to videos and clear instructions that your students will have no trouble following. Students plan a dance on paper, then try to sync the Sphero to complete the steps in time with the music. It can be as simple or as complex as you like!
Supplies: cones, flags, ramps, and various obstacles
Great For: If you are interested in doing a range of sports at different stations, be sure to check this out. There’s loads of team building in creating a country flag for your team, participating in an opening ceremony, then rolling through a series of fun events, testing sporting prowess and coding know-how. An interesting adaptation of the hockey event is Sphero Hockey. Mhebda has created a more focused activity honing in on the slapshot!
Supplies: colored paper, cardboard, paint, paper, paper roll, glue
Great For: This is a well thought out unit of work with great resources! You could take a day and have each team design a golf hole, and then play in a tournament or spread the activities out over a week. The rubrics help to keep students focused on what is important and I love that group skills are included.
Supplies: 16–18 oz. cups, pencils, masking tape, House Banners PDF, Caparisons PDF (see Step 1), found or craft materials for the Sphero ‘horse’.
Great For: Building team spirit with houses competing against each other. There are two types of competitions in this lesson: Last Knight Standing — a free-for-all with all knights chasing each other until their cups are off and the Traditional Joust, where two knights compete in an attempt to throw the other horse (cup) off the Sphero.
So, get your teams rocking and rolling in the best possible way and build a fantastic classroom culture with any one of these great icebreakers!