Learning Activity Templates

Intercultural Icebreaker Assignments

These assignments will get your online conversations on the right track and stimulate discussion about cultural differences in a productive and engaging way.  They are critical for building trust and setting the stage for more challenging topics. Be sure students have read and understood the ground rules first.

Autobiography Assignment

There are two dimensions to this assignment: 1) building rapport with conversation partners, 2) and building awareness of self as cultural being (Gay, 2010, p. 69). Assign students a brief autobiography (see below) which requires sharing about the values they were raised with, and basic information about their home town (or towns). The template we provide includes conversation starters and asks students to share their interests because we facilitated multiple discussions on the facets of daily life in each culture. Knowing their interests helped us understand where topics might challenge them more and where their strengths would be. More detailed explanations for how to write the autobiography are provided in the template. We highly recommend giving the students a format to follow so autobiographies are consistent. The following assignment was originally developed by Merry Merryfield. We highly recommend you check out her work on global education online.

The steps for this assignment are as follows:

  1. Post your autobiography on the discussion forum
  2. Comment on three other autobios, choosing autobios that do not have comments first.
  3. Demonstrate active listening skills when responding to comments on your bio and responses to your comments on other bios.
  4. Respond to any comments within a 24 hour period – it is important not to let any thread go unattended.

Set timeframes for each of the above, the entire assignment shouldn’t take more than one week.

Guide for instructors

Autobiography template


Personal Geography Assignment

Ask students to describe a particular dimension of their daily life, such as their commute, or their study habits.  You can make this a visual assignment, asking them to draw something or to take pictures of significant aspects of their experience. Their peers in the other country will be asked to prepare for a conversation about this, as well (it may not be the same exact assignment, especially if the language of conversation is in English and they are still learning the language).  Students should be asked to reflect on their daily lived experience and what it means to them before sharing with their peers in the other country. This grounds the conversation in reality in both countries and helps to dispell stereotypes while also allowing students to get to know each other.

Team project

We highly recommend a team-produced creative project, which includes participants in the other country.

Students co-authored ebook assignment

Students in our pilot wrote Windows Into Turkish Culture.  Creating an e-book served two purposes: as a textbook for students in future classes, and as an artifact students could refer to in job interviews. It also required our students to integrate the perspectives of their Turkish peers. One of our key learning objectives is for students to demonstrate perspective-taking. The assignment is laid out in detail in this blog post, and you are also welcome to use our grading rubric.


Image of book signing

John Barrowman signing copies of his autobiography “Anything Goes” at the National Theatre in London, 11th February 2008, by Phil Guest, via Flickr, CC2.0