A great activity for everyone


Unlock Team Bonding Fun with Hangman: Guess the Word Together!

By Jon Zajac

What is Hangman?

The Hangman icebreaker activity is a fun and interactive way to facilitate introductions and foster camaraderie among participants. As the facilitator, I prepare a list of words or phrases related to personal interests, hobbies, achievements, or fun facts, and divide participants into teams. The game revolves around guessing letters in an attempt to reveal the word or phrase, with incorrect guesses resulting in parts of a hangman diagram being drawn. After each round, I link the revealed word/phrase to a participant who shares something related to it, creating an opportunity for storytelling and connection.

This Hangman icebreaker not only focuses on letter and word guessing but also serves as a platform for stories, laughter, introductions, and breaking down initial barriers in group settings. The immersive nature of the game makes it adaptable and inclusive, allowing diverse groups to feel more connected through the shared joy of discovering and learning about each other in an engaging, light-hearted environment.

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Rules for Hangman

  1. Divide participants into teams or play individually.
  2. The facilitator or volunteer acts as the Hangman Master, selecting words/phrases and drawing underscores and hangman parts.
  3. Teams take turns guessing letters to reveal the word/phrase.
  4. Correctly guessed letters are written on the corresponding underscore.
  5. Incorrect guesses result in a part of the hangman diagram being drawn.
  6. After a word/phrase is correctly guessed, link it to a participant who shares something related to the word or themselves.
  7. Before revealing correct letters, ask participants quick, related questions to keep everyone engaged and discover common interests.
  8. Optionally award points for correct guesses and storytelling but keep in mind that the main goal is fun and engagement, not competition.
  9. Conclude after each participant has had a turn or after a pre-decided number of rounds.
  10. Encourage final reflections about something new learned about someone else in the group.

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Materials needed for Hangman

  • Large whiteboard or chalkboard: This is where the Hangman game will be played and displayed for all participants to see. It’s essential that everyone can easily view and interact with it.
  • Writing tools (markers, chalk, or digital writing tools): These are used by the Hangman Master to draw the hangman diagram, underscores for each letter of the word or phrase, and any additional elements needed during gameplay.
  • An eraser or something to clear the board/chalkboard: This will be used to remove incorrect guesses from the hangman diagram and reset the board between rounds.
  • Prepared list of words or phrases: These are carefully selected by the facilitator beforehand, with themes relating to personal interests, hobbies, achievements, or fun facts that encourage participants to learn about each other while playing Hangman.

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Setting up for Hangman

To set up for the Hangman icebreaker activity, follow these steps:

  1. Decide on a theme: Choose a relevant topic or theme based on the participants’ backgrounds, interests, or the purpose of the gathering. This will help you select appropriate words and phrases that encourage interaction and sharing.

  2. Prepare the gaming area: Set up a large whiteboard or chalkboard in a visible location for all participants. If conducting the session virtually, ensure you have a shared screen feature available to display the game board.

  3. Arrange seating: In physical spaces, organize chairs in a semi-circle or U-shape around the board to promote engagement and visibility. For virtual meetings, remind participants to adjust their camera view for better interaction.

  4. Divide participants into teams (optional): Depending on the group size, divide participants into two or more teams. This step is not necessary if you prefer a non-competitive, individual-based game.

  5. Select a Hangman Master: Designate a facilitator or volunteer to be responsible for choosing words/phrases, drawing underscores, and revealing the hangman diagram as the game progresses.

  6. Prepare icebreaker questions: Before starting the game, prepare a list of related questions that can be asked when a participant correctly guesses a letter. These questions should prompt participants to share more about themselves or find commonalities with others.

  7. Review rules variation for icebreaking: Familiarize yourself with the modified rules, which include asking participants quick, related questions before revealing the correct guessed letter. This added step promotes further engagement and connection within the group.

By carefully setting up the Hangman icebreaker activity, you create an engaging atmosphere that fosters interaction, learning, and fun among participants. Remember to maintain a positive and supportive tone throughout the game to ensure everyone feels comfortable and included.

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How to play Hangman

  1. Divide participants into teams or individuals. This initial step determines how the game will progress. If there are many participants, dividing them into teams can make the activity more manageable and engaging. However, for smaller groups, playing without teams may be more suitable.

  2. Select a Hangman Master. The Hangman Master is responsible for choosing words or phrases, drawing underscores representing each letter, and creating parts of the hangman diagram with each incorrect guess. Initially, the facilitator or a volunteer can play this role.

  3. Begin the guessing phase. Teams or individuals take turns guessing letters in an attempt to reveal the word or phrase. When a participant correctly guesses a letter, write it on the corresponding underscore. Draw incorrect guesses as parts of the hangman’s diagram.

  4. Link words/phrases to participants. After a word or phrase is correctly guessed, connect it to a participant who shares something related to that word or themselves. This icebreaker layer encourages storytelling and helps the group discover commonalities.

  5. Ask related questions (optional). Before revealing the correct letter guessed, ask the participant who guessed it a quick, related question. This keeps everyone engaged and fosters connections among participants.

  6. Continue playing. After each round, you can opt to keep score for correct guesses or entertaining shares/storytelling. However, remember that the main goal is fun and engagement, not competition.

  7. Conclude the game. Upon finishing all rounds, ask participants for their thoughts on the activity. Encourage reflections about something new they learned about someone else to strengthen group connections.

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Benefits of Hangman

  • Encourages Active Participation: By design, the Hangman icebreaker ensures that everyone is involved in the game, either by guessing letters or sharing information about themselves related to the revealed word or phrase. This fosters a high level of engagement and active participation from all members.

  • Promotes Learning and Discovery: As participants are required to link the guessed words/phrases back to individuals within the group, they inadvertently learn more about each other’s interests, hobbies, and fun facts. This encourages a sense of curiosity and promotes an environment conducive to learning and discovery.

  • Boosts Confidence and Public Speaking Skills: Through the sharing aspect of this icebreaker activity, individuals have opportunities to practice public speaking in a supportive setting. As they become more comfortable talking about themselves and their experiences, their confidence is likely to grow, which can benefit them in various aspects of life, both personally and professionally.

  • Cultivates a Positive Group Dynamic: The relaxed, playful nature of the Hangman icebreaker contributes to creating a positive atmosphere among participants. It encourages laughter, camaraderie, and shared enjoyment, thereby promoting a cohesive group dynamic that can make future interactions smoother and more enjoyable for everyone involved.

  • Enhances Cognitive and Linguistic Skills: Guessing letters and solving the puzzle necessitate critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Additionally, engaging with language in this way can help improve vocabulary and spelling abilities. The Hangman icebreaker thus serves as a fun exercise for cognitive and linguistic development.

  • Adaptable and Inclusive: Due to its versatile format, the Hangman icebreaker can be easily adapted to suit various group sizes, ages, and settings. Furthermore, it accommodates diverse learning styles and cultural backgrounds, making it an inclusive activity that fosters a sense of belonging among participants.

  • Provides a Memorable Experience: By combining elements of fun, interaction, and personal connection, the Hangman icebreaker creates memorable experiences that leave a lasting impression on participants. This can help strengthen relationships within the group and contribute to a more enjoyable overall experience for everyone involved.

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Skills built with Hangman

  • Communication Skills: Playing the Hangman icebreaker encourages active listening and clear verbal communication as participants ask questions, share stories, and guess letters or words. It also enhances non-verbal communication skills during in-person play, such as interpreting body language and facial expressions.

  • Teamwork and Collaboration: By dividing players into teams, this activity fosters a sense of unity and cooperation. Team members must work together to strategize, discuss possible answers, and celebrate their collective successes, building trust and strengthening interpersonal relationships.

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: Guessing letters and words in the Hangman icebreaker requires logical thinking, deduction, and pattern recognition. This process stimulates cognitive abilities and challenges participants to think critically about how best to approach each puzzle.

  • Linguistic Proficiency: The game’s focus on letter guessing and word construction can improve spelling, vocabulary, and overall language skills. It also exposes players to new words and phrases related to personal interests or hobbies, expanding their general knowledge base.

  • Adaptability and Flexibility: With various themes, rules, and gameplay variations available, the Hangman icebreaker encourages flexibility and adaptability as participants adjust to different scenarios and situations. This versatility makes the activity suitable for diverse groups and settings.

  • Emotional Intelligence: Engaging in personal storytelling and learning about others’ experiences helps develop emotional intelligence by promoting empathy, understanding, and respect for individual differences. It also allows players to practice self-reflection and self-awareness as they share aspects of their own identities.

  • Digital Literacy (Virtual Implementation): Conducting the Hangman icebreaker in a virtual setting requires proficiency with digital tools such as screen sharing, video conferencing software, and interactive whiteboards. This virtual adaptation enhances participants’ digital literacy skills and prepares them for successful remote collaboration.

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Why I like Hangman

As a facilitator who values engagement and connection in group settings, I find the Hangman icebreaker to be an indispensable tool. The game combines the classic appeal of word guessing with an interactive twist that encourages participants to learn about each other, making it perfect for breaking the ice and fostering camaraderie.

What I particularly appreciate about this activity is its adaptability. Regardless of the age, background, or familiarity level among participants, the Hangman icebreaker remains engaging and inclusive. By tailoring the words or phrases to the group’s interests or the gathering’s purpose, I can create a personalized experience that resonates with everyone involved.

The game’s rules are simple enough for anyone to grasp quickly, yet they offer ample opportunities for creativity and customization. Introducing the icebreaker layer – where participants share stories related to the revealed word or phrase – adds depth and richness to the activity, transforming it into a platform for storytelling and connection.

Moreover, I enjoy incorporating questions and reflections throughout the game as they create natural opportunities for further conversation and discovery. These moments of interaction foster a relaxed atmosphere where participants feel encouraged to share and engage with one another.

In virtual meetings, the Hangman icebreaker has proven invaluable in combatting screen fatigue and promoting active participation. It breathes life into online gatherings by providing an interactive alternative to traditional introductions or presentations, ensuring that all voices are heard and everyone feels included.

Overall, the Hangman icebreaker aligns with my goals as a facilitator by creating an environment conducive to learning, sharing, and connecting. Its unique blend of fun, interaction, and personalization makes it an invaluable addition to any group setting, be it in-person or virtual.

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Tips for making Hangman more inclusive

  • Tip: When choosing words or phrases, consider the cultural backgrounds, experiences, and abilities of all participants. Make sure they are relatable and inclusive to everyone.
  • Tip: Use simple language and avoid jargon or colloquialisms that may be unfamiliar to some participants. This ensures everyone can understand and enjoy the game.
  • Tip: Encourage teamwork by allowing participants to discuss their guesses before responding. This fosters a sense of collaboration and inclusion.
  • Tip: Be mindful of time limits for each turn or round. Adjust as needed to accommodate different processing speeds and comfort levels, ensuring no one feels rushed or left behind.
  • Tip: Create a safe space by emphasizing that all sharing should be respectful and considerate. This helps ensure every participant feels comfortable and included.
  • Tip: Consider providing visual aids or alternative communication methods for those who may have difficulty with verbal communication, ensuring everyone can actively participate.
  • Tip: Offer optional breaks between rounds to allow participants to process their experiences, ask questions, or share feedback. This promotes an inclusive and accessible environment.

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Reflection questions for Hangman

  1. What was your favorite word or phrase revealed during the game, and why? This question can help participants reflect on what they found most interesting or engaging about the activity, sparking further conversation around shared interests.

  2. Did you learn something new about any of your fellow participants that surprised or intrigued you? Encouraging introspection on others’ experiences and backgrounds helps foster empathy and a deeper understanding within the group, promoting continued connection and collaboration.

  3. How did this interactive icebreaker format compare to traditional introductions? Did you feel more comfortable sharing information about yourself in this setting? By asking participants to consider their comfort levels during different types of social activities, facilitators can gain valuable insights into how best to structure future gatherings for inclusivity and engagement.

  4. Were there any moments throughout the game that particularly stood out to you or made you laugh? Why? Inviting reflection on positive experiences strengthens group cohesion by reinforcing shared memories and fostering a sense of camaraderie among participants.

  5. If given the opportunity, would you participate in a similar Hangman icebreaker again? Why or why not? Understanding participants’ willingness to engage in similar activities can help facilitators tailor future events to better suit their audience, ensuring continued growth and connection within the group.

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About the author

Jon Zajac

Jon Zajac

Founder & Chief Icebreaker

I started Icebreaker Spot because I truly believe that strong connections are the foundation of successful teams. I wanted to create a platform that would make it easy for people to find and share icebreakers and team building activities, empowering them to build trust, foster collaboration, and ultimately, achieve greatness together.

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