Resources for ResLife and Student Leaders

Archive for the ‘In-Services’ Category

Ice Breaker: The Human Knot

In In-Services, Social Programs on February 13, 2014 at 6:36 PM


  •  Humans


  •  none


Have the group stand in a large circle. Reach across the circle to grab hands with others in the group and form a “knot”. You may not hold both hands of the same person. You may not hold hands with the people on either side of you. The object of the activity is to untangle yourself as fast as possible without breaking hands. You may briefly unclasp your hands to change grip if you’ve found yourself in a position where your wrist or shoulder is being pulled, but you cannot use this as a chance to “help” solve the puzzle.

Hints & Variations:

  •  This is a fairly physical game. Make sure that your group is going to be ok touching each other and standing in close proximity to each other.
  • You can also increase the difficulty by taking away people’s permission to speak or only letting 1 or 2 people speak.
  • This game gets much harder (and becomes much more of a trust exercise if you ask people to do it with their eyes closed or with blind folds on.
  • You can also divide the group into several smaller groups and make this game a race.

Ice Breaker: Silent Line

In In-Services on February 13, 2014 at 12:07 PM


  • Humans
  • Enough space to form a long line (it can curve)


  •  none


Instruct the group that they must line themselves up by birthday without saying a word.

Hints & Variations:

  •  You can also play with other criteria, such as first letter of name, middle name, room numbers, age etc.
  • Split the group into 2 (or more) smaller groups and make it a race!

Ice Breaker: Mission to Mars (Name Game)

In In-Services on February 13, 2014 at 11:31 AM


  • Humans


  • None


Sit or stand in a circle. You’re going on a mission to Mars! What are you bringing? Each person, needs to share their name and something that they are going to bring “to Mars” that also starts with their first initial. For example, “My name is Caitlin and I’m bringing cookies”. The next person then will repeat the first person (“Her name is Caitlin and she’s bringing cookies.”) and introduce themselves in the same way (“My name is Alex and I’m bringing alligators.”) Keep adding people into the path until everyone has gone!

Hints & Variations:

  • You can also do this game with actions, for example, “My name is Caitlin and I like to cook/cha-cha”, “My name is Don and I like to dance”, or “My name is Owen and I like to oscillate”.

Credit: Caitlin, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Ice Breaker: Blanket Showdown (Name Game)

In In-Services, Social Programs on February 12, 2014 at 3:50 PM


  • Large Blanket


  • None


Divide your group in  half with two people holding a blanket up so that neither side can see the other. One member from each group walks up to the blanket (on different sides). On the count of three,  the blanket is dropped. The two players then race to see who can shout out the other’s name the fastest! The person who correctly calls out their name first is the wins and the loser then joins the team that won that round. Repeat until everyone has gone or until one team has all of the players.

Hints & Variation:

  • This is a good game to play after people have known each other for a little while or halfway through a training day.
  • You can also play with questions instead of names (ie. What building do they work in? What is their major? etc)

In-Service: Untestable Qualities

In In-Services on April 24, 2013 at 8:02 PM



 Part 1:

  • Copies of the checklist (and other things)
  • Writing things

Part 2:

  • Colored paper
  • Copies of the staff-activity chart (also in the above link)
  • Writing things
  • Laminating machine (optional)


Note: General instructions for staff leader and discussion jump-points are inside attachment, pages 3 and 5.

After distributing the checklists to the staff, have them complete the ‘characteristics’ side (compassion, loyalty, etc.).  Once staff is finished, have them share one (or two or three, up to you) characteristics they marked off for themselves, and why.  After going around, have them turn their sheet over to another list, one of school subjects.  Mark off similarly: check off what they possess, skill-wise.

Discussion opens up from here.  Why did they know what to check off when presented with school subjects?  Grades?  People tell them they’re good?  Et cetera, go from there.  After, do the same principle with the characteristic side: how did they know they possessed those characteristics?  Did they get an A in compassion, or what?

Now discuss what sets the two checklists apart.  Further, why do we (or are supposed to) know who we are by the time we reach college?  What truly defines us: majors, job titles, or characteristics?  And what does the staff value individually?

This activity was formed on the basis that sometimes, as students, as Resident Assistants, whatever we may be, we forget what truly makes us amazing, and it isn’t our grades.  It’s the qualities and characteristics that we are never officially graded on, but that make all the difference in the world.

After discussion, have each staff member write down all names of their staff and one characteristic they relate to their coworkers (example: I, Mike, would write down a characteristic I found in my coworker, Christine, and each other coworker in turn, but not myself); this will serve as a reference at the next meeting.  Next time, the staff can come together with the charts (page 4), now adorned with what each person found in their coworkers, and they can write about why/how they find that trait in them.  If one has access, one can laminate the sheets for a more permanent keepsake.  Final discussion questions can follow.  And there you have it; a constant reminder of how awesome you are.  Enjoy!

Credit: Mike Siano, Valparaiso University

In-Service: Letters to Staff

In In-Services on April 24, 2013 at 12:30 PM



Envelopes for each staff member


Have an envelope for each staff member and distribute them randomly amongst your staff.  Their task is simple: write something, or create something, to give to their fellow staff member – could be a letter, a poem, a drawing, whatever you’d like.

Try to shirk away from monetary and physical gifts; you don’t want some staff members feeling cheated because their writer didn’t buy them anything.  Just the sentiment that comes with a drawing, or the kindness that can come with words, is more than enough.

Educational Program: Ties that Bind

In Educational Progams, In-Services on March 1, 2013 at 1:25 AM
Ties that Bind(Samantha Cassell)

Ties that Bind
(Samantha Cassell)


This program is meant to highlight the diversity within a community, especially “invisible” diversity. Different colored strips of paper represent different aspects of someone’s identity. Residents write on the strips why that identity is important to them, then the strips are added to a large link chain. The chain can be hung up in a common area. Diversity, decoration, fun!


Lots of colored paper





Cut out a lot of strips of different colored papers. I suggest about 8 different colors. Choose an aspect of identity/personality to correspond to each color. Ours were gender, race, religion, family, ability, activity, sexual identity, region, other.

Colors of diversity

Colors of diversity

Have residents choose a few that are important to them- as many as they want, depending on how inspired they are. They should write down why it is important to them or how they feel it plays into their identity. Once they wrote it down, staple the strip into the chain! Hang the chain up in a common area for all to see.

The mostly-completed chain

The mostly-completed chain

This is a good way to demonstrate all types of diversity. It shows both how the community is similar as a whole but each person is a unique individual as well. Yay, diversity!


  • We did this program in the lobby. Since it didn’t take much time, almost everyone who came into the building participated! Those who were really into it stayed longer and did more in-depth links.
  • Tailor the categories to your community.

Credit: Samantha Cassell, Valparaiso University

In-Service: Puzzle Pieces

In In-Services on March 1, 2013 at 12:29 AM
Puzzle Pieces(Christine Albain, Samantha Cassell)

Puzzle Pieces
(Christine Albain, Samantha Cassell)


Colored Paper


Glitter Glue/Puff Paint


Puzzle Piece Template


Let each person on your staff pick their favorite color and cut out a puzzle piece for them. Have each person decorate the puzzle piece with their name and however they want to decorate it- their personality, what they add to the staff, etc. Hang them up somewhere fun where everyone can be reminded that they’re part of a group!

Credit: Christine Albain, Samantha Cassell, Valparaiso University

ResLife Gift Poem

In In-Services on July 10, 2012 at 7:25 PM

RA Survival Kit

Eraser- To remind you that you’re not perfect- NO one in this world is. We learn from each mistake we make.

Rubber Band- To remind you to remain flexible and to stretch yourself to new limits!

Gum- To remind you that we are a TEAM and though it all we will stick together.

Milkyway- To remind you to always reach for the stars and follow your dreams!

Snickers- To remind you that laughter is the best medicine and that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

Cotton Ball- To help cushion any rough roads that may lie ahead of you.

Happy Face- To remind you that smiling is Contagious!

Play Dough- To remind you that you are helping to shape the lives of the residents in our building.

Starburst- To give you a BURST of energy on those days where you feel as though you have had enough!

Tootsie Roll- To remind you not to “bite off more than you can chew,” and that it’s ok to say “NO” sometimes.

(Gather the bolded objects and present them in a cute container along with this poem!)

Social Progam: Coloring Contest!

In Door Decs, In-Services, Social Programs on May 31, 2012 at 3:05 PM

Preschoolers only barely beat out college kids as the number one consumer of coloring books. Harness the obsession with crayons and childhood characters for a coloring contest!


Coloring Pages

Back of Coloring Contest Page


Print coloring pages with the due date and a place for the contestants name on the back. Judge them yourself (but don’t play favorites!), ask your staff to help you judge, or pair it with another social program and have your residents vote for the winner. Hang the winning picture in a place of honor in your hallway!


  • Consider adding a physical prize as an award to the winner.
  • Use the finished pictures to brighten your hallway.


Source: Christine Albain, Valparaiso University