Zoom In, Zoom Out (ice-breaker)

Zoom In, Zoom Out is an ice-breaker designed to help students to explore how good stories engage the reader by focusing on tiny details and by telling universal truths. We’ve used it to good effect to get our students creative juices flowing at the beginning of our youth programs.

The ice-breaker requires no supplies or preparation, and can go as long or short as you wish.


What makes a story interesting? Good stories engage the reader by providing rich details that help it to come to life. Good stories also say something about the universal human experience. A good storyteller knows how to weave in interesting details and draw general observations that make the story relevant for the reader. It’s like how a good camera can zoom in to capture fascinating details and zoom out to capture the whole vista.

Today we are going to practice this skill by telling a story, and the focusing in on a particular detail, or getting more general to make the story more universal.


  • Ask for two volunteers: a student to tell a story, and another student to be the “camera operator.”
  • The storyteller’s job is to tell a somewhat long story with many parts.
  • The camera operator waits for the storyteller to tell a few sentences of their story, and then calls out “zoom in” or “zoom out.”
    • Zoom in: The storyteller goes into more detail about something in their story.
    • Zoom out: The storyteller talks about the larger context of the story, or about the general topic that the story is about.
  • Have the camera operator change focus 3-4 more times, allowing some time in between for the storyteller to complete a thought or idea.
  • You can have them reverse roles or pick two more volunteers, depending on time.


Ask them to think of a well-known story and discuss what makes that story so compelling and powerful (e.g. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings.)

Click here to see more ice-breakers activities.

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