I believe that in any classroom, working as a team is important. However, dealing with others can be a challenge, no matter what the age! I like to incorporate activities throughout the year that focus on team building, but are also fun tasks for the students. These are just two of examples that are great for any grade level, any subject, or maybe even as a professional development exercise!

Marker Mayhem

  • Students are put into groups of 3 or 4 and given a marker with 3 or 4 strings attached
  • Each student may only hold the end of one string, and may not touch any other part of the string or the marker
  • Working together, students must draw a picture, write a word, etc.
The cat I drew that students tried to copy

When I did this activity, I first had students write letters, like ABC or CAT. They could talk and instruct each other on how and where to move the marker.

After the initial round, I asked the student groups to draw a picture of a cat. I drew a cat picture on the board and told the groups they should do their best to copy that picture. Right before they began, I said “You may not talk!”

Many protested initially, but when I said go, it was silent. Students were forced to communicate without words and make the best cat drawing they could.

It was hilarious watching some of the groups attempt the cat. A few looked like my 2 year old drew them (or worse), but some groups were surprisingly successful! With each round we did, groups improved on their communicating and improved on their drawings!

Straw Tower

The next activity is a simple one that uses straws and tape and that’s it! The goal is to use the materials to build the tallest straw tower possible in a short amount of time.

  • Students are put into groups of 2 or 3
  • Each group received 10 straws and about 30 inches of tape.
  • 2-3 minutes of planning time given.
  • About 10 minutes of building time given.

Before students were allowed to even TOUCH the supplies, I told them they had two minutes to talk with their partners and come up with a plan. They could sketch things out, strategize and share ideas.

Once the two minutes were up, I told students I hoped they were wise in how they spend their planning time because now they could NOT talk for the rest of the activity. I gave students 10 minutes to build their towers. And it HAD to be silent

It was very amusing watching students use other methods to communicate (and I did not allow any writing of messages either!) Hand motions, pointing and lots of head shaking were seen.

Some students had great plans that worked well. Others found their original plans did not work and that trying to form a new plan without talking was very difficult!

After the timer went off, students could no longer touch their towers. I came around and measured each tower with a meter stick to see who won the challenge!  (By the way, I LOVE using online-stop-watch. When the timer goes off, it always makes everyone in the room jump!)  

Discussion

We had a good class discussion afterwards about what was difficult and what worked well. Students agreed that making sure you had a plan ahead of time worked well. Communication is huge! If they couldn’t communicate, it made the task much more difficult to complete. We need to share our ideas, listen, and watch. If we can communicate more effectively, we can get a lot further!

These activities were very helpful in setting up how my students need to work together and communicate with each other. You can use these just for team building or class communication. And they can be done in middle school, high school, or even upper elementary grades!

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