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We all know that there is more to teaching than delivering content. Teachers are also there to foster collaboration, community, and connection, and the best way to do this is through team building classroom activities. No man (or student) is an island and within our classroom walls are an assortment of future firefighters, engineers, musicians, accountants, nurses, doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and police officers, and more. Most careers don’t involve isolating oneself for hours on end, but rather working with others and relying on their strengths and competencies to accomplish a common goal.
This is just one of many very good reasons to get students used to working with others effectively. It is healthy and important for students to learn how to problem solve, work together, communicate, trust one another, and be vulnerable and accountable.
Below are 7 team building activities you can use to promote collaboration and/or problem-solving in the classroom:
There is a reason escape rooms are so popular, both within and outside the classroom: because they are a lot of FUN! If you haven’t tried one, you are missing out. I know, trying something new in the classroom can be intimidating, but students will be fully engaged, AND they will demonstrate their understanding of content.
I have created several escape room sets (see them all here), but one of the most popular is my Zombie Escape Room – where students have to find the antidote to save their teacher who has been infected with a virus and turned into a zombie!
There is a video that introduces the escape room back story and students must solve puzzles and riddles in the Beginner’s Guide to Zombies book to find the ingredients to the antidote to save their teacher!
Everyone loves a good mystery, especially when it is based on a real event! One of my favorite mysteries to present to students is the buried ship mystery. In 1978, a construction crew found a fully intact, 100 year old ship buried 20 feet underground in the middle of Downtown San Fransisco. Students work together to make inferences about how the ship ended up there, who owned it, what happened, how it was discovered, and more. They have to create a theory about the ship and present it to the class! The best part is when you surprise the students and tell them that the mystery is real.
You can check out this activity here. There is also a hand-drawn video included that explains the mystery to students.
Taking the time to establish a positive classroom community is so important! It will carry over into all facets of daily interaction between teacher and students, as well as among students themselves. Not only will encouraging kindness, collaboration, teamwork, expression, and the sharing of ideas and opinions make the environment richer for learning, more positive, and enjoyable to be in; but students will feel safe and supported.
The Classroom Challenge helps teachers do just that. The way it works is, teachers set up the “Classroom Challenge” bulletin board display that includes 20 hidden activity prompts. Once a challenge is revealed, the teacher finds the corresponding activity in the folder, passes it out to the class and they are ready to go. The activities are meant to take between 5-10 minutes each (depending on the class) and can be used daily, weekly, or randomly.
These are the kinds of prompts that are included, just to give you a better idea:
Here are a few tips and tricks on how to use this Classroom Challenge:
Bringing tactile activities into the classroom are a sure fire way to hook your reluctant students and get students working together. Try bringing in basic materials and having students develop and sell a product of their own making. One activity I love has students work together to develop and sell a product from the following basic materials: a stack of cardboard, a roll of duck tape, two plastic cups, a plastic bag, and string. After they develop the product, they need to use persuasive writing techniques to create an advertisement for what they created.
Not only will this be a lot of fun for your students, but a way to improve divergent thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and creative writing. Check the activity out here.
Staring at a blank piece of paper can be incredibly intimidating. Introducing collaborative writing into your classroom can take the pressure off students and lead to stronger writing pieces. Snowball writing is my absolute favorite collaborative activity. It involves students crumpling up their writing and throwing it around the world, so you know it’s going to be a hit. You can read all about how I implement it here.
If you want to bring more collaborative writing into your classroom, you’ll want to read this blog post I wrote with tons of ideas, resources, and free downloads all related to collaborative writing.
Volley-Pong anyone? How about Rollerblading Basketball?
Students always a lot of fun with this Sports Mash-Up team building activity where they try to develop a new sport by mashing up elements of other sports. Who knows; maybe they will invent the next Olympic Sport, or at the very least, a fun new sport to try with their friends. When you empower students with a creative activity that they can really get into, it is amazing what they will come up with.
Instead of spending your days decorating and setting up your classroom, consider bringing your students into the mix by developing some collaborative classroom decor. It doesn’t have to be perfect (the creation nor the time spent creating it). The idea is to make something together that you will get to enjoy for months to come.
Here are few ideas:
Self-Portrait Wall – Have every student draw a self portrait on a piece of paper. It can be as colourful and vibrant as they would like, realistic or a caricature; anything at all. Then create a giant collage of all the self portraits to greet anyone who walks into the classroom.
The Ultimate Inspiration Station – Have each student create a small art piece with an inspirational quote, encouraging word or positive phrase. The idea is to make it bright, vibrant and uplifting. Once complete, glue them all onto a large piece of paper to form The Ultimate Inspiration Station; a place students can visit in the classroom anytime they need a boost of positive energy.
Community Abstract Art – Buy a large canvas and have students create a collaborative abstract art piece for the classroom. Set a timer and and allow students to contribute to the work, a few people at a time. Anything goes with abstract! You could bring in random items from The Dollar Tree such as: circular make-up sponges, syringes, spray bottles or paint palette spatulas for students to experiment with different effects.
Taking the time to integrate team building and problem-solving activities into your curriculum will help your students develop the skills they need to be both critical and collaborative. It also fosters a positive classroom community. This can help minimize behaviors and lead to stronger relationships with peers and the teacher!
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