Building a strong classroom community can help your students work as a team, get along, solve their own problems, value each other, and shape your classroom’s and school’s culture. The time you spend helping your students get to know and trust each other is invaluable. The question is how to do it while tackling all of the other things that must be done.
Camp Full of Classroom Activities for Team Building
At the last school, I worked at almost the whole school, grades 3-12, and went up to a camp in Vermont for team-building activities. The high schoolers went up on a Saturday morning and stayed until Wednesday. The elementary and middle school students went up on a Monday and left on Friday.
The whole purpose of the camp was to work on becoming a team as a school and class. The kids had chores, games, free time, group work, and a long hike. They learned survival skills, nature, and how to work together.
Commitment to Classroom Activities for Team Building
The headmaster had gone to the camp as a child himself. He saw immense value in the time students spent there. The students knew it was important because they got out of school for the week. It takes a huge commitment from the headmaster to go to this camp every year.
What are Classroom Activities for Team Building
Classroom activities for team building are fun activities that help students bond, work together, communicate, and value each other. There are so many options for what activities could work to help build a strong classroom community.
These activities range from simple, complex, and easy prep, to long shopping lists, short, long, classic, and questionable. I’ve tried to include mostly simple activities. Parents are a great resource to help you plan and gather materials for team building.
More Ideas for Classroom Activities for Team Building
When Should You Start Classroom Activities for Team Building?
It’s a great idea to start classroom activities for team building at the beginning of the school year because it gets the year off to a great start. These activities help students get to know each other better, make new friends, and take risks. If you start the school year with classroom activities for team building then you will benefit from them all school year. The positive impact of the time you spent will continue longer.
However, it’s never too late to start team building. If you start team building later in the school year that’s fine, your students will still benefit. Team building will help your students grow in confidence, critical thinking, and community.
Classroom Activities for Team Building Games
These games are best for the beginning of the year, but depending on who your group of students are you could use them another time. Classroom games should be fun, simple, and fast.
Find Someone Who…
This game is a classic game in elementary classrooms. Usually, each student gets a paper with 25-30 squares. Each square has a question such as Has Siblings or Travel to Another Country. Students have to find someone in the class who has done that thing. They cannot use a person’s name more than once so they talk to everyone in the class. If you want to have a winner it is the person who fills the most squares.
Venn Diagram Challenge
Pair students up with someone they likely don’t know very well. The students should record things that are different and similar about themselves. It’s a great way to help students get to know their classmates better.
Would You Rather?
Would You Rather? has become trendy in classrooms, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. You may have played versions of this game on Facebook. Basically, you ask students various questions that can be themed or fun. A back to school would your rather would probably be something like
Walk or Ride the Bus
Homework or Classwork
Lunch or Recess
Reading or Science
Often we play these games individually and look a the answers of a few other people. But this game can involve a lot of movement if you ask kids to go to a location and can even be played outdoors. The whole class gets to know each other better.
Morning Meeting Classroom Activities for Team Building
Many schools have started implementing morning meetings because research has shown building classroom community has a positive effect on academics and behavior. There is a curriculum you can buy full of morning meeting activities and ideas. In elementary school, there are four basic parts to morning meetings.
This basic formula can be as formal as you like. The message is usually left on the board so students know what to do at the start of the day. The greeting is a fun and hopefully quick way for students to say hi to everyone in the class. The activity can be a fun community game or challenge. Finally, students have a chance to share either anything they want or to answer a specific question.
However you decide to run your morning meeting, I do think it is helpful to have a structure to follow so that your students know how to behave and what to expect.
End of the Day Meeting Classroom Activities for Team Building
The end of the day is crazy in school. Everyone is trying to write down homework, ask questions, do jobs, and get packed up. There is a lot going on. The rushed feeling stresses a lot of kids and teachers out. Imagine if the end of the day didn’t have to be intense and stressful, instead, it could turn into a regular time to check in with students to make sure everyone was doing okay.
This is a simple activity that allows your students to share about their day quickly. As the last activity each day, they share a good thing about their day (rose) and a bad thing (thorn). They don’t have to have both, but it gives them a chance to recognize both good and bad feelings and work through them.
Appreciation, Apology, or Aha
This is an activity that I heard about from some other teachers. You and your students can share something you appreciated about the day, something they want to apologize for (because we all make mistakes), or an aha moment which would be something they learned or a great idea they formed. It provides an open and safe space to talk about all of these things. Be sure that you participate and model how to share.
You could have a wrap-up meeting at the end of the day. This meeting is not about homework. It’s an opportunity to give a shout-out to students who did something spectacular, talk about their questions and concerns, and discuss big events coming up on the schedule. There isn’t really a limit to what you can talk about, but think about what you want this meeting to mean to students. Do you want it to be a to-do list? Or do you want your wrap-up meeting to inspire your students and help them connect more? When you think about the goal of the meeting it will help you decide on topics and structure.
Classroom Activities for Team Building
Getting students to get up and moving helps them engage, remember, and connect. Some of these ideas are classics, there is a reason they are still around. Team building comes from working together to achieve a goal. In school students are usually graded on an individual basis, which is why we have to help them connect through other activities. Let’s take a look at these activities.
Hula Hoop Loop
I have done this in classrooms, camps, and gymnastics. In this game, students stand in a circle and hold hands. Then you pick a spot where you put a hula hoop on the hands of two students. Students will step through the hoop and try to lift it over their heads to move it around the circle but they can’t let go of each other’s hands. Take out a stopwatch and see how long it takes your class to move the hoop around the circle and back to the beginning. Students can try to beat their time.
You can also turn this into a small competition and have students split into two groups and see who finishes first. (If you have an odd number of students then have one person go twice or you can join in).
Start in a small circle then have students grab hands with someone across the circle (it has to be two different people). Next students have to climb over, under, and around each other to untangle the circle. They cannot let go of the hands they are holding. When they are untangled they should be in a new circle with different neighbors and some people backward. There are even times it makes two smaller circles.
Have students sit in a circle. Then they will toss a ball of yarn or string to their classmates without letting go of the string. This will make a spider web to make a spider web. They should use their classmates’ names, and eye contact and they can even tell a funny or embarrassing story if they want or answer a question. This creates a visual of how the whole class is connected.
For an even bigger challenge, you can have them untangle the web. It will take some teamwork to figure it out.
Group juggle is one of my favorite games. When I was a paraprofessional in a 3rd-grade classroom the kids played this game every day. The goal is that students can toss at least three bean bags (we used beanie babies) to everyone in the class, in the same order without dropping one or seeing how few drops they could do. It was incredibly hard and fun. They would cheer for each other the whole time.
As the year progressed the goal became hard with more bean bags and fewer drops. The kids were very honest about when they dropped a bean bag. It was okay to make mistakes and they worked as a team toward the goal.
This game is one that sticks out to me from camp. The counselor laid out a map on the floor upside down. The students had to silently try to find their way through the map moving one square at a time one person at a time. Student 1 would pick the first spot and look for a green dot. The student could continue to make picks until they found a red dot. The cards got flipped over again when they hit red. Student 2 would try to remember where the green dot was and try to pick the next green dot. The cards got flipped over again when they hit red. Student 3 would try to follow the map the others laid out and pick the next green dot. It continued on until they finished.
This activity took my group a long time but they stayed engaged and felt really accomplished when they did it. I also liked that they physically moved through the puzzle. The group is supposed to stay quiet, but if the students are having a hard time it’s okay to adjust the rules.
In this activity, you can use a hula hoop or small hoop. Students have to pick up, put down, and move around holding the hoop all together with one fingertip. You can decide how much they have to do with their hoop, but it will take some teamwork to do it.
Tie some strings to a rubber band. The number of strings will be the number of people in each group. As a team, the students must stack some plastic cups using just their rubber bands and strings. They can try to create a pyramid or another design as a team.
Classroom Activities for Team Building Positive Traits
We have to teach our students academics, but we want them to be kind and caring humans too. These next two activities will help you nature the type of students you want.
Most classes start out the year with classroom rules. Teachers try to keep it short and simple or have their students pick the rules. This is a twist on that idea. Discuss what kind of character traits you want your students to have like kind humorous, thoughtful, and selfless. This conversation helps students think about their character and who they want to be.
Decide to support a cause as a classroom. It could be adopting a gorilla through a zoo, cleaning up trash in the school, or raising money for a cause. Ask your students what they might like to do. Supporting a cause greater than themselves can help them grow.
When I was in elementary school I would participate in a church musical. Part of the fun was the penny race. The different groups would try to collect the most change. I loved this challenge and the money went to underprivileged kids.
Expectations and Assumptions
It’s important that our students know our expectations for the school year. When we take time out of learning to focus on classroom activities for team building our students get a clear message that community is important. It also demonstrates our expectations for them.
Don’t assume your students know how to behave. We often think our students come into the school knowing how they should act in class and how to be part of a community, but we can’t assume they do. We should start from scratch, show them how to care and connect, to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry
I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing. Here is an entire lesson for FREE. My Our School Poem guides students by using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.