Team building time (or shall I say class building time?)! These are 9 activities you can use to help your new class get to know each other, and to help you get to know more about them as well. Even if many of your students were together last year, they should still be able to discover new things about each other, practice their verbal or non-verbal communication skills, and improve their teamwork through these exercises.
I’ve actually used many of these activities with groups of teachers too, and they’ve enjoyed it as much as students!
Single Word Description. If you can only say one word to tell us about yourself, what word would you choose and why? Give your students a couple of minutes to think about this question, and then give each of them a set amount of time (30 seconds or less should be plenty, unless you want the activity to take longer). Note: If most of your students were in the class last year, you can spice this up by splitting them into pairs and then having each student choose one word that describes his classmate and explain why (remind the students that the word has to be positive, not critical…).
Class Mission Statement. This can be done in any subject, but is most effective if done in homeroom. Divide the students into groups of 3-4. Tell the class that each student needs to individually write a sentence they think could be the class mission statement. Then, as a team, they need to combine their statements to make a new class statement that includes the ideas from their individual statements (note: this should not just be a run on sentence or list that combines the 4 sentences, but a new sentence that expresses the significance of all of them).
Now ask each group to read their statement aloud and then, as a class, combine those group statements into ONE final class mission statement. Frame this statement and put it on the wall for the year, or have students put it on their laptops as a screensaver, etc.
Commonalities. You can have the entire class do this together, or divide them into smaller groups. Each class, or group has to make a list of as many things as possible that they all have in common. Encourage the students to go beyond the obvious (e.g. they’re all at the same school), to discover beliefs, values and interests they share…
Community Web. Bring a ball of yarn or string to the classroom. Tell the students to get in a circle. Give the ball of string to one of the students. He needs to tell the class something he can contribute to the class community and something he can learn from the class community during the year. Then he needs to hold on to the end of the string and throw the ball across the circle to another student.
The other student shares, holds onto the string and throws the rest of the ball to someone else. By the time the ball reaches the last student, the string will have formed a web across the classroom, with each student holding a part of it up. Ask several students to drop their parts of the string at the same time, and tell the class to observe how this affects the web. Discuss how the web represents their community: each of them has a part in holding up with community, and if any one of them doesn’t make their contribution and fulfill their responsibility, it affects the whole class.
Rotating Circle. Divide your students into two or three groups, depending on your class size. Each group should have 8-10 students. Tell each group needs to divide in two and form an inner and outer circle. The students in the inner circle will face outwards, and the students in the outer circle will face inwards.
This way, each student will be facing a partner. Give the students 1 minute to get to know their partner. Then ring a bell and tell the students in the inner circle to rotate to the right. Every student now faces a new partner and has 1 minute to get to know them. After the inner circles have finished a complete rotation, ask each student to tell the class one new thing they learned about the classmates they talked with.
Silent Line-Up. Tell your class to line up silently either in alphabetical order by their names or in sequential order by their birthdays. This activity helps them practice nonverbal communication and lets them get to know basic information about each other. If your most of your students already know each other, use different criteria for the silent line-up (e.g. alphabetical order by favorite book).
True or False. Divide students into groups of 4-5. Within their groups, each student has to think of three “facts” about themselves to share with the group. Two of these “facts” must be true, and one must be false. Students take turns sharing the three “facts” and their classmates have to guess which are true which is false.
Coat of Arms. Give each student a piece of paper, and make art supplies available. Tell them to design their own coat of arms (define what a coat of arms is and discuss its historical significance if your students don’t yet know). When they have finished their coats of arms, give each student 30 seconds or so to show their coat of arms to the class and explain its significance.
Bingo! Make Bingo cards with characteristics that apply to multiple students (e.g. 3 siblings, brown hair, likes reading, born in December, etc.). Give your students 10 minutes or so to mingle, getting to know basic facts and characteristics about each other. Then play Bingo. When a student calls “Bingo”, tell them to read the characteristics they marked on their card and tell you which student they have in mind that corresponds to each one (e.g. Brown Hair: Sally; 3 siblings: John).
If they get each one correct, they won; if not, they need to take the marker off the one they got wrong, and continue playing…