Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Team Building and Creative Cooperation in the Classroom

Greetings, GTCers!

This past week featured a presentation on "Team Building and Creative Cooperation in the Classroom" facilitated by Donnelly West. Below you'll find a handy synopsis (courtesy of Donnelly) on the benefits of strengthening peer relationships in the classroom:

People tend to have very strong opinions on Icebreakers, Team Building exercises and the like. Being a good facilitator is crucial to obtain good results from any team exercise or attempt to increase cohesiveness among participants.

Let’s break down Team Building further before we dive in to examples:

What is a team?

A team is a group of people..
i) forming a single side in a competitive game or sport.
ii) coming together to achieve a common goal.
iii) wearing matching or coordinated garments with each other.

Knowing this, it sounds like if you forced students to wear uniforms, they would instantly become more like a single team. This isn’t completely untrue, but it certainly isn’t sufficient to bring them together to achieve common goals.

Who composes a team in the real world?

A department, a group of faculty, a group playing a sport together, a group of students learning/conducting a project, a family, a church group, a political group, etc, etc

What does team building do for the classroom?

Encouraging students to work together increases a sense of community; this promotes students helping each other by increasing their interdependence and sense of responsibility and accountability to each other. Teambuilding can also allow the teacher or facilitator to tap in to the knowledge that students bring in from their diverse experiences. This increases productivity, creativity, sense of community and contentment since the students can contribute and feel very valued.

Students participating in group activities in classes often express frustration over having random teammates assignments; they feel that they work better with partners of their own choosing. This exemplifies how difficult it is to become a “team” without working to ‘build a team’ first. Investing in teambuilding early on can result in better projects, increased learning and more amicable work environments later.

What about Beyond the classroom?

Teaching students to value large goals as well as individual goals, to consider the contributions and skills of others, and to be reliable provides real world adaptability. Team-oriented individuals operate and function better within larger units such as corporations, industrial operations and political structures. They make better leaders and followers, allowing them to positively participate broadly.

The basis of team building is to trust and to be trustworthy which unarguably transcends academia.

How do you do teach trust and cooperation through teambuilding?

A good facilitator needs to create a safe environment in order to allow trust and cooperatively to flourish.

Typically, trust is built from:
- previous positive experience; consistency 
- self confidence
- responsiveness / attentiveness
- open mindedness
- communication skills
- accountability / fairness

As a facilitator, there are some key things you can do to set up success:
- addressing any anxiety within the group
- making individuals feel important & valued
- having & stating clear expectations
- building balanced teams
- showcasing common interests
- establishing a comfortable yet challenging pace

Activities are often necessary to compliment assignments and surveys in order to fully integrate individuals in to the group or team. People tend to “feel” camaraderie and a sense of team far more than they can intellectually conceive of it.


The activities listed below are divided in to the following categories:

Ice breakers
These activities are designed to help individuals learn new names, meet new people, discover common interests and create a sense of camaraderie.
Games for Energy
These games are focused more on enjoying the moment, movement, verbal play and building positive energies within the group. They should be fun and fast paced. They lend themselves well to preparing for public speaking or debating.

Communication Builders & Problem Solvers
Theses games help to establish clear communication skills or to help individuals realize that instructions and tasks can be interpreted differently by a group. They also give participants the opportunity to rely on each other to solve a problem or overcome an obstacle.

Advanced Games
Advanced games are designed more for groups who either have a lot of prior exposure (e.g. related, long-term co-workers, etc) or who will be engaging in dangerous group work (e.g. stage fighting, acrobatics, etc) where high levels of trust and clear communication are extremely important.

Ice Breakers

“Easy” Name Game
Gather students in a circle or semicircle. One person says their name and claps their hands twice. Then they say another person’s name as they pat their thighs. That person then says their own name as they clap twice, then they say someone else’s name as they pat their thighs. This game is great because everyone will make mistakes – it’s very hard to keep rhythm, remember the pattern and think of a new name simultaneously. It’s a great opportunity to explain to students that even simple things can be difficult while encouraging them not to feel discouraged and to learn when to ask for help!
*try to encourage students to “go faster” – to take risks and make mistakes.
*challenge students to make it at least once through every person before repeating a name.

Name & Action Circle
Gather students into a circle or semicircle. One person will say their name while performing an action (hopping, spinning, kicking, etc, etc). Everyone else in the circle will then repeat that name and action. Go around the circle twice – once to establish and the second time to speed it up and practice. Then, have one person do their name/action and the name/action of another person. The second person then says their own name/action and pass it along to another member of the circle. This is a great way to create inside jokes and learn names.

Move It Buddy
Stand in a circle, with one person in the middle. When the person in the middle says so, participants will be given 30-60 seconds to memorize the first, middle, and last name of the person to their left and right. After the minute is over, the person in the middle will point to somebody and say “left” or “right”. If he or she pauses or stumbles saying the full name, he or she is then in the middle. Once everyone seems to know each others names, the person in the middle can call out, “Move It Buddy!” and everyone must rush to a new space and begin memorizing names again.

Games for Energy

Bopity Bop Bop Bop
Gather students in a circle or semicircle with the facilitator in the middle (it is important for the participants to practice with the facilitator in the center before the game really begins). Start by approaching someone in the circle and saying, to everyone, “the person in the middle can walk up to someone and say ‘Bopity Bop Bop Bop’ BUT before I finish, that person MUST SAY ‘Bop’.” Then say bopity bop bop bop again, and make sure they say bop before you finish. Next, walk up to someone else, and say “the center person can also say ‘Bop’ to which the proper response is nothing”. Go through the circle a couple of times practicing before you speed up/ challenge them.
*add “elephant 1-2-3-4-5” or other variations once bop/bopity bop bop bop have been mastered

Two Truths & A Lie
Students can do this seated or in a circle. Each person takes a turn telling two true things and one false thing about themselves and then the others guess which is which. This is a great way to have participants learn interesting facts about each other. It will take longer than you think, especially because it’s hard to think of two truths and a lie on the spot!

Blindfolded Animals
This activity can be used to separate people into pairs or a large number of students into different groups. Count how many groups or pairs of students you have. Write the name of an animal on two (for pairs; 4-5 for a group) different pieces of paper. Have students draw out a piece of paper. (you can also assign an animal to a number and have students count off)
Scatter students around the room and, when you say “go”, participants will close their eyes and are only allowed to make the noise of their animal in order to find their other group members.
*Animals such as cows, pigs, dogs, chickens, elephants, cats, and horses all make for a fun, and noisy, activity

Communication Builders & Problem Solvers

Copy Cat
This can be done with students seated in desks. Have students draw a picture and write out instructions on how to draw a replica. Then hand over the instructions only and compare final drawings. This can be done serially too and becomes a lot like “telephone”. Put time limitations on the drawing / instruction writing phases to encourage concision and accuracy.

Picture Pieces Game
Before hand gather: pens, pencils, rulers, a picture
Before starting, you need a picture or drawing with a lot of details (choosing an easily-recognizable picture is helpful too). Cut the picture in to equal squares (the # of squares should equal the # of people playing). Participants should be at desks or tables and everyone will get a piece of the puzzle. They then create an exact copy of their piece, only theirs is five-ten times bigger.
The challenge is that each individual does not know how their “work”  fits in to the completed picture (just like in a company, or assignment). Have participants assemble the larger pieces and talk about what worked best to recreate the bigger picture.

Obstacle Course
Get individuals to suggest pitfalls to group work (e.g. poor communication) and, write down every suggestion, then ball up the paper and have them throw it in the center of the room (mostly open space) thus creating the obstacle course. One person in a group is then blindfolded at one end of the course and the other teammates, at the opposite side try to talk them through the course without getting near the paper.
*to add challenge, you can have participants move chairs, etc into the course instead of just paper.

Advanced Games

Dead Float
One person lays on the ground with their eyes closed. Up to seven other people pick up the legs (2 each) arms (1 each) and head (1) of the “dead” person. The seven people gently move the arms/legs/head of the “dead” person in different directions and angles while the “dead” person tries to remain completely relaxed. This is far more challenging for the “dead” person, but every person in the group rotates through that position.

Lap sit
Have participants form a circle, then face side by side and close enough for shoulders to touch. Then have them turn to stand in a line (all facing the same direction) and put both hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. Then tell everyone to sit down slowly when you count to three. Each person should end up sitting on the knees of the person behind them. If the group succeeds, have them try standing up at the same time.
*if they are not in synch, people will fall down so have spotters or soft ground! *Added challenge: Tell the group to have everyone sit in someone else's lap
If anyone sits down on the ground or on a chair, ask the bottom person whose lap they’re in. This can be really frustrating, so only use it on a very familiar and confident group

More Information & Games:


ducttapeteambuilding.com – yup; that’s a thing.





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