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Learning Environment Tips and Tricks

4 Activities to Get All Students Playing for “Team Learning”

Breaking down barriers and building a classroom community where all students can flourish.

As students enter the upper grade levels, their interests and personal styles begin to funnel them into preconceived categories. This categorization has been chronicled in blockbusters like The Breakfast Club, Mean Girls, Dead Poets Society, The Outsiders, Twilight, and countless others. Hollywood can tend to glamorize the separatism, but teachers work hard each day to break down the barriers and build a positive learning environment for all students.

Classrooms today are filled with a heterogeneous blending of “jocks,” “Plastics,” “loners,” “Greasers,” etc. Teachers put a lot of behind-the-scenes work into finding ways to ensure all students are active participants on Team Learning. With these 4 teambuilding activities, teachers will have some tools and tricks to pave the way toward creating a positive and supportive classroom culture for all students.

Change Change — One of six activities shared by Buzzle, Change Change is a short, no-materials-needed activity that gets students to take notice of one another. Have students form two lines and face one another. Students from one line should be given no more than thirty seconds to closely observe the person standing across from them. After thirty seconds, the observers close their eyes while their partners in the opposite line change one aspect of their appearances (e.g., remove an earring, roll up sleeves, don glasses). When observers are told to open their eyes, they must determine the change. This activity can be done multiple times with the observer role alternating lines and even shifting one line to rotate partners. In a time when students are so caught up with staring at their devices and interacting with a limited number of peers, this can let classmates truly see one another for the first time.

Model Building — This activity shared by Global Life has team members filling different roles to complete a singular task. Place students on teams of three and give each team two boxes filled with exactly the same building materials (e.g., Legos, Lincoln Logs, toothpicks and marshmallows). Using all of the materials in one box, each team secretly constructs a structure and places it back in the box. Upon completion, the box is given to the explainer on the opposite team. The explainer is the only team member that can view the secret structure. He/she then explains the design to the messenger. The messenger then relays this description to the builder who works to build the structure solely based on the description from the messenger. This activity gets all team members participating and encouraging one another.

Who Am I? — Jason Weaver at Woven Teaching offers this activity idea along with several others that foster community building in the secondary classroom. Have each student write down three unique qualities, interests, and/or facts about themselves that they think others would be unaware of or find surprising. Post the responses of one or more students each day and have the class guess who is being described. This can be a chance for others to note common interests, follow up on interesting revelations, and gain a mutual respect for differences among classmates.

Zoom & Re-Zoom — Based on the popular children’s books by Istvan Banyai, this group activity from Wilderdom gets students moving, communicating, and problem-solving. The picture-in-picture concept of the Zoom books is a perfect opportunity to have students work as a team to reveal the sequential order of this text-free book. By separating the pages and giving one page to each student, the team must work together to put the big picture in order. Without allowing others to see their assigned pictures, students must talk about the aspects of their pictures to discover those who have common elements. As the common links are noted, students can start to build the sequence and eventually display their ordering of the images to see if their verbal skills were enough to determine the correct order.

The activity chosen isn’t the important factor; the team building that occurs to complete the activity is. To create a positive classroom community, students need to respect one another and appreciate the unique contributions that each community member makes. Whether they’re building, guessing, or ordering, students begin to see that they are all part of Team Learning and can find the value in collaboration and supporting one another.

 


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