Here in Europe, it’s that time again. The time when people start putting away their summer gear and turn their focus instead to the new academic year that’s on the horizon. And the new school year usually entails a new academic team in some capacity, whether it be teaching, managing or offering admin support. I’ve recently written about how important I feel it is to build a classroom community and of course that also rings true for the staff. A happy staffroom usually results in a happy classroom so fostering good relationships between staff members is an important step in alleviating workplace stress, stimulating creativity through collaborations and building school spirit.
Regardless of the size of the institution, I think team building is really important, particularly at the start of the school year. Those exercises which though initially might provoke a groan or make us cringe are a great way of breaking down barriers and allowing team members to get to know one another. Here are 8 fun, great team-building exercises which are sure to kick off the school year with a smile on the faces of any team (or class!)
1. Flying Eggs! Harking back to the science fairs of our youth, this is a fun and potentially messy teambuilding exercise that will have everyone scratching their heads. Split the group into small teams and in the centre of the room place a number of random materials such as plastic cups, lollypop sticks, egg cartons, elastic bands, and balloons. The aim for the teams is to create a device which will keep the eggs in the air for at least 20 seconds. Sounds easy? It isn’t! But the process is definitely fun!
2. Goose Chase – This is a fantastic, interactive website which allows you to send your team out on a wild goose chase, completing missions and uploading the photographic evidence. Using an app that teams download on their phones, they race against each other to complete a number of tasks within an assigned time. It’s simple to set up, you can choose between a series of pre-loaded challenges, or assign your own personalised tasks to make sure they relate perfectly to your own teaching context. You can assign
bonus points, take points away and live- comment on the team’s action,this is sure to generate lots of giggles and create some long lasting bonds (if not memories!) Breakdancing in the street, writing and publishing a poem in a shop window complete with email address, asking a member of the public for a piggy back, or asking unsuspecting locals to become part of your publicity campaign, you are sure to get noticed on the street!
3. There’s no I in Team – This is a slightly less energetic activity which really underlines a holistic approach to working relationships. I think it’s a great idea for any team to have a mission statement, a written idea of what you want to achieve and the values that are important in the fruition of this goal. At our school, we have a mission statement which is displayed in big type in our staffroom. It’s also important, however, to recognise that it’s the entire team who are the vehicle to making goals a reality, so a nice activity to do in induction week, or the first days of school/ first team meeting is to ask team members to edit the current school mission statement to come up with one that we all agree on. Sometimes even the most subtle of alterations can fine-tune the objectives. Such a simple activity can really help to get everyone on board and start the school year on the best foot.
4. Perfect Shape – Colleagues have to shape themselves to fit around one another but can they do the same to make an inanimate object? Divide your team into small groups and give each group a rope, blindfold all members of each group and instruct them to make a perfect ‘square’, ‘circle’ or ‘hexagon’. Without being able to see they will have to depend on each other and be guided only by their voices. This seemingly simple activity will only work if all members really listen to each other and work together. When the blindfolds come off will they be pleased or will they be wishing they had communicated better?
5. Not my problem! Think these teambuilding exercises are cringey? Can’t think of anything worse than popping balloons with your body? You’re in luck! NOw it’s your turn to become taskmaster as you have 30 minutes to devise the perfect team building challenge within your group. Present it to the rest of the class, have a vote for whose is the best and then do it!
6. Building bridges – It goes without saying that conflict and obstacles occur regularly at many points during the school year, and our job is to find a resolution without upsetting the flow of the school. A great metaphor for this is the idea of building bridges, so, presented with a plethora of building materials such as lego, straws, cotton wool, cereal packets or plastic bottles two different teams must build half a bridge, designed to interlock with the other half designed by the other team. There is one big problem though. The two teams must construct their ‘half-bridge’ without being able to see the other team’s. They can communicate verbally, shouting through walls, talking on the phone, or sending written notes but they can’t actually see the other half until the two bridges come together, with interesting consequences!
7. I’m sticking with you – Teamwork is all about collaboration and a nice (?) visual reminder of this is to tie the hands of your staff members together and then allocate a series of challenges for them to complete together. Challenges can be as banal as using the photocopier to the more random making a sandwich, playing a song on a piano, wrapping a present, or pouring ICED tea for everyone in the room. This quick, difficult exercise will underline once again how important it is to work together to get things done.
8. Powerpoint Karaoke- Yes this is a thing and yes it will be hilarious. The idea behind Powerpoint Karaoke is for couples to present a short powerpoint presentation on a topic they haven’t prepared for. Put together a simple powerpoint presentation with 6-10 slides all loosely connected to a central topic, which automatically flick on to the next after a certain amount of time. The presenters (ideally in pairs) have 5 minutes to present whatever is on the screen. This is the ultimate challenge in thinking on your feet, and a great lesson in highlighting how important thinking time is in the classroom when setting up speaking activities!!!
I hope you enjoy trying some of these out with your teachers or even new students. What are your favourite teambuilding activities?