The high school experience of most students is placed on the knife-edge of blooming puberty. It also has to face the pressure of performing better at many academic and co-curricular activities. High school is the time that coincides with the time when growing children become more aware or conscious of their personalities. They search for like-minded people and friends, for instance. Also, they strive to inculcate social skills to achieve acceptance among relevant circles.
Though an individual’s performance can be assessed by activities, like debating, running a 100-meter sprint, or even studying subjects such as geometry and algebra, we must remember that no person is an island. In the real world scenario, we work in teams or groups that may or may not consist of our friends.
A good education aims to enable the next generation to succeed in an insanely competitive, fast-paced world, and just the textbook curriculum is not enough. Interpersonal skills, such as cooperation & collaboration, trust-building, leadership and executing, strategizing, and speaking skills cannot be honed through theoretical classes or rote learning.
Teams bring out a variety of attributes needed to get a task done effectively. Team building activities can prove fun ways to bring out the best characteristics among students while thinking of creative solutions to a problem.
Popular theories of team formation focus on identifying roles of individual team members that can be leveraged to get the best from the team to accomplish a specific task. Some children can be planners, curious investigators, Coordinators, Shapers, Monitor Evaluators. Other children are dependable Team Workers, implementers, Completer-Finishers, and Specialists. Another theory creates teams based on the stages a group undergoes while ineffective team formation.
As per Tuckman’s model of group behavior, these five stages are: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Yet other philosophies, such as Maslow’s needs hierarchy and the Briggs-Myers personality inventory, aim to determine one’s personality, which help evaluate how good a fit he or she would be in a group.
The way to execute team-building in high-school students is to expose them to various activities over the year, which will allow them to exhibit at least one of the traits of a good team player. Games help to break the monotony in a classroom and can help involve all students.
You can implement Team-building activities throughout the year. You can merge an activity into a sports or PE session or reinvent an academic lesson as a team activity. You may want to have them during the beginning of the school year to induct the incoming batch of high-schoolers, establish a classroom culture, or re-establish concepts, review learning, or deepen rapport.
10 activities to develop team-building skills high-schoolers
1. Building Blocks
This game tests your students’ creativity while also working as a team to achieve the required targets in a given time. In this activity, divide the class into groups of 6-7. Allot equal amounts of materials, such as cardboard tubes, straws, playing cards, Styrofoam blocks, soft washing soap and so on to each team.
The next task is to give them something to build. Challenges may be as varied as Building the most structurally sound tall structure from a given set of materials, or recreating a model from a blueprint, etc. Change the parameters of the challenge: which team can build it the fastest? Or the tallest structure in the same amount of time?
Skills: Communication, problem-solving
2. Minefield/Obstacle race
This activity is a great icebreaker and team-building game. All you need to do is create an obstacle course and a reward at the end. Students are divided into teams of 4-5. The task may be to retrieve an item from a specific location or cross the obstacle course successfully without touching the “mines” scattered randomly.
One or two students from each team need to navigate the system, while the other teammates will guide them. The best part, you can have this both out of the classroom and inside and make it work even in constrained conditions.
Skills: Communication, trust
3. Worst-case scenario
This activity encourages debate, peer discussion in the teams you form. Divide the class into groups of about 5-6 students, and hand them a case or a problem; a scenario where they have limited resources and time, and they need to arrive at the best possible solution. The procedure may be from your curriculum or a hypothetical situation, such as a class field trip bus stranded in a storm.
Give them a map, if needed. Let the teams propose a solution for the problem. You can stimulate the Socratic method of teaching by opening their reasoning to the open house. The only rider is that everyone on the team must concur with the final solution.
Skills: Communication, problem-solving
It is a classic outdoor activity that tests not just physical strength but also sportsmanship. It is a simple game with practically no equipment other than a strong rope.
Much like the snake-boat races of Kerala, you can ask the teams to come up with their war cry. After all, a group that is equivocal about their desire to win performs well on the field.
5. Treasure hunt
A scavenger hunt also called a treasure hunt is a stimulating activity bound to keep everyone on their toes for a pretty long time. Make teams of 3 or 4, and have 12-15 clues or sets of questions that will lead the teams towards the final prize. This activity demands a good amount of out-of-class area and time constraints, so prior planning is essential.
Involve staff members, such as a librarian, or other teachers, to provide hints, especially if your clues are a tough nut to crack. For clues, you could derive your content from principles taught in class or current affairs.
Skills: Problem-solving, time management, logical application
6. Shrinking classroom
This activity encourages participation of every student, adjustment and collaboration. The concept is pretty simple: divide the class into two teams. Put them into two “classrooms” with flexible but defined boundaries that keep shrinking.
You could use traffic cones or a giant rope loop that will gradually shrink. Both teams have to organize themselves to fit in that limited area. The essence of the activity is that “no one should feel left out”.
Skills: Adjustment, quick-thinking, cooperation
7. Create a class movie
The end-of-year events in any school are typically more creative and fancy. Students would love to be showcased in a class skit or movie. While the entire class is required to participate, you will need to split up the students into smaller teams. As a teacher, encourage students to write their scripts, choose students for various parts, and help with the entire production. It’s a fun way to get their creative caps on!
The following things need to be done:
- What is the story? Let students write a synopsis and choose the best one.
- Allot parts and roles to students.
- Prepare the costumes and the sets.
- Practicing, directing the movie scenes.
- Editing the settings.
- Organizing the screening of the finished movie.
You can have students perform a skit, shadow play or a puppet show similarly.
Skills: Creative collaboration, timeliness
8. Picture story building
Make groups of 8-10, and pass a picture sheet to each group. Each group should look at the picture, discuss and build a story around it. The concept may be abstract or showing action or scene.
All students should be able to add valuable perspectives to what the picture is indicating. The activity reveals that a single stimulus may evoke multiple perspectives, that not everyone sees things in the same way, and we should respect all views.
Skills: Story-building, peer focused discussions
9. Classify This
It is a simple activity that pushes students to think beyond their comfort zone. Place around 20-25 random assortment of articles or pictures, such as paper clips, pencils, salt shaker, umbrella, socks, ketchup sachet, fork, and so on.
Make teams of 4-5 students, who are now tasked with categorizing them under specific categories, even when there are no apparent connections. Either you may fix how many categories they must fit each object into. You can ask students to group the things and find exceptions to the general rule. This idea can be used as a precursor to teaching Mendeleev’s periodic table or even species categorization.
Skills: Categorization, logical reasoning
10. Move the Marble
You will need to make larger teams of 8-10 for this activity. Provide an assortment of materials to students: rulers, tubes, chalk, pencils, or anything they can get from their school bags.
The objective is to get a marble placed on a high area to a designated spot at some distance away. Teams need to devise a contraption or a race track to get that marble safely by avoiding specific places or challenges that you may want to pose.
Skills: collaboration, problem solving
Ensuring Successful Team-building Activities
As educators or teachers, it is essential for you not to be biased and allow every student to perform at par with others.
1. Your classroom is a safe zone.
The team-building activities in your classroom should emphasize that your classroom is a safe zone. All students, irrespective of their background, gender, socio-economic levels, religion, deserve mutual respect and acceptance, empathy and self-esteem.
2. Teamwork through trust.
Building good trust amongst fellow participants in your classroom is essential to bring about a sense of community. Authenticity and continuous improvement can be brought about through this community, including constructive peer-to-peer feedback and positive discussion. Team-building activities should be designed to teach trust and community-building.
3. Every Activity is a learning point.
The above activities are designed to be flexible as per your Classroom size and diversity. The challenges you pose to your students during each of these activities enable each student to learn. The learning is not only from their efforts, wins and shortcomings but also from others.
Leadership, of course, should not lead to cognitive biases and group-think; teamwork needs a variety of opinions, and great communication is the glue that holds everyone together. Such activities have a multi-fold advantage: it helps bring out the dormant talents of public organization, discussion, and critical thinking of students who tend to be overshadowed by the more dominant students in the class. It creates a class culture and appreciation for diversity within the batch mates.
When these simple “games” are coupled with an appropriate incentive scheme, such as assignment deadline extension, class credits, or tangible benefits like prizes or gifts, students feel motivated to participate more. These activities are also pliable in the sense that the teacher can fit them into the course curriculum to deliver certain learning points, or just as an extracurricular activity. After all, the adage goes: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”
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