Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

10 Team-Building Activities for the First Week of School

July 23, 2015

Team building activities for the first week of school

** SEE ALSO: Back-to-School Activities for Virtual Classrooms **

By Rebekah Schilperoort

The first week of school is a crucial time for both teachers and students and can often set the tone for the entire school year. Luckily, there are a multitude of fun activities that can help form bonds that will strengthen all year. From orienting students to the new classroom to learning how to collaborate as a team, these interactive ideas will get students and educators off on the right track.

1. Classroom Treasure Hunt 

The Treasure Hunt activity is a great way to help your students get to know the setup of their new classroom while also learning how to work together as a team.  

Make a list of several important items in the classroom, such as reference books, art supplies, staplers, paper and more. Then, in teams of two or three, have the students locate each item on the list. A simple, but effective, game that will have everyone feeling more at home in no time.

2. Tennis Ball Transfer

This game requires small groups to focus and collaborate on a task—building on skills students will need in the classroom and beyond.

Each group of about four to five children will need a cup, string, a large metal washer and a tennis ball. The students will need to work together to decipher the best way to hold the strings and balance the tennis ball on the washer while walking toward the cup. (The teacher should determine how far the students need to walk based on age/grade level.) Once the team arrives at the cup, they’ll need to work as a group to figure out how to drop the ball into the cup without touching either object.

3. First Day of School Puzzle

This clever craft project allows students to express what’s special about themselves, learn about fellow classmates and create a unique art piece they can enjoy year-round.  

Come to class prepared with puzzle piece cutouts —one for each student—in various colors (be sure they connect as a complete puzzle). Using old magazines and any other materials you like, have the students decorate their puzzle pieces with cutout photos, words and visuals that describe who they are. Go a little deeper and have each student give a brief presentation of their puzzle piece before fitting them all together. 

The overall message: Every piece of the puzzle is different and it takes all of them to make a complete picture.

“For helping a larger group get to know each other, I like Name Juggle, Living Bar Graph and Have You Ever. To help teams of four or less connect, I like the three-step interview, Two Truths and a Lie, with team naming derived by identifying uncommon commonalities (no other team can claim that quality).” — Angie Besendorfer (MO ’96)
4. One-Minute Talk

Based on topics either chosen by the students or determined by the teacher, have students give an impromptu 60-second talk on anything they are interested in. It could be a favorite book, a memorable vacation or even a hobby they’re passionate about. 

This exercise may be best suitable for middle to high school aged students, but could also work with younger kids, depending on the topic. 

5. Inside-Outside Circle

It can sometimes be difficult for students to open up to one another, but this kinesthetic activity is designed to get students moving and talking. 

Instruct students to form a circle within a circle—aim for an equal number of students for each circle. Students in the inside circle turn and face those in the outside circle. The group facilitator—this can be the teacher or a student—determines a topic and the partnered students share their thoughts on that subject, alternating every 30 seconds or so. Then, ask the inside circle to rotate and repeat the exercise.  

These short exchanges involve everyone and can be used to dig deeper into a lesson or simply as a means of getting to know each other. 

6. Alien Greeting 

Perfect for new groups that don’t know each other very well, Alien Greeting is an amusing game that’s rooted in improv. 

Have students form a circle. Then ask each to imagine they are from another planet and to think of a sound or movement that would be used as a “hello” on their fictional planet. Give them a few minutes to think of something. 

When ready, ask each student to greet the student on their left with their unique “alien greeting.” Next, have everyone share their greeting with the class along with some insight into how they came up with their idea. 

7. Where-We-Come-From Map

This mapping activity is a wonderful way to illustrate how diverse your classroom is. 

Project or hang up maps of the United States and the world. Ask each student to write their name on a piece of paper or sticky note. One at a time, have each student come to the front of the class, tell everyone their name and where they were born, while placing their piece of paper on the state or country they are from. For some younger grades, students may need a teacher’s assistance to find their state or country on the map.  

There are plenty of follow-up opportunities, such as creating a graph that shows all of the different states and countries the students are from, geography lessons, research projects and more.

8. Q&A Hands 

Students will learn important information about their fellow schoolmates and create a fun display for their classroom with this project that combines sharing and art.

In pairs, ask students to trace their partner’s hands on paper and cut them out. Students should write one question on each finger. It’s helpful if the teacher provides some questions, but it’s also fun to allow students to come up with some of their own. 

Some examples are “What is your favorite TV show?” What’s your favorite subject?” and “Which countries have you visited?”

Have students write the answers to their questions on the fingers and then ask them to share their answers with the rest of the class. When the activity is complete, hang the hands on the wall for an informational art display!

9. Classroom Promise

Having an agreed upon set of rules will help create a classroom atmosphere that’s collaborative and respectful. By developing a promise or mission statement with your students, it gives everyone a chance to take ownership of their actions.

During the first week of school, lead students in a discussion about responsibilities, respect, safety and more. As a class, write a promise, pledge or mission statement that incorporates tenets from that dialogue. Recreate the classroom promise on a poster. Hang it prominently in the classroom and refer to it often throughout the year to instill a positive classroom climate. 

10. Have You Ever

Have You Ever is one of the most popular “getting to know you” games for a reason—it’s simple, effective and fun. 

Have students stand in a circle, each on a marker, with one person in the center. The person in the center of the circle is “it” and will ask a question starting with “have you ever?” followed by something they have done (Example: “Have you ever gone to Disneyland?”).  

The person who is “it,” and everyone in the circle who has done the thing that was asked, must move to an empty spot, but not the spot right next to where they were originally standing. Whoever is last to get to a safe spot becomes "it." 

Explore all of these team building activities and many more at Teach Thought; Education World;;;; and Pinterest. 


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