Hello, 2 Peas and a Dog Readers!
It's Matt from Team Building Activities for Kids Central. Kristy was kind enough to let me guest post on her blog, and I'm super excited to share our work with you!
I've been thinking lately about how hard it can be to get certain students involved in group exercises. And, from what my colleagues and I have found, the toughest students to motivate are---far and away---middle schoolers.
With students, say, age 4 to 10, the attitude is, "We're playing games, then it's lunch, then probably more activities, this is the best day ever, let's do it. Yay!" You can work with people like that.
At about ten or eleven, however, the attitude changes subtly, to "Whatever you suggest, I will groan. If you suggest taking me for ice cream, I will groan; if you suggest a trip to the zoo, I will groan. Whatever it is... groan." That kind of attitude makes things a little more tricky.
Most of us remember that age, and how tough it can be. You've left the more comfortable world of grammar school, where the divisions between you and other students doesn't seem so pronounced, and you've entered that strange phase where grown-ups expect you to act maturely, even though that might not necessarily be a reasonable request. Your only way of protecting yourself is the attitude you put out.
So, how do you get students who would rather be anywhere else to become involved in team building activities (groan)?
You rely on a technique used by loving parents all over the world: you trick them!
The following activities are super-fun activities, that have students enjoying themselves---in spite of themselves. Hope you enjoy!
Activity #1: The Trust Obstacle Course
How to Play: Participants set up a make-shift obstacle course, and participant #1 has to verbally instruct participant #2---who is blindfolded---to pick up an item across the room. The course itself doesn't need to be anything fancy--maybe a couple of chairs or a stool in the way, and the item can be a tennis ball or a piece of fruit or whatever you have lying around. For an added twist, create teams and see who can retrieve items quickest.
Why the Game Works: This game is a lot of fun for spectators---it can be very enjoyable to watch your peers stumble around and bump into each other! For participants, the game has a ton of benefits: it develops interpersonal awareness (the instruction has to carefully observe the blindfolded teammate), creates trust between players, and promotes immediate communication. Teammates are directly responsible for one another, and have to take care of one another---especially when the roles are reverse, and student giving instructions has to put on the blindfold!
One thing to watch out for: there will always be one player who will give instructions that lead his blindfolded partner *away* from the item, and into the hallway or the coat closet. Be sure to keep safety in mind.
Activity #2: This Game is Knot Fun
How to Play: Group members form a circle, and everyone puts their left hands in the air, and grabs the hand of someone across from them. After doing so, everyone puts their right hand in the air, and grabs the hand of someone across from them. After everyone is holding a hand, the participants need to figure out how to untangle themselves.
Here's an example:
These people are incredibly good at this game! This activity is usually good for at least ten minutes of giggles.
Why the Game Works: First of all, it's silly: you're all tangled up, and until you figure things out, you keep getting more tangled! Second, it promotes communication. There is no way to do this activity without talking to each other. Even quieter participants pipe up when they figure out how to help out a teammate. Finally, that task of untangling is so immediate that it lets students forget allllllll the other stimuli in their lives: who's not friends with who, who's not talking to who, and so on. It's a very nice "be here now" exercise.
Activity #3: The Ha Game
How to Play: The Ha Game takes a little bit of space, so you might have to clear some desks. To play, the first participant lies on his or her back. The second participant lies on his or her back, with the back of his/her head on the first participant's stomach. The third participant lies on his back with his head on the second participant's stomach, and so on (that's a little confusing, so feel free to move on down to the video!). The first participant then says "Ha," followed by the second participant, the third, and so on, until the last person is reached.
Here's how the set-up looks... we dare you to watch this video and not laugh. It's contagious!
Why It Works: Some games promote social development, or teach kids to navigate complex interpersonal dynamics; this is just silly and funny. Use it if you've had a tough morning and need some levity. It may be inappropriate for the classroom, but it's great for youth group leaders and field trips.
It can be tough to be in middle school---but teachers and youth leaders have an incredible opportunity to help students create bonds and feel included. We hope these activities bring you hours of entertainment--they've worked wonders for our students!