Have you ever been to a long lecture or webinar where there were no breakout rooms or opportunities to speak to others? How was your attention during this time? It’s hard to get your students’ attention and one way to lose it is if you are the only one speaking and they don’t have the opportunity to speak. Using team building activities helps engage your students during your Advisory and SEL programs, while also helping them absorb new information. I know that there are educators who either love or hate doing team building activities in professional development trainings. I love them, as long as they have a valid point and I can use them with my students. (They are definitely better than listening to a lecture that could have been an email.)
Team building activities are also a perfect way to begin a new school year! Students are just getting to know their peers and many are also too shy to start conversations with others. These types of activities promote relationship building among students and educators, are a great way to boost community in the classroom, and are ideal for building a culture of trust. These fun activities, provided in a controlled environment, allow students to feel more connected with their peers, which in turn can result in better academic performance, improved behavior, and lower stress levels.
Throughout the years, I’ve witnessed first-hand the positive effects that these types of activities have had on teens, who often struggle to feel connected with their peers. Middle school and high school are some of the toughest years, as youth are learning about how to socialize and are forming their personalities. However, far beyond the immediate effects of team building activities seen in the classroom, these activities also serve to further develop important life skills in teens that will go well into their adult lives. There are 5 important long-term benefits of team building activities for our youth I want to share with you!
#1: Improved Communication Skills
Communication skills are at the core of everything we do, from communicating with our family and friends, to communicating in public and in our professional lives, and in everything in-between. Youth are just learning how to properly communicate with others, empathize, and sympathize with their friends and family. They are absolutely not perfect and will have a lot of growing pains. This is where you’ll step in and support them! It’s critical that these skills are practiced at the earliest age possible to set them up for their success as adults. Fortunately, the classroom provides the perfect opportunity to begin to develop these skills. While it is important for young kids to learn to effectively communicate with others, the pre-teen and teen years are crucial years for personal growth. Team building activities are the perfect way to present group challenges in a controlled environment, involve active listening skills, require collaboration to achieve a common goal, and improve communication. A few of my favorite activities for improving communication skills are Human Knot, Telephone Game, and Two Truths and a Lie.
#2: Developed Leadership Skills
While it is true that not everyone wants to be in a leadership role in their professional life, chances are that at one time or another most everyone will find themselves in a leadership position of some sort, whether it be at home with family, at church, volunteering at a school or for a non-profit organization, coaching a sports team…the list goes on and on. Team building activities provide a great opportunity for middle and high school students to learn, and practice, the skills they will need when they find themselves in a leadership role, whether it be by choice or circumstance. These group activities allow students to lead their peers to reach a shared goal, to delegate tasks to others, and to make decisions that can affect the entire group’s performance. Participating in these types of activities in the classroom gives the students a chance to step into a leadership role in an environment in which they typically feel supported, and therefore are likely more open to breaking out of their comfort zone. You want to support students who may be more introverted and allow them the opportunity to express themselves in a way they will begin to feel comfortable. I’ve always used a lot of role-playing activities with my students for this purpose, as not only do they give students the opportunity to motivate and lead their peers, but they also foster creativity and give students a chance to rotate in the leadership role. Plus, many students love the activities that are more authentic to their own lives!
#3: Increased Problem-Solving Skills
At the core of most team building activities is the ability to solve challenges, puzzles, games, etc., as a group. Activities such as the Human Machine and scavenger hunts are fun ways for teens to further develop their creativity, critical thinking, logical reasoning, and analytical skills, all of which are crucial to problem-solving. Having good problem-solving skills is an essential aspect of everyday life, and by engaging in activities to increase these skills, teens can gain confidence, improve their academic performance, and become better prepared to handle increased challenges they will face as they become adults. I especially like using these types of activities with groups of students because they have the added benefits of promoting collaboration and communication in the classroom.
#4: Increased Self-Confidence
Participating in team building activities at school allows teens to learn and apply new skills, overcome challenges, and even experience failure, in a setting in which they feel supported. When they achieve success, the positive feedback that they receive from their peers can be a huge confidence booster. On the flip side, not achieving success or struggling to complete an activity can teach teens the importance of perseverance, as well as learning from their mistakes; both are critical skills for teens to develop. Trying new things and taking risks in a non-judgmental environment can give students the added confidence they may need when taking risks in other areas of their lives. These group collaborations are also such a great way for students to make new friends, and what better way to boost confidence than to realize that others like us and want to be our friend! With my students, I’ve found that group activities that involve solving challenges seem to have the most immediate effect on promoting positive self-worth. Another category of group activities that can bolster students’ self-confidence is any type of “peer appreciation” activity. This can be as simple as the students forming a circle where one by one the students take turns standing in the middle while their peers offer up genuine positive comments about them. This is 100% no-prep and literally takes about 10-15 minutes to complete, yet can go a long way in increasing the self-worth of the students.
#5: Building Trust
Trust is a big component of group activities, from those that encourage students to share personal information about themselves, such as an icebreaker activity, to activities such as “trust walk activities,” where students put their safety in the hands of their peers. Building trust isn’t easy, at any age, and for teens it is especially important as they are still developing social skills and learning to work together with others. By engaging in team building activities in a respectful and safe environment, students are much more likely to open up, try new things, and express themselves without fear of being judged or ridiculed. Trust is so important, as it is the basis for almost everything we do. Trust helps us to feel safe and comfortable and is a cornerstone of any successful relationship, whether it be a romantic, platonic, familial, or business relationship. In addition, learning to trust throughout the teen years prepares youth to handle the many responsibilities that they will face as they move into adulthood.
As important as these types of activities are, it’s equally as important to have class discussions after each one to review exactly what was done during the activity, what the key takeaways are, how the students can apply what was learned to the future, immediate and distant, and anything else you feel may be relevant. Students need this time to process how they felt during the activity, along with the problem-solving strategies that were used. These group discussions and reflections are key for the students to fully benefit from their participation in team building activities.
Excited to start using team building activities with your students but not sure where to begin? I’ve created team building resources that can make it easier for you to get started in using these amazing tools with your students!
Let us know your favorite team building activities by commenting below!
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