Team Building with Your Students

Regardless of age, if you put a group of individuals in the same space, where some know each other and some don’t, where some are from the area and some aren’t, and where some feel overly confident and some feel insecure, inevitably conflict will arise. We’ve seen this play out on 38 seasons of Survivor (can you believe that?!) and in classics such as Lord of the Flies. We also see this play out everyday in classrooms and schools with students, staff, family, and community members.

If we choose the role of onlooker, then we become reactive or responsive to the conflict that ensues with and around us. However, if we choose the role of facilitator, then we can proactively take part in establishing a strong sense of team amongst our students, staff, families, and with our school’s surrounding community. In the next three posts I’m going to do a mini-series that offers team building techniques and strategies for the above groups. In this post, we’re focusing on different activities to use with STUDENTS! One quick language tip: instead of calling your group of students a class, consider calling them a team. Instead of students, consider calling them teammates or team members.




Ice-breakers act as introduction games. These are a great way for students to get to know the basics of each other and start building a community among one another. They are especially important at the beginning of the school year. Ice-breakers also serve to ease any apprehensions of the group; they break the ice! These activities usually have a low amount of risk and can be repeated throughout the year. After they become memorized, students can take turns leading their favorite ice-breakers with the class.



Energizers are the activities that get the class pumped up, laughing, and feeling more comfortable. Energizers often help to break any tension and help the class to relax. These activities usually have a higher amount of risk than ice-breakers as they typically require students to act silly and loud. Energizers are particularly useful in the middle of long periods where students are sitting still, early in the morning, or when a class/team has gotten stuck in its thinking and is struggling with productivity or creativity.



Team-builders will probably become some of the most memorable activities in which students will participate. Team-builders will make the class/team more comfortable with one another, make students feel as though they are an important part of the team, help build trust among students, and teach students valuable cooperation and communication skills (including conflict resolution skills). Through these activities, teams will begin to realize that they are greater than the sum of all the individual members—they can and will accomplish tasks and goals simply by understanding one another and working together. These activities usually have the highest degree of risk as they require a great deal of trust, communication, self-disclosure, and sometimes physical contact.


  • Make sure that you choose an icebreaker that everyone can participate in (i.e. physical limitations)
  • Inform the team of the purpose of the icebreaker
  • Set the tone of individual responses in the group through the length and depth of your own
  • Always have a “back-up” activity in case the initial activity does not go according to your plan
  • Do not force anyone to participate – Challenge by Choice
  • Explain the activity as clearly as possible, always ask if there are any questions and explain your instructions with examples
  • Keep the activity as short as everyone is interested in it
  • Be enthusiastic, creative, and participate as a facilitator
  • Don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself! The more you open up, the more your team will open up!

meghan thompsonMeghan Thompson joined Teach For America in 2008 and began her career in education as a 9th-12th Special Education Teacher in Charlotte, NC. In 2010, she was a member of the founding team at Henderson Collegiate (a school that has ranked in the top 3.5% of all NC public schools for the past 4 years). In 2014, she was a member of the founding team at Democracy Prep Baton Rouge and throughout her time at DPBR served as a middle school ELA teacher, middle school math teacher and the Middle School Campus Director.

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