Elementary Team Building Activities

Elementary Team-Building Activities: Daily Activities that Reinforce Community

Elementary team-building activities in the form of everyday interactions and teachable moments – these create a strong foundation for your classroom community.

Everyday Interactions

Classroom meetings are important but don’t think that you can build a strong community with just one meeting a week, or even one every morning. Inclusion classrooms take much more effort than that.

Just like adults on the job, relationships are really built upon dozen’s of daily interactions, not upon staff meetings.

It is your ongoing job to encourage community-building actions to teach the kids how to interact appropriately with each other.
classroom-team-building-thumbs-up

As with all other skills, start by modeling how to speak and behave. My rule for a compliment is that it must be specific. I hold myself to this rule and I expect it of the kids as well. It is not sufficient to say:

Wow, Maria, good job on that science worksheet.

What Maria really needs to hear about her science worksheet is:

I noticed that you correctly circled the changed variable.

or even:

Great job punctuating that paragraph!

Remember the ultimate goal

Always remember that this is school…meaning that we don’t do things just because they make the kids feel good. We do them because they reinforce good learning habits by making the kids feel good.

If you model this kind of complimenting during your elementary team-building activities, the kids will pick up on it.

Compliments done right

As outlined in my page on classroom awards:

“Never underestimate the power of just noticing.”

A compliment from the teacher is very motivating for a child, especially if it comes unexpectedly.

Use a compliment to encourage sharing of student work with the class. If a student is willing to have their work put up on the screen for examination by all, start by asking:

Who has a compliment for Aleesha?

After Aleesha hears a classmate say:

You started all of your sentences with a capital letter.

…she is much more comfortable having others point out her punctuation errors.

Sharing work publicly is scary for anyone, but we must learn to do it to prepare for the adult world. Doing it correctly helps children feel safe with exposing their mistakes and teaches others how to critique in a kind manner.

And here’s another very important point: Kids can learn to love giving compliments as much as they love to receive them. Help them learn the impact that their kind words can have on another person’s confidence.

That’s in the category of elementary team-building activities where the team members build themselves up!

Handling compliment-seekers

Sometimes a student will seek a compliment from me by asking:

Mrs. Weigle, do you think this is good?

I always respond with:

What do you think?

This approach makes the child self-reflect and analyze their own work. They might respond:

I know I multiplied correctly because I checked the fact family and I labeled my answer!

Then I ask the same question they asked me:

So Caryn, do you think this work is good?

The response will invariably be:

Yes I do!

I smile and say:

I agree!

…and off they go with a much more solid appreciation of their own work than if I had just given them a compliment.

Case studies

Jump to the case studies page for examples on how to take normal – but difficult – behavior and use it to strengthen your classroom community.

Classroom team-building activities create a strong foundation for your classroom community. The classroom meeting is one of the basic steps for inclusion in the classroom – bringing your students together and building relationships that last.

Classroom Team-Building Meetings

Some teachers advocate a meeting every day. I believe this approach takes up too much valuable instructional time; team building shouldn’t replace instruction, it should only enhance it.

Besides, I don’t think it is necessary to have a daily meeting as long as there are other team-building interactions occurring throughout the day (as outlined in greater detail here). A full-blown, gather-on-the-floor, take-turns-sharing class meeting has become my Friday afternoon activity.

The meeting will come to order

The meeting will come to order

I usually wait until the 3rd week of school before having a meeting so the kids can settle in and get to know each other a bit on their own; this makes them feel safer about sharing in a group setting. By the way…

TIP: Those uncomfortable “ice breaker” activities that we endure at training sessions don’t go over so well with kids! (And they are barely tolerated by adults!)

For a community meeting, elementary kids do best gathered on the floor. The agenda is very simple:

First, I take care of business by making announcements of upcoming events. Then, I randomly pull cards with the kids’ names until everyone has had a chance to speak. They have three options:

  • Share a compliment or a thank you with another person
  • Share something from the heart
  • Pass…shy kids pass a lot initially, but soon work up the courage to say something when they realize it is safe

You’ll hear lots of simple, fun things from the hearts and minds of children:

Thanks Tom for playing with me at recess.

My brother got a new dog and it loves to fetch.

A class meeting is nothing more than an organized session of getting to know each other better, communicating feelings and learning how to be kind and polite. Inclusion in the classroom is as simple as that. By the way, there is a time and place for the kids to share concerns, but not during a “formal” classroom team-building activities.