As students return to school after a tumultuous year, here are tips to help them re-engage and ease back into the classroom.
The new school year comes with high expectations. Students are excited and motivated to learn. Many, however, haven’t been socially connected for the past year and a half, so we need to have strategies in place that will build up relationship skills and encourage them to work together.
The activities below can encourage students to rebuild their relationships with each other through team-building activities that are fun and engaging and that reinforce collaboration, communication, and creativity.
Meme It is based on the game What Do You Meme? and can inspire a great deal of creativity. Using an option like Slidesgo, create slides with pictures that students can write captions for and make memes of, using the chat box in Zoom or their whiteboards. The first couple of slides can be examples. To turn this into team activity, have students collaborate on memes together. At this point, share the document with them with editing privileges, and have them find appropriate pictures online that they can use for memes.
When everyone is ready, stop sharing and launch the document through Pear Deck, so that you can launch the teacher dashboard and read the memes to the students without giving their names and also edit out inappropriate photos or memes. Without Pear Deck, you can still run this game with students sharing their memes on whiteboards.
Teachers and students in fifth- and sixth-grade classes from several other schools shared Meme It with us, and it was the favorite activity of the year for many students.
Another activity is having students build a “Kahoot” together based on commonalities. For my class, I preset the roles and teams on a common document for students to write some sample questions to start. Students can work together to create a Kahoot to present to the rest of the class based on their common interests within the teams.
After each team has created their Kahoot together, they share it with the class, with each team member taking turns presenting a question they created. With Kahoot, students can learn about their teammates and all the students in the class. They can also use academic kahoots to engage with each other and share information throughout the year.
Another team-building activity is a Google Slides presentation of a Guess Who/Clue type of game designed for Zoom that also works for in-person instruction. There are templates for setting this up on SlidesMania. Two teams of students come up with three clues that will lead to a reveal of their choice. Students can use breakout rooms in Zoom to work together, but this activity transfers easily to a regular classroom setting. Students present to the class, and other students try to guess what the reveal will be, using the Zoom chat box or whiteboards.
The activity First to Five enables students to find similarities and differences among classmates, making it a great way for them to share their interests with each other without having to compete to be heard. Students play this game in small groups and then follow up with a challenging activity that they present to the class. They can find others with common bonds or express their uniqueness with an uncommon trait. The teacher can duplicate or delete additional slides depending on the size of the class.
With the popular team-building game Would You Rather, teams come up with predictions of what they think will be the most prevalent answer to a question. This game, using a Pear Deck interactive slide, is a fun way for students to see their peers’ perspectives, but be sure to set strict parameters to keep this appropriate for school. Run it through on Pear Deck to see the popular vote, or have students write their choice on a whiteboard to see the results.
Another team-building activity is based on the classic Twenty Questions game, played over generations. I’ve used two versions: Give One, Get One, where the student gives a clue and then asks a question, and Twenty Questions, which follows the more traditional form of the game. Both slide decks have a teacher example and a student template. Both activities require students to work together toward a common goal of giving clues to their classmates so that they come up with the answer. This slide deck, using Slidesgo, for instance, is a great way for students to collaborate on academic or non-academic areas of common knowledge or interests.
All of these team-building activities can engage students and give them a chance to collaborate and communicate with each other again, and they can also encourage them to see the strength and fun in working with others.
By Joe Shim