STEM, PBL, 21st Century Skills, Common Core - all of these initiatives practice and promote:
Idea and Solution Generation
For maximum benefits and development, team building should be ongoing throughout the year. What? No time? Can you squeeze something in as a morning waker-upper? What about at recess, or in that 10 minutes extra you have to fill before lunch? Or can you incorporate some content and skill standards and just make a lesson out of it?
Here are a few examples of how you can incorporate team building activities to develop thinking in your classroom:
1) Human Knot: get 10ish people into a tight circle. Each person should grab 2 different group members' hands at random around
the circle, not next to each other and not 2 hands of the same person. They must untangle the resulting "human knot" without
letting go of anyone else's hand until they are holding hands in a complete circle. Generally, they should not change hand
position, but you can make judgment calls if someone is really twisted.
Content/Skills addressed: Soft skills, communication, visual-spatial, idea generation, experimenting, refining
2) Draw Back to Back: have partners sit back to back. One should have pattern or picture and must describe to their partner how to
draw it. Variation: have one make a LEGO creation and then describe it to be made by the partner.
Content/Skills addressed: Soft skills, communication, visual-spatial, attributes, shapes, structures
3) Build the Tallest Tower (or Strongest Castle, Fastest Roller Coaster, etc): Provide limited materials such as paper, tape, and
scissors for teams to build the best structure in a certain amount of time. Extend with the use of technology for planning.
Content/Skills addressed: Soft skills, scientific method, measuring, foundations, structures, planning, use of technology
(digital and non-digital)
4) Minefield: Provide a defined space with obstacles (balls, beanbags, stuffed animals, blocks). Have students guide a blindfolded partner through the minefield speaking only in (math, literature, scientific) code.
Content/Skills addressed: Soft skills, communication (general and subject-specific communication)
Each of these activities encourages critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. Academic content
can be added or already falls into place. After a team building activity, make sure to make time for debriefing. Have students discuss what they did, how it went, and what they might change next time. What did they learn about the content, their thinking, and themselves?
Team building is a great way to build community and collaboration as well as develop critical thinking skills. Add it into your toolbox and help your students grow. :)