Ever attended a team-building activity at work? Most of us have, and we walk away with many different feelings - feeling closer to our teams, feeling more invigorated and focused at work, and sometimes even discovering talents we didn’t know we had.
But did you know that team building activities can be really beneficial for kids as well? Sounds strange, we know! Most of the time, when we talk about team building activities, we refer to adults in the workplace. But in today’s fast-paced, dynamic, competitive world, they can be really helpful for students too.
After all, they need to learn the same skills that adults need to learn at work to be successful and productive - skills such as effective communication and cooperation, problem solving, and out-of-the-box thinking. And the earlier you can get them started, the better prepared they will be to face the world.
In today’s times of online learning, team building activities don’t even need to be in-person. In fact, sometimes it’s better to have them virtually, as many students still struggle with the online or hybrid modes of learning. (We can’t really blame them!)
It’s been an unusual three years for most of us, to say the least - so just in case you’re running out of ideas, we’ve got a handy list of activities for you, organised by your students’ age.
Benefits Of Team Building Activities For Students
Before we get started, we thought we’d give you a rundown of how these activities can help the kids you teach, starting with the most important one: making friends.
One of the things that has taken the heaviest toll in the pandemic-induced online classes is probably the biggest attraction of school for many kids - the socialisation. What was the highlight of our school days, if not the time we spent with friends?! Of course, kids nowadays have access to messaging apps and other ways to interact online - but nothing quite replaces face-to-face chats, even if they happen over a screen.
Team building activities are one of the best ways to ensure that students get some time to just talk to each other during the school day. The common goal ensures they come together and work towards solving it, leading to some much-needed banter. Which brings us to our next point…
Teaching kids to speak clearly, assertively (but not in a hostile manner) and in a way that gets their point across succinctly is one of the most important lessons in the classroom. Team building activities can help with this.
In order to achieve their goal, the students need to communicate effectively with each other, which is a real challenge even for many adults, especially across the barriers of technology. It’s great to get them practicing from a young age, so they develop into confident young professionals.
A closely related skill to communication, in both classrooms and workplaces, is collaborations. Communication is not effective unless it fosters the coming together of a group to work towards a common goal. We have all been in group projects in school where one individual did all the work while others slacked off - we don’t want that for our new generations, do we?!
We all know that independence and individual learning are important but it’s equally important that they learn to navigate group situations. Team building activities are ideal for encouraging them to do so.
Need to encourage some out of the box thinking? Team building activities are just the ticket! Creativity is one of the most in-demand skills for young professionals - and it’s something that’s best taught at a young age. There are so many different ways to be creative, and the more the students understand that there are lots of ways to approach and solve a problem, the better it is for their development.
With the right choice of activity, you can help your students gain newer perspectives, thus encouraging more creative ways of thinking.
And finally, of course, the most important thing - having fun! Remote learning can be difficult for both teachers and students, and opportunities for spontaneous, joking interactions are almost completely taken away.
We all learn, and perform, better when we’re not burnt out by constant work. Taking a break from the usual schedule for some virtual team building activities is a great way to just have some fun with your class!
Virtual Team Building Games for Elementary Students
Even tiny tots need to learn how to share, make friends, and help each other - and team building activities can help them do just that. The only suggestion we’d give is - don’t draw them out too much, and don’t make it too strictly structured! Young kids don’t have the attention span to do very long, complicated activities - and they learn a lot from simply interacting with each other during the activity, and that’s the most important bit.
The activities we’ve got lined up are suitable for a whole range of ages - from 6 year olds to ten year olds - but we’d suggest altering some details to suit the age of your kiddos.
1. The Yes or No Game
This game’s for the youngest ones! It’s played by you, the teacher, asking a series of rapid-fire questions that can have only two answers - either yes or no.. Ask each child a question - for example, “Do you like PE class?” If the answer is yes they stand up, if it’s no they keep sitting. The trick is to move quickly. The thrill of waiting for you to get to them will wake the whole class up - and it will be an important lesson in listening and decision-making for both the speakers and the audience!
2. This or That
Effective communication is a very important life skill, and some students really struggle with it. The earlier we help them overcome their fear of speaking in public, the better it is for their future success. So we’ve picked this game specifically for your younger students, who have a tough time speaking up in class. The best part is that there are no right or wrong answers, so that pressure is taken off immediately, as soon as you make this clear to the kids.
Pick any one student at random, and ask them a simple ‘This or That’ question, such as, “Do you like bananas or apples?” The student has to pick one, and tell the class why they like it better. Then take the option they chose - for example, apples - and pick another student in the class, perhaps the one next to them on the screen. Ask them, “Do you like apples or potatoes?” And so on, until the whole class has spoken.
The rules and the questions are both simple, so your kids should have no trouble - even the shiest ones.
3. Story Time
We LOVE this activity, because it brings out so much creativity in young students, and encourages collaboration and communication. We’d recommend it for students in the middle age range.
Split your class into several groups, and provide each group with a set of images. The students can arrange them however they want, as long as they can come up with a story that connects them together in that order. Have each group present their story - you could ask each member to explain one image.
You can ask the class to vote on their favourite stories - or just have fun listening to all the stories!
4. Painting in a Minute
This one’s a hot favourite at competitions, and it’s definitely something for students at the older end of the age range. Take a five minute break at the end of class, and tell your students to draw something in exactly one minute. This could be something they see around them, a favourite object, a highlight of the school day or even something from a book they’ve been reading from school. Time them - and at the end of the minute, have everyone hold up their drawings to the camera.
You can all take turns discussing the paintings, or even take a screenshot and have the kids vote on their favourites. It’s a great way to relax and chat at the end of a tough class, with some out-of-the-box thinking, creativity and quick decision-making thrown in.
Virtual Team Building Games for Middle School Students
Middle school is a tough time for everybody, even without a pandemic. Your students are growing up and learning to be themselves in an uncertain world. Now, more than ever, they need your guidance to learn some life skills.
Since these students are slightly older, we think it’s worth giving them some activities that are slightly more challenging and complex. Don’t worry - they’re lots of fun, too!
5. Virtual Treasure Hunt
Who doesn’t like a good treasure hunt?! We’ve even come up with a way to conduct them virtually. The best way to do this is to inform your students’ parents first - taking care to mention it’s meant to be a surprise! Ask them to keep some items hidden around the house in places the students can find them.
At a suitable point in the day, split your class into groups, and ask your students to find the list of things around the house. First group all of whose members find all the objects wins!
This could be chaotic but very fun - and a welcome screen break for your students.
6. Dice Breakers
Need to get a class of your oldest children warmed up in the morning? With a bit of work from you - this is the perfect game for that purpose!
Write down a series of topics and number them, say from 1 to 6. Split your class into the same number of groups, perhaps by serial number or attendance number. Roll a dice to assign a topic to each group. With the help of whatever virtual platform you’re on, send each group into a separate break-out room. All the usual platforms - Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or whatever else you may be using - allow for this.
Have them come up with a small presentation in say 20 minutes. And then allow each group a minute to give the presentation.
This exercise is perfect for the kids to learn group work, communication, cooperation and presentation skills. It’s especially challenging because they'll be working online - but since it looks like hybrid learning (and working) is here to stay, it’s great practice.
7. Story Time
We’re back with this activity - adapted for the older kids this time! Pick a student from the class, and ask them to give the first sentence of a story. This student then picks another student at random - who then has to continue the story. The story is only completed once the last person has spoken.
The game can also be played in a written version. If your class has roll numbers or serial numbers, have each student write down a sentence and pass it to the person who comes after them during attendance calls. The first and last person know they must begin and end the story, respectively. Then have a grand reveal at the end by everyone reading out their sentence!
We love this game because it always ends in laughter - with so many people contributing, who knows where the story will go? It also encourages creative thinking and communication skills.
8. Online Mystery Game
It’s the middle of a busy day, your class is tired, and you want them to learn, but also to have some fun. Well, we have the perfect solution for you - a robber mystery game!
This one does require some prep on your part. First, devise a jewellery heist - or any other heist of your choice! Prepare a set of clues, and a rogues’ gallery of characters who could be guilty.
Split your class into groups. Each student is now a detective, and they’re all given the same set of clues .Can they work together to solve the puzzle to find out who the robber is? The first group to get the right answer wins! Perhaps the incentive could be that they get to pick the next group activity? It’s a great way to encourage problem-solving and collaboration skills, too.
Virtual Team Building Activities for High School and College Students
High school is a different ball game altogether, as is college. The students have grown up - and they expect more challenging tasks in order to be engaged and interested. So our recommendations have also evolved to become more complex and immersive.
9. Virtual Escape Room
An escape room is a fantastic team building activity. It’s tailor-made for big groups of people; it’s complex and immersive; and it brings out a healthy sense of competition among players. We’d highly recommend this to help your students work on their collaboration and communication - while having a blast.
In case you don’t know what they are - escape rooms are safe, supervised locked-room environments. Players are provided with clues to solve puzzles and overcome challenges that will help them ‘escape’ from the room.
Entermission Sydney is a virtual reality escape room game! We curate safe, supervised locked room environments via VR headsets.
You have to solve puzzles and take on challenges to be able to ‘escape’. From fighting aliens in space to fighting supernatural creatures in creepy old temples to fighting a super villain inside his own brain - you can do it all!
Trivia quizzes an absolute team-building classic. It’s familiar, versatile, engaging, and a ton of fun! You can split your class into teams, and pick a quiz format that suits you best - straight-forward question and answer ones (which are very good for virtual sessions), the ‘Jeopardy!’ format, or longer more descriptive questions that give students plenty of opportunity to work the answer out.
You can even make multimedia quizzes, as online platforms now allow you to share audio and video on screen, or use online tools for buzzer rounds. The quiz could be themed, or based current events. The opportunities are endless. The students get to compete with each other - and they learn to listen to each other and make decisions under pressure while enjoying themselves.
11. Shark Tank
Yes, this is based on the reality TV contest - and we can personally attest to how successful this is with young adults full of enthusiasm and opinions! (After all, we were also young adults once upon a time!)
Split your class into teams and give them a theme or an idea for a product or a service. aThey must come up with a design and pitch for it, to present to judges! The judges could be your fellow teachers or some guests that you invite.
This is a fantastic team building activity. Your students must work together to come up with everything involved in pitching a product - from the product itself, designing it for looks and functionality, to everything else that is required to launch a product into the market. This includes aspects like a logo, and of course, a marketing strategy which they will use to make the presentation.
Communication, public speaking, collaboration, individual and group responsibility - this one activity teaches it all. A steal deal, we say.
For All Ages
And finally, we present you with our piece de resistance - an activity that is suitable for absolutely all ages. We hope you and your students enjoy it as much as we did!
12. Virtual Tours
That’s right - we’re talking about online field trips! Virtual tours have been one of the most exciting developments during the pandemic. When zoos, museums and galleries were closed down due to health and safety concerns, many of them opened their worlds up online. Zoos started offering live cams, or even curated tours of their critters’ enclosures - and museums started organising virtual viewings of all of their priceless treasures.
Many of them have both curated and self-guided tours, so you and your students can decide your pace. Once the visit is done, you can divide them into small groups and have them discuss what they saw. You could also ask them to write about the visit, or draw some pictures about their favourite exhibit, depending on their ages, and then chat about it with the class. It’ll be a lot of learning with a lot of fun - and provide some much-needed downtime in their hectic lives.
That’s our list of 12 team-building activities for students of all ages! We hope you and your students have a blast taking part in them.
And of course, we’ll see you at our Entermission Sydney virtual escape room soon!