25 Team Building Activities for Teachers
Building a sense of team unity for teachers is important for growth and moral support as the school year begins. Get your teaching team and staff together for some bonding time that will make memories, encourage relationships and buoy spirits throughout the year.
- Attitude of Gratitude Activity - Plant different classroom items around the room: erasers, dry erase markers, old textbooks, a sack lunch with a mushy PB&J inside, maybe even some chewed gum in a wrapper. Give each teacher a paper bag and pair them with someone to give a “gift” to. Sound a buzzer and everyone has 30 seconds to run around and put an item in their gift bag. When time’s up, the receiver of the gift has to take it out, show the team and thank the other person by saying something complimentary about the gift (like its usefulness or lovely color), even if it is chewed gum! It’s a great way to cultivate thankfulness even for “unlovely” things or things we take for granted.
- Mindfulness Scavenger Hunt - Group teachers into teams by grade levels or subject areas and have them do a scavenger hunt from a student’s perspective, taking pictures along the way. They can find silly things like, “best hiding place from teachers” or “door that no one knows where it goes” to sweet things like, “something a student might find encouraging” or “a great view to see the sky.” Come back together and share the finds. This is a great activity for collaborating and evaluating spaces and messages your school is sending to its students.
- Jump In and Jump Out - This is a fun and physical exercise about following instructions, which can be trickier than you think — even for educators! Stand in a circle holding hands. One instructor will give the group four instructions: jump left, jump right, jump in, jump out. When the instructor calls out a command, the group says what the instructor said while doing it. For round two, the instructor again calls out a command, and this time the group must say what the instructor says but do the opposite. For round three, the instructor calls out a command, and the group must do what the instructor says but say the opposite (if the instructor says “jump in,” the group must jump in but say “jump out”).
- Six Degrees of Separation - This is a partner activity in which educators pair up and make a list of five things they have in common with one another. Once the list is completed, each person must find a new partner who shares at least one of the items on her list. They must then make a new list of five things in common. This continues until all the teachers have at least one thing in common with everyone in the room.
- Save Your Sanity - Have teachers share ways they “save their sanity.” They can share apps on their phone (like a favorite white noise app for quiet reading, a budgeting app or a grocery planning app), a favorite budget-friendly weekend getaway or stores that give teacher discounts. This is great to bond your staff together by sharing life hacks for both in and out of the classroom.
- Shape Shifter - Divide into teams of five to 10, stand in a circle and give each team a long length of rope tied so it fits around the circle of people. Have everyone stand around the rope, put on blindfolds and take five steps back. When you say, “Time to shapeshift: form a ___,” they have 30 seconds to come back to the circle, grab the rope and then make the shape that has been called, using only their voices to guide each other. You can try rectangle, triangle and even a rhombus!
- Last Name Line Up - Tell your entire group that they have two minutes (longer or shorter depending on group size) to line up alphabetically by last name — without speaking. You can also do this with birthday (month and day) or first name alphabetically.
Plan an escape room team building event with a sign up. SAMPLE
- What Just Happened? - This is a great team building activity for concentration and memory, plus it’s lots of fun. Before the game, gather a few fun props, like small objects that can fit in a pocket, scarves or silly glasses. Divide your group into two teams. Have the teams face each other and tell team one to observe team two. Team one leaves and team two changes five things about its appearance using props or by getting creative and changing something else. The other team returns and has 30 seconds to notice the five changes.
- Ankle Race - Put a line with painter’s tape down the middle of your space (or more if you have multiple teams). Using teamwork, the group has to slide sideways down the length of the tape, making sure ankle bones stay in contact. If people lose contact, the group has to start over. This encourages communication as the group figures out how to inch its way down the tape in a unified way.
- Play with Clay - Teachers love a learning challenge, so give them a ball of clay and some toothpicks on a table. Use a piece of painter’s tape to make a line on the table. The challenge is to make a cantilever structure (one that starts behind the line but then extends out over the line without touching the table) out of the toothpicks and clay. The team has 10 minutes to assemble, and the cantilever structure that extends out the farthest without falling is the winner. (You may need a ruler to make it official — teachers can be competitive!)
- Add Five - This is a quick, fun exercise that creative teachers enjoy. Break your staff into groups of five and give them a piece of paper with the beginning of a story. Staff members adds five words to the story as they pass the story paper around. You can start with “I got to school early, and was shocked to find…” or “I stayed late at school one night, and couldn’t find my…” Have the story paper go around the group several times (you can predetermine a number according to how much time you have), and teachers have to make sure the story has a good conclusion. Share stories at the end!
- Balloon Tower - Another fun building challenge is to give teams a bag of deflated balloons and masking tape. The challenge is to create a free-standing tower as high as possible out of the balloons and tape in a set amount of time. Come on teachers, use that creativity!
- Common Bond Exercise - One team member starts the exercise and stands up to share about his professional life with the group (education, influences, favorite teaching moments) and as soon as someone hears something said that they have in common with the speaker, they jump up and link arms the speaker. The person who jumped up then shares, starting with the thing they both had in common. As soon as one of the other teachers hears a commonality, they will get up an link arms with that person and so on. You can do this with professional information as well as personal information such as hobbies, where people are from, favorite childhood memories, etc. The exercise continues until everyone has linked arms (this works best with smaller groups or teams).
- Pitfall Activity - Grab a tablecloth from a dollar store and cut a few tennis-ball sized holes in it (avoid putting a hole right in the middle). Then mark several “X’s” on the cloth as well. Have the team take positions around the table cloth and hold it taut, placing a tennis ball on the tablecloth. The goal of the exercise is to have the team roll the ball over all the X’s on the table cloth while avoiding the pitfall holes using teamwork and communication.
Gather RSVP's for a girls' night out with a sign up. SAMPLE
- Blanket Flip - Here is another physical challenge that encourages teamwork. Gather several old blankets or sleeping bags and have the team remove shoes. Spread out the blanket and have everyone stand on it. When the timer starts, the team must figure out how to flip the blanket over, but the catch is that all feet have to remain on the blanket at all times.
- Beach Ball Team Building - Use a large beach ball to write questions that can be tossed around the group. If you have new teachers in your group, write questions for them in one color — asking about what they hope for their first year of teaching, what they are most nervous about or other get-to-know-you questions. For more experienced teachers, use another color to ask questions so they can give answers that relate to best practices, any lessons they learned the hard way or classroom practices that have led to better teaching.
- Teacher Match Up - Before the exercise, write pairs commonly found at school: pencil/paper, desk/chair, slide/swing, etc. Write these on separate 3x5 cards and tape them on participants’ backs as they come into the room. Have folks try to find their other half, asking only yes/no questions. When they find their match, have them sit down and find out three new things (something new they tried over the summer, a favorite Netflix show, etc.) about the other person and then share that with the group.
- Struggle Bus - This is a great team-building activity to share common teacher struggles and helpful tips among your team. Outline a large rectangle with painter’s tape in your meeting room and have your team stand around the outside. When you name a specific struggle, those who can relate get on the struggle bus. Have those who are not on the bus share how they avoid or conquer this struggle. Ask struggle bus questions like: “Who has trouble with parent communication?” and “Who finds that there is one child (or several) that pushes their button every single day?” Include some funny questions like, “Who has hidden chocolate in their classroom for emergencies?”
- Heads Up 7 Up - Before this game, give everyone a nametag and have first names clearly displayed. Choose seven people from your group and have everyone else close their eyes. Have the chosen seven write something interesting or unusual about themselves on a whiteboard. Then play the traditional game where those with their eyes closed hold up a thumb and the seven silently move around the room putting one person’s thumb down. When they are done, they move back to the front of the room. The person who gets a thumb pushed down not only has to guess who put her thumb down, but then also has to match them to the interesting fact on the board. At the end of the round, the seven reveal their interesting fact to the group (if it hasn’t been guessed), and you can either have those who guessed correctly switch places or just clear the slate and pick seven new people.
- Mission Statement Fun - Create new goofy mission statements by taking some words out of your normal mission statement. An example would be: At our school, we believe in expecting _____ ______ by all _____, to the best of their abilities, in order to create ______ _______. Do this “Mad Libs” style by asking teachers for the words first (give me two adjectives and three nouns, for example) without seeing the mission statement and then filling them in afterward. This helps reinforce your real mission statement while having some fun, too.
- Strings of Affirmation - Divide into groups of six to 10 and have teams sit in a circle. Give each circle a ball of yarn. Have the group toss the ball of yarn to someone and share an affirmation about that person. The person with the yarn then pinches a piece of yarn in his hand and throws the ball to someone else and so on until there is a large web. Go around with scissors and snip the connections, having teacher keep their piece as a symbol of staff unity and connectedness. If someone is new, teachers can say something encouraging they’ve noticed during work days or even a helpful tidbit, like the best piece of teaching advice they ever received.
Coordinate a teacher potluck lunch with a sign up. SAMPLE
- Staff Timeline - This is a great way to visually see the history of your school. Create a large timeline with your school’s “history” and then add in when different staff members arrived, some significant moments in the school’s history (this is great for new staff to see) and even fun things like when younger teachers were born compared with when some of your older staff started their careers!
- One Perfect Question - At your next staff meeting, group grade level or subject teachers together and give them this challenge: We are hiring a new staff member for your grade/subject level. What is the one perfect question we should ask them to see if they are right for this grade/subject? Have groups brainstorm and share their one perfect questions to ask a potential teacher.
- Silly School Calendar - If you have a larger group, make nine groups (one for each month of the school year; or 12 for year-round school). Give them a table of supplies and props (colored construction paper, tape, seasonal props) and have them make a school calendar with a picture for each month, taken with someone’s camera and shared with the larger group. Have the pictures represent the “teacher seasons” — like getting excited about new school supplies, anticipating holiday breaks, preparing for spring testing, etc.
- School Survival Guide - Give your team this scenario: the kids aren’t in the building but you are, and the school is getting ready to be hit by a giant tidal wave. You will be fine, but you need to take out only the items you need for “teacher survival.” Have your group brainstorm a list of things teachers can’t survive without in the classroom, then narrow the list to the top 10 items needed for teacher survival! This is great when you have beginning teachers in your group who may be overwhelmed with how to prioritize what is needed for the year ahead.
Teachers work so hard already, and the support of an awesome team is vital. Be intentional about creating a cohesive and positive school culture with a team-building activity during your next planning time or staff meeting, and see the teachers at your school begin to flourish.
Julie David is a former middle school teacher who enjoys volunteering in her daughters' schools and cheering on teachers any way she can.