So you ran your first project-based experience with student teams and it was a disaster.

??‍♂️ Some students sat back and watched their teammates do all the work while they played Minecraft.
??‍♂️ One teammate bossed their group around more forcefully than Gordon Ramsey in Hell’s Kitchen.
??‍♂️ One team submitted work that was hardly legible.

We’ve all been there. But unfortunately, much of it was our fault.

Our teams failed because we threw them headfirst into a team project without teaching them HOW to collaborate first.

Next time, before launching a 6-8 week long project-based experience that requires a high degree of collaboration, self regulation and autonomy, here are 5 team building activities to run with students first:

  1. MineField: Collaborative Team Communication: In this game, members in a team have to cross a designated ‘minefield’ blindfolded. First divide the class into teams of 4. In each ‘minefield’ spread a random mix of backpacks, folders, and other school items. Blindfold one team member. The goal is for the team to help the blindfolded member cross the ‘minefiled’ without stepping on any of the ‘mines.’ Reflect afterwards on the qualities of effective team communication.
  2. Spaghetti Tower Build: Innovative/ Creative Collaboration: The object of this team challenge is to build the highest tower using only spaghetti noodles and marshmallows. Divide the class into teams of 4. Provide them an equal amount of noodles and marshmallows. Set a timer and provide 10 minutes to build. The team with the highest tower wins. Reflect afterwards on how they decided on and developed their ideas. (If you don’t have spaghetti noodles, you can always use shoes)
  3. Community/School Scavenger Hunt: Team Task Allocation: This activity is a great way to not only teach team dynamics and task allocation, but also familiarize students with different areas of the school/ community. To start, take photos of 20-30 different places in the school/community you hope teams to explore. After printing 5 copies of each photo, cut 60-70% of each picture away so only a small part of the picture remains. Put the set of pictures into small envelopes- one per team. Divide your class into an equal amount of teams and provide each team with a camera. Their task is to re-capture photos of all the areas depicted in their envelope. The team that finishes first wins. Reflect by asking how they divided roles, allocated tasks, and worked together to discover the hidden areas.
  4. Shape Creation: Team Collaborative Organization: This team activity is simple. Divide your class into teams of 8-10 students. Roll a movable whiteboard to the front of the space and clear all desks and chairs. Tell the students that you will be drawing different shapes on the board, and that they will have a total of 2 minutes to form each shape. Start by drawing a shape (triangle, square, oval, etc.) and giving them time to form it. Make each round successively harder with more difficult shapes, and by asking them to work together without talking. Reflect at the end by pointing out what you noticed, and by asking them to reflect on how successful they were working together as a team.
  5. Virtual ‘Escape Room’: Team Time Management: Escape rooms are the biggest craze now in education. (Besides PBL of course) The object is to use a set of clues to ‘escape’ the room. Each clue builds progressively on one another, until eventually, students have escaped the room they have been trapped in. To set this one up, create an imaginary scenario for what students have to escape. It could be a scene from a book, yours/their favourite movie, or an imaginary set. Next, create a Google Form that describes each scene and leaves a clue to solve to get to the next. Teams have a designated amount of time to escape. Here is a sample. Reflect afterwards on how they allocated their time to complete the task.

Project-Based Experiences are going to be messy. There is no way around it. But we can make teamwork far less messy by developing a culture of collaboration first. I hope these activities help!