10 Team Building Activities for Middle School Students that Work!

So as an assistant principal in a K-8 school, I find that my middle schools students are the hardest to win over. Obviously, this is my opinion but, after 15 years in an urban educational setting, I have found that the activities below have brought me the most success. Here are some key factors you should consider when creating an effective team building activity for middle school students:

  • Students at this age care about their image – Because of this reason, students are worried about how they will be perceived by their peers. This is a stark comparison from high school students, especially in 11th or 12th grade who are more confident in themselves and are more willing to take a risk. Students will be able to take more risk as they trust the teacher and the environment that they in. Activities should be geared toward communication/getting to know and transition to more trust based activities.
  • Physical Development – In young adolescents, intellectual development is not as visible as physical development. At this time students care more about real life experiences and authentic life experiences. They are trying to figure themselves out and where they best fit. Activities that work should embrace this perspective.
  • They crave guidance and mentorship – Believe it or not, students at this age want guidance and mentorship. As a teacher, social worker or whatever position you are in, the keys to creating activities that work for your students must be built on a relationship of trust. I have found that I have to be willing to take risk and model that its okay to be “corny and cool”.
  • Be Genuine – Sadly, I believe that this is the most underrated principle. Students at this time can smell behavior that is fake. Everyone knows that teacher or employee who is clearly there for the “check”. Teachers who don’t demonstrate genuine care will have difficulty implementing any activities with their students. If your one of those people, it’s not too late the first step is to have an honest conversation with your students and course correct.

1. Two Truths and Lie

Purpose: Communication and Getting to know

Group Size: 5+

Level: Basic

Directions:

  1. Ask participants to find a partner. The purpose is for each participant to find someone that they don’t know. Each guest should say some facts up with someone they do not know and to tell the other person a little about themselves.
  2. Each partner will introduce the other to the group.
  3. While talking together the partners should create 3 statements for their partner to say about them to the group.
  4. Of the 3 statements, 2 should be true about the person and 1 false.
  5. The group must guess from first impressions which are the false statement.

2. Talk About Yourself

Purpose: Getting to know you

Group size: 4+

Tools: None

Time: 10 minutes

Level: Basic

Description: Start a timer for one minute. Each group member has to think of as many facts about themselves as they possibly can and share them with the group, for example, “I’m from Spain, I have two dogs, I am married…” without stopping. Each fact gets one point. Tally up who has the most points at the end.

Follow up: After the activity, have each person share something that they found unexpected about another group member. 

3. Back-writing

Purpose: Get to know

Group size: 8+

Tools: None

Time: 10 minutes

Level: Basic

Description: In pairs, group members take turns writing a word on their partner’s back with their finger. The other person has to guess what the word is just by feeling. Then, once everyone has guessed their word, they come together to see if the words can be combined into a sentence. This can be a fun way to build up/ lead onto the next exercise.

Follow up: A quicker version is to just do this with single letters. The sentence or word can be discussed afterward. Otherwise, discuss with the group how good they think they are at nonverbal communication.

4. Finding Shapes

Purpose: Team Building

Group Size: 4+

Tools: Whiteboard/None

Description: Divide the group into teams and assign each team a shape – square, circle, triangle etc. Now, the group has a minute or two to brainstorm as many objects as they can think of that are predominantly that shape, i.e. for a square they can guess a book, a certificate, a building, an iPad etc.

Follow up: For an extension to the game, see which team can find the most actual examples of that shape on them or in the room – the most wins the game.

5. Who am I?

Purpose: Getting to know you, warmer

Group size: 6+

Tools: Paper

Time: 10 minutes

Level: Basic

Description: Have everyone in the group write down on a slip of paper five things about them. This is great for new groups who don’t know each other well, but if they do, ask them to write a few things that others might not know. Then, collect all the slips of paper, shuffle, and read each one aloud. The rest of the team has to guess who the five things refer to.

Follow up: This is a fun activity for the group to share some previously unknown things about themselves. Allow some time for questions and chatting afterward.

6.Charades

Purpose: Fun, morale-boosting

Group size: 4+

Tools: None

Time: 10-30 minutes

Level: Intermediate

Description: This common party game is great for building team morale. Have each group mime out a movie or book title, song name or famous person etc.

Follow up: To make it more work-oriented, the facilitator can choose a few selected phrases for the group to mime beforehand – except they are all connected by a theme. After the game is finished, have the group guess the theme and why you chose those particular things to mime.

7. Intuitive Counting

Purpose: Teamwork, fun, cooperation

Group size: 4+, although the bigger the group the more difficult

Level: Intermediate

Tools: None

Time: 15 minutes

Description: In a circle, the group has one goal: to count to ten together. But there are rules. A person cannot say two consecutive numbers if two people speak at the same time the group has to start counting from the beginning, and there are no gestures allowed. To get to 10, the group has to be finely tuned into one another and move slowly and with focus. In time, the group may develop a strategy all on their own. To make it more difficult, close eyes or count to a higher number.

Follow up: What are some good ways to “tune into” your group mates? Did it become easier with time?

8. Team Scribbling

Purpose: Fun, teamwork

Group size: 4+

Level: Intermediate

Tools: Paper, drawing materials

Time: 5 -25 minutes

Description: Fold a piece of paper into four rows across. Passing the paper around the group, everyone takes a turn to add to the drawing, starting from the top. The top quarter contains the head, the next two sections the body and the last section the feet. Once a section is drawn, that part of the paper is folded up and hidden and given to the next person to add to it. In the end, the paper is unfolded to reveal a creature drawn by four different people. It’s a good idea to leave a small amount showing so that people can attach the next drawing in the right place.

Follow up: What does the group think of their creation? Why do you think the creature came out the way it did?

9. Pass the Stone

Purpose: Fun, concentration, getting to know you

Group size: 10+

Level: Basic

Tools: Two stones

Time: 10 minutes

Description: Two teams sit facing opposite one another. A stone is passed, hand to hand, from one end of the line to the other. The stone is concealed though and from the outside, the other team cannot see if a stone has been passed or if someone merely pretended to pass it. By watching the other side very closely, each team must decide at the end of the line where they think the stone is located. If they guess right, they get a point The game can be done a few times to learn the other teams’ strategy and perfect your own.

Follow up: What was the best strategy and what worked for the winning team?

10. Logo Making

Purpose: Teamwork, group cohesion

Group Size: Any

Level: Intermediate

Tools: Art supplies, paper, even certain software

Time: 30 minutes

Description: The group has to brainstorm and design a logo that represents their team. They must work together to find symbolism and colors that reflect the team’s ideas.

Follow up: The logo can be put on T-shirts, mugs or other office supplies.

11. Name Bingo

Purpose: Getting to know you – especially names!

Group Size: 4+

Directions: The instructor stands some way away from the group, who are arranged in a row. He calls out random letters from the alphabet. Each person can take one step closer to the instructor for each time that letter appears in his name. The first person to touch the instructor wins. This can be altered so that the instructor calls out places that people may have visited, foods they have eaten or things they know how to do. Mixing it up is also a fun possibility and the instructor will have to be careful as one person gets closer and closer…

12.Colors

Purpose: Getting to know you, teamwork

Group Size: 4+

Directions: Give a box of crayons or colored pencils to the group and ask them to pick a color that they love best and that they think is a good match for them. Now, give the group some blank paper and ask them to draw something simple – the trick is, they can only use the color they have chosen. To get a really beautiful picture, they will have to work together to make sure the colors are well used. Great for group cohesion.

13. M&M Game

Purpose: Getting to know you

Group Size: 4+

Directions: Get a big bow of M&Ms and tell group members to take a handful. Now, assign a category to each color, for example, blue is about family life, red is about work etc. Each person has to state a fact about themselves according to the color before they can eat their M&M.

14. Remembering Names

Purpose: Getting to know you

Group Size: 14+, bigger is better

Directions: This is a way for a new group to remember everyone’s names. Have two people hold up a sheet or blanket vertically that can completely conceal a person hiding behind it. Now, there are two teams on either side of the blanket. Taking turns, a person on either side of the blanket stands behind it, and then the two people quickly drop the blanket to reveal who it is. The first person on the other team who can correctly remember the name of this person is the winner and gets a point.

15. Whodunit

Purpose: Getting to know you

Group Size: 4+

Directions: Get people to write down on a slip of paper something outrageous they have done. Put the slips in a hat, mix and then open all of them. The group now has to decide who did what crazy thing.

16.Creating Flags

Purpose: Getting to know you

Group Size: 4+

Directions: Separate the group into teams and have them design and create a flag that represents everyone’s strengths and goals as a team. Encourage them to choose animal mascots, symbols and colors that mean a lot to them. Then, teams can explain to other groups what their flags mean and if possible, the flags can be hung somewhere prominent.

17. Riddles

Purpose: Getting to know you

Group Size: 4+

Directions: Put the group into small teams and present them with a series of riddles, ranging from easy to difficult. Have them chat together and solve the riddles. It’s great if you can find a way to link the riddles to general issues relevant to the group. The team that solves the most riddles wins, and then the group can take a few moments to share any riddles they know. Also chat about the group dynamics as each team tried to work on their problems together.

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