The following is a list of exercises designed to build a strong and supportive learning environment. Feel free to add any additional activities you have discovered.
- Begin by having the class move throughout the space for about thirty seconds to one minute so that the group feels comfortable navigating the space without collisions.
- Next, have each member of the class hold up one hand and continue moving throughout the space, but each time they make eye contact with someone in the group they must give each other a high five and say “hey!” in an enthusiastic way.
- This activity forces the group to acknowledge each other and interact in a positive way. When someone looks at you and gets excited and you are met with an enthusiastic high five you immediately feel accepted and you get a small confidence boost. You will notice within thirty seconds how the energy in the room shifts and how forced smiles that occured in the beginning of the activity will turn into genuine smiles of happiness.
- Have everyone in the group gather into a circle.
- Have each member of the group introduce themselves by saying his/her name and offer a few interesting facts about themselves.
- Create a movement/dance move based on one interesting fact and perform this move while saying the student's name.
- Have everyone in the group repeat the movement and name several times.
- Repeat with each member of the group.
- This activity allows the group to learn each other's names quickly by connecting the name to a physical movement while also providing information that can help students connect through shared interests or experiences.
- Break the class up into pairs of two and have each pair create four rules that they feel the class should follow throughout the semester/camp. Some examples include: Treat others with respect, no favoritism, etc.
- Once each pair has agreed on the rules have them merge with another group and form a group of four. Each group must share the rules each have created and select only four to agree on together. This will narrow the rules from eight to four.
- Once each group of four has agreed on which four rules they feel should be adopted by the group, have two groups of four merge into a group of eight. In this new group each previous group must share the rules each have created and select only four to agree on together. This will narrow the rules from eight to four.
- Once each group of eight has agreed on which four rules they feel should be adopted by the group, have two groups of eight merge into a group of sixteen. In this new group each previous group must share the rules each have created and select only four to agree on together. This will narrow the rules from eight to four.
- Repeat this process until the class is back together forming one large group. Decide which four rules will be adopted by the group and then write the rules down.
- This exercise provides many wonderful outcomes. Each student is allowed to contribute rules and ideas that address fears they carried into the group. Each student also must listen and collaborate with other members of the group to agree on rules that address both students’ needs. This allows the student to feel confident speaking up for his/her needs, understand compromise and think about the overall needs of the group. This also secretly has the students create their own culture of respect and trust while verbally creating the culture of respect and trust.
- Place a chair in the front of the room.
- Have each member of the class or group sit and face the chair.
- One at a time, have each member of the class come up to the chair and sit down and let the audience look at them for one minute.
- In order to pass the time the student is allowed to answer one of the following questions. This question is selected by the instructor and the student receives only one question. The student is not required to talk, the question is there to help the student take their mind off of being stared at for a period of time. The point of the exercise is to gain experience being themselves in front of a group and allowing the group to see them, not to answer a question or entertain the group.
- What are your dreams?
- What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
- Who is your hero and why?
- If you could go back in time and relive any day of your life to experience it again, what would it be? Why?
- What gives you strength and what is your greatest fear?
- What was the happiest day of your life? What was the worst day of your life?
- What was an obstacle you were forced to overcome?
- What was the time you were your most vulnerable?
- What was a time you helped someone and a time that you betrayed someone?
- If you could go back in time and change one thing in your life what would it be?
- What was a time you felt helpless and a time you were on top of the world?
- What would your best friend say about you? What would your worst enemy say?
- What do you hope to be and what do you hope you never become?
Once the minute has passed the student is thanked and the next member of the class goes to the spotlight. Once everyone in the group has participated, gather the group into a circle to discuss the experience.
- This is without question one of, if not the best team building exercise I have ever witnessed. The activity not only provides the experience of being the center of attention, it forces the student to confront the most terrifying aspects of stage fright by having them be the center of attention while also being unprepared. The student is then offered the ability to escape the uncomfortable situation by sharing an experience in his/her life that is true. Great acting requires truth and you will never be able to connect truthfully to a character or another human being if you cannot be comfortable being vulnerable in front of a group and connecting to a true part of yourself. Being vulnerable is what makes us human, yet human beings are so uncomfortable admitting weakness that we pay actors to be vulnerable in front of us so that we do not feel alone. Once a fear is confronted and conquered, acceleration can occur.
- There is another magical quality about this exercise. All friendships and meaningful relationships occur when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with another person and share something true about ourselves that asks the other individual not to judge us. When the other person listens, does not judge, and shares something in return we have a strong foundation on which to build the relationship.
- In the discussion you will find that people feel more connected with each other and that people will share how they now feel bonded with others who share the same struggles.