12 Best Team Building Activities for Elementary Students

Are you looking to improve how your elementary school students work to communicate and collaborate? Would you like to see more teamwork towards a common goal and less arguing or bickering? If so, it sounds like your students could benefit from team building activities.

Team building activities are designed to help students improve their communication skills and their ability to work together to get tasks done. There are many different team building activities that are appropriate for elementary school students. We’ve compiled a list of 12 of these activities that you may want to try out with your students. For each activity we highlight, we’ll share the materials you’ll need to perform the activity, how the activity works, and whether the activity is best suited for upper or lower elementary school students.

12 Best Team Building Activities for Elementary Students

Before jumping into the 12 different team building activities we’ve compiled, let’s take just a few moments to talk about what team building is and how it can benefit the students in your class. As the name suggests, team building activities are special activities that are designed to improve the way groups, or teams, of students, work together. They can help students learn to cooperate and help them feel a sense of camaraderie with their classmates.

Team building activities are set up so that students begin to learn more about their classmates. They can learn what each person’s strengths are and how those strengths can be beneficial when the group is working together to accomplish a shared goal. As students learn more about each other through team builders, their trust and comfort level with their classmates will improve. This can help make each student more vested in group projects and tasks since they not only want to do well themselves, but they want to help their classmates succeed as well.

One of the biggest benefits of team building activities is that they can significantly improve how students are able to communicate with one another. When communication improves, you’ll notice so many other improvements in the classroom. Students will be able to work together more effectively since they’ll be able to articulate their ideas, there will be fewer blow-ups and disagreements since students will know how to express how they are feeling to their group members, and your classroom will seem like a more peaceful and productive environment.

Team builders can be stand-alone activities you plan out for your students, but you can also embed team building activities into your lesson plans. Many team builders are designed to be quick and can be completed before beginning formal instruction. When writing your lesson plans, consider adding a quick activator section. This can be the perfect spot to include a team-building activity. You can also find ways to tie the team building activity into the content that you are teaching. For example, your team builder for one lesson may include students collaborating as you review previous learning.

12 Best Team Building Activities for Elementary Students:

  1. Circles → 
  2. The Empty Chair →
  3. The Ball Game →
  4. Crossing the Line →
  5. The Trust Fall →
  6. The Puzzle →
  7. The Catching Game →
  8. Make Believe Story →
  9. Is This It? →
  10. Truth and Fantasy →
  11. The Orchestra →
  12. Drawing →

Below you’ll find our list of 12 team building activities you can do with your elementary school students. These team builders are sure to engage your students and improve their communication and teamwork skills.

1. Circles 

What You Will Need to Prepare: Draw two large circles (one inside the other) on the floor or use tape to create the two circles

Best for: Upper elementary school students

How to Perform: This activity is designed to help the members of the class express their comfort level with different tasks and activities. Before beginning, have students stand outside the outer circle. Tell them that the inside circle represents being comfortable with a given task, the middle circle represents a feeling that a given task is challenging, and outside of the circles represents feeling panic about completing a task.

To warm up, present students with a few different activities/scenarios and have them stand in the circle that represents how they feel about that task. You can share anything related to school or their personal lives, such as riding a bike, singing in front of the class, and so on. After doing a few warm-up tasks, start asking students to explain why they chose to stand in the circle they selected. Then, ask them what would need to happen to let them move from the panic section to the challenge section, from the challenge section to the comfort section, from the comfort section to the challenge section, etc.

By sharing their feelings and rationale for selecting a certain spot, members of the class will begin to learn more about their classmates and their strengths.

2. The Empty Chair 

What You Will Need to Prepare:

  • One chair for each student in the class

How to Perform: This team builder is designed to help students improve their communication skills with the other members of the group. To start the activity, the chairs should be spread out across the room, and each student should sit in a chair. The teacher should choose one student to get up from their chair and walk to the opposite side of the room.

After that student has made it to the opposite side of the room, they are supposed to try to make it back to the empty chair by walking slowly. However, other students in the class can get up from their chairs and try to beat them to the empty chair. If another student successfully beats the first student to the empty chair, the first student needs to try to get to the new chair that is now empty, but other students can try to get to that chair before them as well.

Once a student stands up from their chair, they are not allowed to sit back down in it. This means that if two or more students stand up at the same time, they will need to try to communicate about which student is going to go for the empty chair and which is going to try to make it to the other student’s chair. The kicker is that students are not allowed to speak, so they will have to find other ways to communicate.

This activity can help students improve their non-verbal communication skills as they learn to work towards the common goal of keeping the first student from getting to the empty chair.

Best for: Mid to upper elementary school students

3. The Ball Game 

What You Will Need to Prepare:

  • Tennis ball

How to Perform: Students will enjoy this fun, yet challenging, team builder. For this activity, students should stand in a circle. One student should be given a tennis ball. Their task is to throw it to another person in the circle and say their name as they throw it. The person they throw it to then needs to throw it to another person in the circle, also saying their name as they throw it. Once all students have learned everyone’s name and mastered this step, it is time to up the difficulty of this task.

Now, instead of saying the name of the person they are throwing the ball to, students need to say the name of the person that should get the ball next. For example, if Student A throws the ball to Student B, they would say the name of Student C, the person Student B needs to throw the ball to.

This team builder can be made even more challenging by having students naming the student two steps ahead, not just one. For instance, with the example above, Student A would say the name of Student D, who would get the ball after Students B and C. Depending on the age of your students and how they do with this added challenge, you can make the task even more challenging by adding a second tennis ball to be thrown at the same time between different students or allowing students to move around the room.

Best for: Mid to upper elementary school students for more challenging variations, lower elementary school for more basic variations

4. Crossing the Line 

What You Will Need to Prepare:

  • Tape to make a line in the center of the room

How to Perform: This team builder is designed to help students learn more about their classmates and feel more comfortable sharing personal information about themselves. To start the activity, create a line using a tape down the center of the room. You can have students pick some topics/categories they are curious to learn about each other, or you may select the topics yourself.

For each topic, ask a related question to students that they can answer by crossing the line or staying on one side of it. For example, if the topic is video games, you can ask students if they play more than 4 hours of video games each week. If students would answer yes to that question, they would cross the line. You or the other students in the class can ask questions to the students who crossed the line, such as “What is your favorite game?” or “What gaming system do you have?”

As students begin to get more comfortable with the activity, the questions asked should begin to get deeper and more personal. One question you might ask could be, “Do you ever doubt yourself?” When asking deeper questions, you want to be sure to give students more time to process the question and decide if they want to cross the line.

With the deeper questions, encourage other students to ask a question that work towards helping all the students in the class feel more comfortable with one another and developing solutions for potential problems. For example, with the question above, another student may ask someone who crossed the line what they could do to help them improve their self-confidence.

Best for: All ages, just vary the question types asked

5. The Trust Fall 

What You Will Need to Prepare:

  • No materials needed

How to Perform: The Trust Fall is designed to help students increase their level of trust with the other students in the class. To begin, students should be paired up with one other student. One student should stand with their back towards their partner and the other student should stand with one knee out and their arms outstretched.

The person in the front should close their eyes (if comfortable doing so) and let themselves fall out of balance back into the arms of their partner. They should start at just a short distance apart and increase the distance as they become comfortable. After a few rounds, students should switch positions, so the person falling is now the person catching.

Next, students should form a circle. One student should stand in the middle of the circle, and the other students should all stand with one let out and their arms outstretched towards the center. The student in the middle can close their eyes (if they’re comfortable doing so) and lean in any direction around the circle. They should repeat this a few times, leaning in different directions and being caught by different members of the class. All the students in the group should have a chance to be the student in the center of the circle who gets caught by their classmates.

At the end of the exercise, students can share how they felt doing it and whether it was easy to show that a high level of trust in their classmates.

Best for: Upper elementary school students

6. The Puzzle 

What You Will Need to Prepare:

  • One piece of paper for each student
  • Crayons or colored pencils
  • Scissors
  • One picture/cartoon that has lots of details

How to Perform: For this activity, the teacher will first need to cut a detailed picture or cartoon into a puzzle piece. They should cut one puzzle piece for each student in the class. Then, students should be given one puzzle piece and a large piece of paper. Each student should sit in their own space where they will need to cut their large piece of paper into the same shape as their original puzzle piece, but it should be five times as big. Then, they will use their crayons or colored pencils to make the blank puzzle piece look the same as their original piece.

Once all the students are finished creating their puzzle pieces, they will all come together and try to assemble the puzzle. They must do so by moving the pieces around and are not allowed to talk. When they think they have successfully completed the puzzle, the teacher can show them the original image so they can check themselves. If they are not correct, they can continue working and trying to fix the puzzle.

Students will need to work on their non-verbal communication and teamwork skills in order to correctly assemble the puzzle together. If you have a large class of students, you could have students broken into a few smaller groups to complete this task instead of one large group.

Best for: All ages, you can increase the difficulty level by having larger groups of students for the upper grades

7. The Catching Game 

What You Will Need to Prepare:

  • One blindfold for each student

How to Perform: In this team builder, one student starts as the catcher. That student is blindfolded and goes to the center of the room. The other students in the class start at one side of the room and need to try to make it across the room without being caught (tapped) by the catcher. The catcher and the other students are only allowed to walk on their knees or crawl as they try to move.

When the students go across to the other side of the room, anyone who is tapped by the catcher has to freeze and stay where they are. Once that round is over and all the students have either been caught or made it across the room, the students who were caught become catchers.

This continues until all but one student is caught. The students who are the catchers should try to position themselves strategically in the center of the room to catch as many of the other students as possible. At the end of the game, the students can remove their blindfolds to see which student made it across without getting caught.

Best for: All ages

8. Make Believe Story 

What You Will Need to Prepare:

  • No materials needed

How to Perform: In the Make Believe Story team builder, students need to work together as a group to tell a made-up story. They should start by standing in a half-circle facing the teacher. The teacher then starts telling a make-believe story and the students listen. After the teacher has gotten a little into her story, she pauses, says “and then,” and points to another student to continue the story. After a while, she selects another student and then another to continue telling the story.

If the student selected by the teacher either draws a blank or wasn’t paying attention, the teacher can give them the reminder to listen and visualize the story and come back to them after a few more turns to let them continue telling the story.

All the students in the group should have a chance to add on to the story, and the last student should come up with an ending for the story. After all, students have shared, the teacher can provide feedback related to the students’ listening skills and ability to add on to the story integrating information that other students shared during their turns.

Best for: All ages

9. Is This It? 

What You Will Need to Prepare:

  • A typical classroom space with a variety of objects

How to Perform: In this team builder, students will come up with a secret code with their partner and the rest of the class will need to crack their code. To start, students should partner up with a person in the class they don’t know very well. One pair will stand off to one side with the rest of the class in a semi-circle. One student should be Person A and the other should be Person B.

Person B will close their eyes and the students in the circle will point to one object. Then, Person B will open up their eyes, and Person A will point to different objects in the room and ask “Is this it?” Person B won’t be able to answer since their eyes were closed when the other students were pointing at the object.

So, Person A and Person B will work together to develop a secret code that will let Person A tell Person B what the object is. For example, Person A may point to a round object right before pointing to the correct object. The other students in the class will need to try to figure out the secret code Person A and Person B are using. Then, another group of students can have a turn to develop their own secret code.

Best for: Mid to upper elementary school students

10. Truth and Fantasy 

What You Will Need to Prepare:

  • A chair for each student

How to Perform: For this activity, students will all sit in a circle. They will be told that they are going to share three stories. Two must be true and one must be made up. Encourage students to think of stories that others haven’t heard and try to make their fake story sound like it could have actually happened.

Choose one student to start and share their three stories. After they have completed sharing their stories, give a quick recap of each story and tell the other students in the class to vote on which story they think is the fake one. Select one student to share which story they selected and why they think it is fake. The student who shared the stories will then reveal which story was actually fake.

You can also make a themed game if you wish. That is, the teacher dedicates the game to various holidays and countries in advance, or discusses the topic with the students. Then kids are given some time to prepare, after which the game goes according to the usual scenario, you can also prepare the material that the students will study before the game. For example, you can find a list of facts about Russia in this article.

All students should get a chance to share their three stories and one chance to explain which story they think is fake and why. You can award points to the students who correctly guess the incorrect story.

Best for: Students of all ages, for younger students you can make the activity easier by having them share three facts about themselves instead of three stories

11. The Orchestra 

What You Will Need to Prepare:

  • No materials needed

How to Perform: For this task, students will work together to become an orchestra. The students should stand in a straight line facing the teacher. The teacher will begin by performing the rhythm of the song, then point to one student to copy what she is doing. Next, she will perform the high hat and point to another student to copy what she is doing. She will continue this by performing the baseline, strings, and whistling the melody and selecting students to copy what she does.

After all the parts of the orchestra have been assigned, the teacher will begin conducting the orchestra. All students should be doing their part. When the teacher points to one student, they should become silent. If the teacher makes a fist and points to one student all the other students should stop. When the teacher points to a student who is already silent, they should begin performing again.

The teacher should conduct the orchestra by pointing at the students for a few rounds, then she should switch with one of the students and take over their part. That student can then have a turn conducting the orchestra. This should continue until all students have had the chance to be the conductor.

After the activity, the teacher and students can discuss how the group had to work together to form the orchestra and how each person’s role was important.

Best for: Mid to upper elementary school students

12.Drawing 

What You Will Need to Prepare:

  • Paper for each student
  • Pencil for each student
  • Chair for each student

How to Perform: Students will be working on their communication skills in this team builders. They will need to find a partner and sit back-to-back with their partner. One partner will draw an image using basic shapes on their paper. They will then need to describe their picture verbally to the other partner who will need to try to recreate the exact image the first partner drew. Once the partners are done describing and drawing, they should compare their images and discuss differences in the images and which directions were clear or confusing.

Next, the partners can switch roles and the second partner can draw. This time, they can draw an image, not just shapes. Again, they should describe their image to their partner (without using the name of the object) so their partner can recreate the drawing. Once completed, the pair should again examine the differences in their images and share why they think these differences occurred.

At the end of the activity, the whole group can discuss how the activity went and what they learned about how they needed to communicate with their partner. They can also share whether they found it easier to give directions to draw shapes or everyday objects.

Best for: All ages, you can have younger students create more basic drawings

Closing Thoughts

When you incorporate team building activities into your classroom, you’ll be amazed by how well your students learn to communicate and collaborate. When students are more effectively able to communicate and collaborate, they will be able to work together more effectively and will benefit from learning from their peers.

Makerspace activities are a great way for your students to continue to improve on their collaborative communication skills. Makerspace activities allow students to engage in creating, experimenting and exploring with a variety of materials and scientific ideas. We have some great makerspace activity ideas for elementary students, middle school students, and students with special needs.

Last Updated on April 28, 2021 by Emily

Emily/ author of the article

Emily is an active mother of two and a dedicated elementary school teacher. She believes the latest technology has made a huge impact on the quality of early learning and has worked hard to upgrade her classroom and her own children’s learning experience through technology.
She created this blog to make it easier for other teachers to take advantage of some of the best devices out there to upgrade their classrooms without having to do the research themselves. She loves to hear your tech-based problems and share her extensive experience :)

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