10 Team-Building Activities Your Whole School Staff Will Love

Some activities to get the year started off right.

What’s your biggest goal for those PD days before the kids show up? Helping your staff get pumped up, excited to start the year and working as a team When a school staff is comfortable with each other and has fun together, you see the effects in all facets of the school. At the beginning of every meeting, especially in the week before school starts, team-building activities can help quickly build relationships as well as relax the room. This is especially true when the activities are facilitated well and appropriate for the group. Here are ten of our favorite team-building activities for staff and faculty, whether your staff has known each other for years or will be meeting each other for the first time.

Name Games

Shot of a group of diverse creative employees having a meeting inside

These games are best if there are a lot of new faces on the team this year.

Team Juggling

This is an active game that will get your staff moving and lends itself to lots of laughs and a more relaxed environment. You need plenty of space and three soft items that are good for tossing around.

The way it works:

Get everyone into a circle. Introduce yourself and throw the first item to someone else, saying their name. If you do not know their name, ask! They should toss the item to another person, saying their name until every person has received the item. Next, begin again, repeating the order, then toss the second item to a different person and repeat the process, so that the two items are being tossed around at the same time. Things should start to get pretty silly.

End by repeating the process, the first two items going around the circle in their original orders, then introduce the third item to a third individual once the first two items are moving. By the end of the game, each person should know the names of at least three other people, and hopefully several more.

Introduce Your Partner

This game is for a staff that will have a hard time buying in to a silly and active game. You will not need any supplies.

The way it works:

Have each person pair up with someone they do not know well. Set a time limit (we find two minutes is usually plenty, but feel free to change it to fit your needs) and have one person tell the other about themselves. When time is up, switch and repeat so that both parties know a bit about the other.

Once both partners have gone, go around the room and have each person briefly introduce their partner to the group. The speaker should not try to repeat everything their partner said but instead should be finding highlights and important or interesting information. By the end of the activity, people should know several names and at least a little about each other.

Get-to-Know-You Activities

These games work well for a staff that is acquainted and friendly but does not know each other well.

How Much Does It Take to Get the Job Done?

This is a silly game that will allow your staff to learn a little more about each other, but it does not require anyone to be very active. All you will need is a roll of toilet paper.

The way it works:

Have your team get into a circle and pass the toilet paper around, asking them to take as much as it takes to “get the job done.” You should do the same. Do not clarify further at this time. Once everyone has their toilet paper, begin by introducing yourself and stating one fact about yourself for each square of toilet paper you took. Next, invite members of staff to do the same, according to how much toilet paper they have. This is a great, low-pressure opportunity to invite people to share about themselves.

Staff Bingo

This is a good game if you have a mix of staff that knows each other well and staff that is new. Your team will move around the room and talk to each other. You will need to prepare in advance of the staff meeting by reaching out to each staff member.

The way it works:

Before the meeting, ask each staff member to submit to you a random fact about themselves that they think no one else knows about them. Once you receive the facts, make bingo boards for everyone (You can use this bingo-card generator). During the staff meeting, pass out the cards and encourage everyone to start talking to each other, writing their coworker’s name in the box with the corresponding fact. The first person to get bingo wins! You can offer something as a prize or just the promise of bragging rights.

Beach Ball Questions

This is a great icebreaker if your staff is mostly new to each other. It is an active game, so it also serve as an energizer to wake everyone up for a morning meeting. It requires lots of space, and you will need a beach ball.

The way it works:

Write numbers around the beach ball. One through five is generally plenty. Assign a question to each number. Think about what you would want your staff to know about each other or use this as a review for some of the things you learned about each other earlier. Toss the ball around the room. Each person who catches it should answer the question corresponding to the number closest to their hand. Once the question is answered, they should toss the ball to another person.

Fact Bag

This game is ideal for groups that already know a little bit about each other. You will need pens, paper, and a bag or bowl.

The way it works:

Pass out paper and pens, asking your staff to write three things about themselves they think no one in the room knows on separate pieces of paper. Once they’re done, ask them to deposit their facts in the bag or bowl. Now mix up the facts and draw one out of the container. Read it aloud and have everyone guess whom the fact matches. You probably will not get through all the facts, but you can keep the leftovers to fill time during transitions later or to start off future meetings.

Trust and Teamwork Activities

These games are very rewarding but are best for a staff that already knows each other well and is ready to work on team dynamics. Although these games should not be used with a staff that just met each other, they could be used with a new staff toward the end of a training day(s). These games work best when you have time to debrief afterward about what worked and what did not.

Protect the Egg

This game is best if your goal is for staff to improve their teamwork and communication skills. You will need eggs and some random household materials, like cardboard, duct tape, straws, etc. You will also need a chair, table, or stepping stool from which to stand and drop the egg. Plan to make a bit of a mess with this activity.

The way it works:

Divide your staff into teams of three to five people, composed ideally of people who either do not know each other well or who will need to work together frequently throughout the year. Explain that each team has a set amount of time (15–30 minutes) to construct a way to protect their egg for when it gets dropped. Let them have at it, and when the time comes have each group drop their egg. Whether or not the eggs break, everyone will have fun and laugh about the results. 

To debrief, you can have a conversation about what led to success and what did not. Talk about communication, creativity, and whatever else went well during the exercise. You can also try to make connections with the work they will do throughout the school year.

Draw a Picture

This game is primarily a teamwork game but will require a certain level of trust as well. You will need pens and paper as well as some simple drawings—think minimal detail. All teams can use the same image if you prefer.

The way it works:

Divide the group into teams of three. Have each team decide who will draw, who will view the original, and who will speak. Once these decisions have been made, give the viewer one of the simple drawings you prepared. The goal is for the person drawing to replicate the illustration without ever viewing the original. The viewer may not speak but must find a way to communicate to the speaker what the original illustration looks like. The speaker will translate that message for the person drawing. At the end, have the entire group vote for which drawing is closest to the original.

Obstacle Course

This is an active game that will require a high level of trust between staff members. It is most effective with a staff that is very familiar and already has a certain degree of trust. You will need blindfolds, a large open space, and objects that can be used as obstacles.

The way it works:

Divide the group into teams of three. Have each team decide who will be blindfolded, who will view the course, and who will communicate with the blindfolded team member. Have the person viewing the course and the person communicating with the blindfolded team member stand face to face, with the viewer turned toward the obstacle course. Make sure the communicator is not able to see the course. You can either set the course before everyone comes or at this point.

Bring the blindfolded person to their teammates, offering an arm or hand to help guide them. Double-check that they cannot see through their blindfolds—teachers are not above cheating! Clarify that the course viewer is not allowed to speak and that the person communicating cannot look. Then let the teams go. The first team to get their teammate to the other side wins. Be sure that at least one person is not playing so they can monitor the course for safety issues.

Deserted Island

This is a strategy game that requires a lot of teamwork. Use it when you are looking for ways to improve communication and teamwork skills. You will need pens and paper.

The way it works:

Ask each person to decide what one item they would bring with them if they were stranded on a deserted island. They should not tell anyone which item they chose. Once everyone has decided, divide the group into teams of three or four. The teams should then work together to figure out how to survive and escape the island with only the items they decided to bring. Next, have each group share out with the whole group. You can give prizes for the most creative, the most likely to work, etc., or just debrief at the end.

While staff might sometimes roll their eyes at having to do team-building activities, more often than not they will be laughing and having fun by the end. With stronger relationships and a team that trusts each other more, your new school year will be off to a great start.

Join the great conversations going on about school leadership in our Facebook groups at Principal Life and High School Principal Life.

Plus, check out more awesome games to use in your staff meetings. 

Posted by Kirstin Kelley

Kirstin Kelley is a residence life professional at Green Mountain College in Vermont. When not cavorting with college students, she is a freelance writer and works with the local Upward Bound program to ensure future success in higher ed.

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