Team-building activities can help middle school students get to know peers who arrive from different primary schools. Team-building exercises also promote the critical thinking, problem solving, observational and analytical skills necessary for success in high school, college and the workplace.

Group Juggle

This activity helps students and teachers learn each others' names. It also teaches the idea of continuous improvement, an important lesson for middle school students as they face more challenging assignments and higher expectations. Have students stand or sit in a circle. Hand a softball to one student, asking her name. Direct this student to ask the student next to her what his name is. She should then repeat the name and hand him the ball. The person receiving the ball should thank the person who handed him the ball by name. This continues until the ball has been passed around the room. At the end of the round, ask for volunteers to recall as many names as possible. Next, instruct the person with the ball to choose a person not standing next to him; he should then call the person's name and toss the ball. Once again, the person catching the ball should thank the thrower by name. Challenge the group to pass the ball to each person only once; they should continue saying each person's name. For the next round, ask them to set a time limit for achieving this goal, then challenge them to improve on their time.

Attention

Take students for a 20-minute walk outside or through the school building. Tell them beforehand that they have to be absolutely silent. Instruct them to be observant of sights, smells, sounds and touch. Tell them to observe three things they find interesting or have never noticed before. As a group, share your observations. Make a list on the board and discuss the types of things students notice. This activity helps students tune into their senses, participate in discussion and learn about different ways of experiencing the world. Often, patterns emerge reflecting different kinds of learning (auditory, tactile, visual). Discuss this with your students.

Back-to-Back Drawing

Break students into groups or pairs. Each group must contain both directors and illustrators. Directors work together; illustrators work separately. Hand out a simple drawing to the directors and have them sit with their backs to the illustrators. Do not allow the illustrators to see the drawing. Next, directors attempt to tell the illustrators how to replicate the drawing, using only verbal instructions. If there is a group of directors, they must work together to provide the clearest instructions. Illustrators will each make their own picture. For the first round, do not allow illustrators to ask the directors any questions. For the second round, allow illustrators to ask only yes or no questions. Allow them to produce a new drawing or to edit the previous one using a different colored pencil (so the changes are visible). Compare the results of each round, then discuss the implications for everyday communication, writing assignments and giving or following directions. You may also provide time during the activity for illustrators to compare their work, discuss discrepancies and make edits.