As elementary-age children transition to middle school, they become capable of tackling more complex projects. Often, these kinds of projects require students to work as part of a team toward achieving a common goal. By practicing team-building activities in your classroom, you can help prepare your students to succeed with classroom projects. You'll also be readying them for high school, college and real-world work environments.

Establishing Teamwork Rules

You can make team-building activities go more smoothly if you start with an activity that helps students to define what team-building means. Break your students into groups. Have them brainstorm single words that they associate with teamwork. Then have them define teamwork. Finally, have them identify three or four guidelines that they believe are important to successful teamwork. Have them put their ideas on poster board and decorate it. Then bring the class back together and have the groups discuss their thoughts. As a class, you can use the ideas from different groups to create classroom rules for teamwork.

Getting to Know You

A team project will almost always work better if the team members know each other. That makes a "getting to know you" activity a productive use of time. Have your students form two lines across from each other. You'll ask a question like "What is your favorite movie?" Or "What do you enjoy doing on weekends?" The students in the first line will answer the question to the person directly across from them. Then those in line two will answer. Next, ask each line to shift to their right by a given number of people. Students on the right end of the line will walk down and take positions at the left end. This will put students across from new people, and then you'll ask a new question. Keep having the lines move randomly between questions until you've asked all your questions.

Untying the Knot

For this activity, have students stand close together in a circle. Then, have them reach their hands into the middle and grasp the hands of two other people in the circle, but not the people to their immediate right or left. Once everybody has found two hands to hold, explain to them that it's possible for them to untie themselves into a new circle without letting go of each other's hands. This activity takes patience, communication and some creative thinking -- all good skills for team projects.

You can do this activity with any size group, but the larger the group, the more complicated it is. Begin by having students work in groups of six to eight. Then, try circles with more people to create a bigger challenge.

Team Poetry

Have each student select several favorite lines from a story or book that you are reading as a class. Instruct them to write the lines down. When you say, "Go," they'll begin reading the lines off in a spontaneous order, creating a team poem. For this activity to be successful, no one can speak other than to read off one of her lines. The students should read a line when they feel it fits well after someone else's line. The students should also wait until whoever is reading to finish before reading one of their lines. This activity can produce beautiful poems based on your classroom's current reading. Discuss with your students each time you do it how they feel about what they've created. Consider recording these poems, so the students can listen to the playback when the activity is complete.