5 ways to build your team

One of the things I love about leading workshops, giving advice or even just chatting about work with other teachers is that often other people can make you look at things in a completely different way.

In a workshop I led recently on anti-bullying, we briefly touched upon how we as teachers can build students’ self-esteem – emotionally healthy students are less likely to bully others, as well as more likely to be able to cope if they are the victim of bullying. One teacher spoke about a colleague who chooses to spend the first week of the academic year on team-building and getting-to-know-you activities, as she feels that this creates a much better working environment for the rest of the year. The students truly know and respect each other, and see themselves as a team in which each person must play a role, not simply a group of students who come together to learn English.

Given my background in summer school activities/youth work, I’m fairly well-versed in team building games, but the comment really made me think about how these kinds of activities might be used in the EFL classroom.

Some of these five activities I have used, others I plan to use in the near future… and for anyone doing summer school, they could be a way to get the summer off to a positive start!

Drawing an Alien.

Time: 5-10 mins

Materials: 1 piece of paper per group, 1 pen per student (ideally different colours)

Level: Elementary plus (no language used so all levels can complete the activity, however the discussion stage is more suited to pre-int plus)

Ask the ss to work in groups of around 4. Give each group a piece of paper, and make sure each student has a pen (ideally each student in the group with a different colour). The students have 2 minutes to draw an alien – the catch is that they are not allowed to speak to their group while doing so.

Questions for after the activity:

Was there a leader in your group? How did you know they were the leader?

Did everyone draw the same amount of the alien? Did some people draw more or less?

You couldn’t talk. How did you communicate with each other without using words?

This activity is pretty interesting for the teacher to look at – it gives a real sense of group dynamics and enables you to easily see who the more dominant and more passive students might be, aside from their linguistic ability. It also can increase the students’ confidence in their ability to communicate in English – it’s a clear example that there are other things (body language, facial expressions) that contribute to communication, rather than just whether or not you use the right word. 

Stand Up Together

Time: 5 mins

Materials: None, but you need a reasonable amount of space!

Level: Any – no language required

Ask the students to work in pairs. Use one pair as an example, then the others can join in. Students sit back-to-back on the floor with their arms linked at the elbows. The students must stand up together, without unlinking their arms. When a pair is successful, they can join another pair and try to do it as a four.

Questions for after the activity:

Was it easy or difficult? Why?

What could you do to make it easier?

Balloons in a Circle

Time: 5-10 mins

Materials: One or more balloons, a reasonable amount of space!

Level: Any (you could also use it to practice body part vocabulary)

Ss stand in a circle holding hands. The teacher throws a balloon into the ciricle. Ss must keep the balloon in the air for as long as possible. They may tap the balloon using heads, hands, arms, shoulders, chests or knees – but NO feet, and they must not break the circle by unlinking hands. They’ll quickly realise that they need to work together, as for one part of the circle to move, other parts of the circle will need to follow.

Advertising the Class

Time: 20 mins +

Materials: Paper (Ideally large!), felt tip pens, pencils

Level: High pre-intermediate plus (nice way to practice describing/personality adjectives)

Ask the students to work in small groups for this one. They need to produce a poster to advertise the class – make it colourful and eyecatching! The poster needs to include something about every person in the class, and it’s an advert, so it must all be positive!

Awesome Begins with You!

Time: 5-10mins

Materials: Paper and pens/pencils

Level: Intermediate plus

Ask the students to work in groups. The teacher chooses a letter; ss must think of a positive attribute/quality for each person in their group, starting with that letter.


Adina – awesome!

Matyas – always on time

Lucie – adventurous

Martin – active

Questions for after the activity:

How do you feel about the words chosen for you?

Do you agree with your words?

Students could also create some kind of poster or writing as a follow up, featuring either the attributes their group gave them, or ones they feel are more appropriate.

Do you use team building/self-esteem building activities in your classroom? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 






5 thoughts on “5 ways to build your team

  1. Great ideas, thanks for sharing. I especially like the alien one 🙂 Another activity I’ve done, though can’t remember where it came from, is to get them all in group of between 8 and 12 – it does need to be an even number. Everyone stands in a circle and puts their left hand in, joining hands with a partner; then they put their right hands in and join hands with a different partner. You now have a mesh of hands, but by working together, they can untangle themselves to form a circle again, without letting go of each others’ hands.


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