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Team Building Exercises In The College Classroom

Updated on November 28, 2012
teaches12345 profile image

Dianna is a writer with a background in education and business. She writes to inspire and encourage others.

Team building exercises open the door to positive shared learning experiences.
Team building exercises open the door to positive shared learning experiences.

Team Building In The Classroom

The start of every course brings new and returning students together to learn concepts or to reinforce ideas on coursework material. The group dynamics of college students affects how the classroom will function during the entire course period. Granted, it is said that you lose 50% of what you learn after one hour, but there exists the ability to recall learnings through interactive exercise at a higher percentage over time.

In order to create an environment conducive to learning where students are comfortable in sharing, having students engage in team building exercises opens the door to positive shared learning experiences.

The basic definition of a a team is a group of two or more individuals working together toward a shared goal. Students are familiar with being part of sports and academic teams and know that it takes the consensus of a group to reach goals. Helping them to understand team dynamics will lead to successful career leadership and responsibility.

Team building exercises in the classroom lead to effective problem solving, innovative solutions and negotiation skills. Each of these skills is key in learning how to guide teams, reducing conflict within the work setting, and establishing performance measures. Shared visions create synergestic empowerment of group members.

The Purpose Of Team Building In The Classroom

Through the years I have found creative team building exercises help students to participate in class and to interact with fellow students in a casual non-threatening setting. The inhibited student will share readily and engage in the project to assist in reaching goals.

I use these exercises to begin a class module, as warm-ups, as introductions and reviews to chapter material, and to break up a lecture series. The movement and action helps to stimulate brain activity and to provide a tool for building classroom solidarity. It provides an opportunity for those students who are often in the background to contribute and express themselves.

Team building increases knowledge and strengths applicable to real world scenarios. Once out in the career field, individuals will most likely work with a team on projects to reach set company goals. Working within a team in class helps a student to comprehend the values, views, and diciplines needed to complete a project.

Team Building Exercise: Battle Aqua

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Collaborative efforts strengthen a team's success. Teams agree to disagree, but they realize positive communication is key in accomplishing goals. The Land Of The Free Water Tower: Winner!The Terminator Tower: It was well built but yielded to the enemy's attack. Teams give members opportunities to try a new role and some times it's lots of fun.  Featured: the cannonball toss that won the war!
Collaborative efforts strengthen a team's success.
Collaborative efforts strengthen a team's success.
Teams agree to disagree, but they realize positive communication is key in accomplishing goals.
Teams agree to disagree, but they realize positive communication is key in accomplishing goals.
The Land Of The Free Water Tower: Winner!
The Land Of The Free Water Tower: Winner!
The Terminator Tower: It was well built but yielded to the enemy's attack.
The Terminator Tower: It was well built but yielded to the enemy's attack.
Teams give members opportunities to try a new role and some times it's lots of fun.  Featured: the cannonball toss that won the war!
Teams give members opportunities to try a new role and some times it's lots of fun. Featured: the cannonball toss that won the war!

Project "Battle Aqua"

Prior to beginning our discussion of war in ethics class, students participated in a mock battle over the resource of water. The purpose was to allow team members to understand the argument over the morality of war.

We separated into two teams, each consisting of ten students. Each team was to designate a captain responsible for setting the strategy and directing the soldiers. They were given basic materials (index cards, paper clips, tape, paper plates) to construct an indestructible water tower. Upon completion, each team fired two cannonballs in an attempt to destroy the other teams tower.

It was interesting to observe how the teams strategized to build towers. They realized the importance of working together, a unity of minds, to produce a tower of strength. They tested their structure for stability and named them "Land Of The Free" and "The Terminator". Overall, it was a learning experience that led to open discussion about the fairness of war, especially as it applied to the teams mock battle. By the way, Land Of The Free endured the brutal cannonball attack and held firm.

Team Building and Collaboration

The Four Stages of Group (Team) Development

In 1965, psychologist, Bruce Tuckman developed a Group Development model to help people understand the stages of teams and what to expect in the process. Teams are similar to any relationship we experience in life, they go through levels of communication and development.

Forming: Group members are beginning to know each other, share their backgrounds, and discuss the project to be accomplished. They will also discuss roles and determine the associated responsibilities and goal.

Storming: The team begins to work together to involve eveyone's personal working style to the project. There may be some conflict as members begin to reason and exchange ideas. Thus, this stage is named for the clash of minds, "storming" that may take place.

Norming: As the team begins to work through conflicts and to establish standards and procedures, These are called norms which are basically expectations and agreements on how the group will conduct themselves and work as a unit to accomplish goals.

Performing: This final stage sees the results of effective teamwork. Here the team is ready to do the project and work together well to accomplish the end goal.

Share Your Thoughts . . .

What is the top team attribute?

See results

What A Team Exercise Accomplishes

Working as teams in a classroom setting allows students to learn in the following ways:

Communication Skills: As members discuss the project details they establish a bond between them making it is easier to become involved in solving the problem. They learn work well with others, build trust and respect each others opinions.

Roles: Team exercises allow students to lead and guide members towards goals. Having several group exercises during the class module or semester gives students opportunity to play different roles such as leader, follower, assistant and supporter. Flexibility is essential in roles and benefits the entire team.

Decision Making: An important part of any team member's role is to build decision making skills. As they continue to work together each member will develop methods on collaboration, handling conflict, and setting priorities.

Builds Trust: As teams develop, members begin to share opinions honestly and this allows for communication of new ideas. As students begin to trust each other they are more apt to take risks leading to creative ideas. Listening skills are strengthened as members begin to understand the importance of open-minded communication in accomplishing set goals.

© 2012 Dianna Mendez


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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      23 months ago

      Interesting article. What are your thoughts on the argument that having collaborative learning such as team building favors the extrovert students and makes learning more difficult for the introverts?

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Hello Deborah! I love group exercises, it makes learning fun and retainable. Glad to hear you use them to teach students, excellent!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      6 years ago from Iowa

      Great article. I do a lot of group exercises with my college class. This is a great resource.

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Msmmba, thank you for your feedback. I love these exercises in a classroom setting. They are fun and the students learn so much from them.

    • msmmba profile image


      7 years ago from New Delhi

      Your post is really interesting. Team exercise concept is absolutely outstanding.

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Dwachira, your words are validating to this topic. Thank you for sharing this here. It is a reason why I use groups in in classrooms. Thanks for your add here.

      Torrilynn, thanks for the added value here. Be well and safe. Always good to see you!

    • torrilynn profile image


      7 years ago

      These team building exercises are a great idea. Great hub. Voted up.

    • dwachira profile image

      Danson Wachira 

      7 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi teaches12345,

      This is a great one, team building is one method that i have also realized to be very effective especially when the lecture topic of the day seems to be tasking. I try to be careful with groups composition or some members may take advantage and subdue the group.

      The way members in the group communicate is very important, though there should be some form of leadership, communication should be peer-like and not central-focused.

      I have seen some of my students benefit more from groups that when they would when tackling certain topics or activities individually. This is definitely a plus article, voted up, useful and shared.

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Nyamache, you have hit on the main idea: it helps prepare them for real life situations.

      Ignugent, these excercises to increase interest and promote successful learning.

      Thank you both for adding to this conversation with your insightful comments. Enjoy your week. Blessings.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is really true. Teachers really need this in the class. The achievement level of the class will be very high.

      This is encouraging. :-)

    • Nyamache profile image

      Joshua Nyamache 

      7 years ago from Kenya

      Team work builds the confidence of students and it also prepares students for the future, to work as a team with other employees once they get employed.

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Chef, seems like you have a great way of team building in your classrooms. I would love to attend a session. Thanks for the add to the conversation.

      Louisa, I am glad you can use some of this information to train others. I imagine you have some really good exercises of your own that would add to this topic.

      Nell, Battle Aqua was a fun exercise and really created a platform for collaboration and creative problem solving.

      Alocsin, Who won the war? I'll bet that was so much fun! That is my kind of learning style.

      Thanks to each of you for adding to the flow of thoughts here on the topic. I hope you are having a wonderful evening (or day). Blessings.

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      This reminds me of a similar team building exercise we had in college. It was a mock battle, but each of the teams represented countries trying to take over Europe before WWI. It was great fun. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi teaches, I love the ideas, and battle aqua sounded amazing! fascinating reading, and so useful, voted up! nell

    • Louisa Rogers profile image

      Louisa Rogers 

      7 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

      Great hub. I train managers in the business world and often include interactive exercises. A lot of my focus is on communication & conflict resolution, which tends to be verbal. An area I can improve is using concrete objects for people to work with, as in your exercise, which (it just occurred to me) would also have the advantage of appealing to the kinaesthetic learners in the group. I plan to adapt some of these ideas. Thank you! Voted up, interesting, useful.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      7 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      An effectively built hub! How important is the concept of team and working towards goals - beyond measure. The beauty is that there are ways to do it properly and you've shown how to do that.

      An interesting parallel I find is the creating of a play in my drama group at college - starting from scratch with 'team' warm ups and gradually rehearsing our way into a group mindset - with a script and storyline as leader. My role as director becomes more of a facilitator once the cast know where they're going.


    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Girishpuri, good to see you here tonight. I think I am very blessed to have students who enjoy learning this way. You enjoy your weekend, friend.

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 

      7 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      Great to learn about Team building exercise and Battle Alwa. A wonderful example of a great teacher and a great leader. Your students are lucky, they got teacher like you, God bless.

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Glad to know that this is hitting home with readers, Whonu. It is a fun way to learn isn't it? Thanks for stopping by here, friend. I hope your weekend is going well.

    • whonunuwho profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Teaches, this is a wonderful example of what teaching is all about. Thanks for sharing this important part in teaching skills. I have participated in some similar to this back when I attended some college courses. whonu

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Alicia, you are so right - this would be good for high school students as well. You can never start too early to learn about teamwork. I hope your class enjoys the fun.

      RTalloni, I love the exercises in helping students to engage in the classroom and to understand collaboration.

      Christy, the battle was lots of fun in the classroom. We had to tone it down a bit because we were having too much fun.

      Thanks everyone for your contribution to the article, always good to see you all. Blessings.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Battle Aqua sounds fun! Your real-life experiences really add authority to your articles. Well presented and useful. Sharing and vote up!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very interesting post on developing life/work skills via team building exercises. Lots of food for thought here--character traits of team members, balancing independent thinking/work with team work, and more.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This hub is very interesting, Dianna. Many of the concepts would be applicable to a high school classroom. I think it's important that teenagers practice working in teams, as well as college students. Thank you for the useful information and ideas - I may use some of them in my classroom!

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Lord, I am chuckling at your reference to the political parties -- I don't know how many team building exercises it would take to make them collaborate 0n an issue! Thanks for your visit here and comment. Have a great weekend.

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 

      7 years ago from New York

      As a teacher you have given us important tools for every day life.Team building exercise along with team work can make wonders. Wish democrats and republicans could do these excercises enforced by law. Great article and wonderful tips!

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Yes, I think it's important to let teams know it is not a competition As they begin to plan. Little competition is good though. :) Take care.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. As a coach this seems obvious. Yet, it was among the hardest concepts of a competitive mind.

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Hello Bill, I just had the students comment on how much they enjoyed the team exercises in the classroom because it challenged them to work together for a common purpose. Guess that is validation to the topic. Thanks for your added value to the flow of this thought. Take care and enjoy your evening.

      TeacherJoe, that is another reason I use teambuilding exercises, it helps students to get to know each other better. Great insight, I appreciate your commenting on this topic. Take care and God bless you richly.

    • teacherjoe52 profile image


      7 years ago

      Good morning teaches,

      Very good points.

      When teaching in my classes I like to break them up. Sometimes I put students that don't like each other in a group and guide them how to work together. It is explained that in real life we have to work with people we don't like.It really helps them. As well in class the students form their own groups in frienship so I let them work together. Surprisingly the students that don't hang out together make the best groups when put together.

      God bless you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What a great preparation for the real world....people working together for a common goal? What a wonderful concept.

      Great job Dianna; very interesting read!

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Hello Blawger, thanks for your insight on the importance of team building exercises. It is very helpful for students to know how to work within teams prior to job entry. Enjoy your day and keep safe.

    • Blawger profile image

      Bahin Ameri 

      7 years ago from California

      Another great hub! In my experience as a student, group activities in the classroom cease once you graduate from high school. Most professors are more concerned with teaching students to be independent and self-disciplined rather than focus on important life skills such as interaction and collaboration. Sadly, I can't remember participating in any group activities in college or law school. I think such activities would have enriched my college experience and better prepared me for the "real world".

    • teaches12345 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Janine, always a pleasure to see you, my dear. Your support is much appreciated and I am so grateful. Be well and strong.

      Tillsontitan, it is a better to easier to build team skills in a classroom setting than to be thrown into one the first time on the job. Thanks for your support and visit. Enjoy your day well.

      Dr BJ, I think I enjoy the exercises just as much as the students. It's fun way to learn team dynamics. I appreciate your professional feedback. So be well and safe out there today.

      Michele, great point! It does teach them to cooperate and towards a common goal -- for the good. I enjoyed your visit here and look forward to the next time we meet. Blessings!

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      7 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      This is a great information. Not only does it help children learn better, but it helps them work together not against each other.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      You are right on the mark with this information, Dianna. Team-building exercises are an excellent way to emphasize the important parts of a lesson. I used them whenever possible and sometimes was astounded by the creativity of the team. That was a lesson for me.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      I think you've hit on something here ;) "non-threatening setting" in a college classroom? What a wonderful idea! Think about it, a roomful of young adults - strangers - sharing, learning, getting to know each other....I've participated in team building exercises at conferences and have to say when they are done right they are fun and educational.

      Voted up, useful, interesting and shared.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      7 years ago from New York, New York

      Wonderful article about team building and group exercises Dianna. Learned so much of the is my educational training, but it is always good to have a bit of a refresher, so I thank you for that!! Have voted up a ton and shared all over!!


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