Research from the American Psychological Association tells us that positive peer relationships motivate students and inspire increased classroom participation. We also see research that claims younger children with more friends are more likely to be engaged in their schooling, and also that positive peer relationships help make children more resilient. This is documented proof that fostering positive relationships among peers is critically important for creating an environment where academic learning and social-emotional development can thrive. To that end, here are seven fun, easy activities to build relationships between students.
Show and Tell
Learning more about their peers creates a strong foundation for building student-to-student relationships. A timeless staple of preschool and elementary classrooms, show and tell also teaches children to be active and respectful listeners while giving them a self-esteem-boosting opportunity to stand out or feel special. Although the practice is often abandoned by the time students reach middle school, older students may discover nostalgia for the exercise or bring another level of creativity to their selections as you cultivate a healthy classroom environment.
A student may bring in an item from home to show the class during show-and-tell. They tell what the particular item is, where they got it, and why they chose to share it. For older students, you may have them share a news item, a recent accomplishment, or an activity they did.
“Just Like Me!” Game
This quick classroom game is perfect for getting students to discover things they have in common with one another. Start by having students line up or stand in a circle. One at a time, have students step forward and state a simple fact about themselves. For example, a student may say, “I have two brothers.” If that statement is true for other students, they say, “Just like me!” and take a step forward. Then, all step back into their original places. Continue until all your students have had a chance to share a statement about themselves.
Students can bond over common traits, situations, and interests, leading to better relationships.
Begin by having each student write down three interesting, but perhaps not widely known, fun facts about themselves on a blank piece of paper. Be sure to tell them not to include their names. Have students crumple their papers into “snowballs” and let the class-wide “snowball fight” begin!
After a few moments, have each student end up with a paper snowball to unfold. Then they must work to identify the classmate whose snowball they retrieved and, once discovered, share that individual’s fun facts with the rest of the class.
Keeping the festive feelings flowing, this relationship-building activity for students can be easily tweaked to a fun academic assessment tool for reviewing math problems, sight words, and more.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two truths and a lie is great for getting students to know each other better in person or virtually—and can show you who has creative imagination for the stories they concoct.
Have each student prepare three “facts” about themselves. More than just the basics, encourage students to share real stories and interesting anecdotes. Two facts should be true about themselves or be things that have happened to them, and one should be untrue. It’s up to their classmates to determine which is false. If you don’t have time to cover all of the results in class, consider breaking them up over a few weeks. You can also post the facts on your class website or social media so that students can remember them better.
Group Projects and Friendly Competitions
Assign students to small groups and have them work together to problem-solve an approach to a presented challenge. For example, you could challenge teams to build the tallest tower out of available blocks or construct the strongest bridge from identical batches of popsicle sticks and glue or other materials.
These types of friendly competitions build student relationships by making students work together and use critical thinking while learning from mistakes and successes. Grouping students together while creating collaboration and socialization boosts relationships, builds trust, and supports creativity.
Party Planning Committees
Are your students looking forward to their next big holiday celebration? Ahead of celebrations such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, or just before winter break, make the occasion an opportunity for a lesson by tasking students with planning elements of their party. Students can divide into groups, with one dedicated to classroom decorations, another to preparing party games, and one to planning food or snack items.
As they work together toward a highly anticipated event, students can enjoy having some ownership of their classroom celebrations and often won’t even recognize you designed the exercise as a learning and relationship-building activity.
“Turn and Talk” Pairs, Beach Ball Game, and Other Quick Q&As
Teachers typically employ a “turn and talk” strategy to get students to discuss lesson topics or answer academic questions with one another, but the practice also lends itself to building relationships and helping students learn more about their classmates. Have students rotate partners frequently to expand their network beyond any existing friendships.
The beach ball game is a class-wide version of the exercise. Instead of asking questions for students to answer with a partner, write several questions on a beach ball that students will toss around the room to each other. The student answers whichever question is under their right thumb when they catch the ball.
Examples of questions could include:
- Do you have any siblings? (If so, how many? What are their names, and how old are they?)
- What’s your favorite movie or TV show?
- When is your birthday, and how do you celebrate?
- What’s something for which you’re thankful?
- What is your favorite season of the year?
- What do you like to do after school?
These types of quick question-and-answer exercises are easy ways to get students to share with each other.
Keep Building Relationships with Avanti
We want students to enjoy being at school, and positive relationships with other students are significant factors influencing their experience. Games and other team-building activities are often a focus for teachers in the first days or weeks of school, but be sure to keep them up periodically throughout the year to continue encouraging strong relationships among your students.
Avanti recognizes the critical importance of positive educational relationships—between students, teachers and students, and teachers and parents. Strategies such as the ones in this post, and many more for strengthening relationships in your classroom, are available via on-demand videos and downloads in the Avanti resource library. Sign up for a complimentary seven-day trial to discover more new strategies you can quickly implement today.