Mindshift: A Community Building Exercise

Trust Building Activity for Class

In light of the divisiveness of recent issues across the globe, thought we could all use something to encourage students (or even adults) to work together.  Take 30-40 minutes to do this activity and trust me, it will be the one class that your students never forget.  It will teach your students to work together, respect others’ ideas, and find solutions to tricky problems.  So important to remind them of the power of collaboration and respect right now.

* If you’re a language teacher, have your students do it completely in the target language.  You may wish to write key phrases on the board as they need them.

The activity is called Mindshift and it’s all about changing your way of thinking.

  1.  With string, create circles of varying sizes (some small, medium and large – enough so that there is one for each student).  Be sure that you have one that is fairly large – at least 2 1/2 – 3 feet across, but not bigger than that.
  2. Move all the chairs and desks to the edges of the classroom and spread the circles out around the class.
  3.  Tell the students that the rules of the exercise are simple.  Each person must have his or her feet on the ground inside a circle (and if it’s a language classroom, they must speak in the target language).

Tell them that the game begins now (and say it will emphasis and urgency so they feel like it’s a race).  Most likely, they will run to get to the biggest circle first and will run around finding a circle.  Once they are all in a circle, take 1-2 of the smaller circles away.  These students will start sharing circles.  Once everyone is in a circle again, take away some more circles.  Keep repeating this process, but be sure that the large circle is always one of the ones left.

They’ll start squeezing more and more people into the circles.  Depending on the age of your students, this may really test them – they’ll have to get close to other students and they’ll have to start working together.  They will realize that they must include everyone.

You’ll notice that they’ll have to come up with new, innovative ways to keep fitting everyone in the few remaining circles.  Finally, they will be left with just one circle and will all have to figure out how to fit everyone.  Let them struggle with this for a while.  The struggling is key to this activity – your only job as the teacher is to keep encouraging them to work together and to tell them that it is possible.  At some point, they will realize that if they all sit on the ground outside the circle and just put their feet into the circle, they will all fit and meet the criteria to complete the exercise.

Build community among students in your class

Build Community in Your Classroom

Once you’re done, lead a discussion.  Remind them the name of the activity and ask them to walk you through what happened during the activity.  Ask them what mind shifts they had to make along the way.  Ex.  They started off selfish and all trying to get the biggest circle.  Then they had to share.  Then they had to get even closer to each other and share more.  They may have struggled listening to others’ ideas.  They may have tried some solutions which didn’t work (trying to fit everyone inside the circle while they were standing).  But in the end, they all worked together to think of a solution.

Then ask them how this activity could relate to our world.  Possible answers include:

  1.  We need to include everyone.  If we all work together, we can come up with solutions to the problems in the world.
  2. This is similar to the resources on our planet.  Right now, we have tons of resources, so we’re selfish with them and don’t conserve.   What would happen if we focused our energy on coming up with solutions before we used up all of our resources?  We’d have all our resources to enjoy now and in the future.
  3. Sometimes, you have to try many different ideas before one works.  It can be a struggle, but if you persevere, you will find a solution
  4. You may even want to mention that although our country feels divided after the election, we can still work together to move forward together by sharing ideas and respecting each other.  ie.  We aren’t just Democrats and Republicans; we are Americans with real problems that we need to solve by working together.

The more we learn to respect each other, communicate, and work together , especially during difficult times, the stronger we will be as a people.  Let’s spread as much love, kindness, and mutual respect as we possibly can.

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