ENSEMBLE BUILDING ACTIVITIES develop students’ understanding of each other as they co-operate willingly to achieve a common objective. In doing so, the students draw on and develop their intra-and interpersonal skills whilst learning important lessons in leadership and contributing effectively to a group.
Giants, Knights & Wizards
This is like the game rock, paper, scissor but played on a full class scale. Like Rock, Paper, Scissors, the Giants beat Knights, Knights beat Wizards, and Wizards beat Giants. Teach the class the actions/words for the three choices: Giants (stomp feet saying, ‘fee fie foe fum), Knights (thrust forward with a sword saying ‘en guard’) and Wizards (twirl magic wand in the air saying ‘shazam’). Split the class into two groups and line them up at opposite ends of the room facing each other. Give the groups a moment to decide which move they will use and then count down 3…2…1. On 1 both groups are to be back in their lines and play their chosen movement. The winning team gets a point. But if a team plays conflicting movements the other team automatically gets the point. First to 5 wins. Variation – Any 3 actions & sounds could be used as substitutes for Giants, Knights & Wizards.
Two “infected” students start as “in” with one of those students holding a large soft ball; which represents the virus. Their aim is to “infect” the other students with the virus by tagging them via reaching out and touching them with the ball – they may not throw the ball. The student holding the ball cannot move their legs – like netball. The 2 “in” students must work together by running and passing the ball to each other to move around the room and try and tag the other students. The other “healthy” students can move freely around the room. Once tagged, the new “inflected” students help tag the other students until there is one left who is the winner.
Building upon “Grandmother’s footsteps” this is a game of stealth where when the teachers’ back is turned, they may move but when they turn they must freeze. Place several items (some furniture included) just behind the teacher’s back (POV-as their back is turned); these items become the “treasure hoard”. The students need to sneak up and retrieve the treasure and get it back to their starting line without being seen and get as many players as they can back to the starting line as well. Rules of play: once an item is moved from the “hoard” there must always be at least one player touching it. If any part of it can still be seen by the teacher, it is returned to the “hoard” and the student touching it is out. Any student who is caught moving or losing focus is also out.
Students are to create a line from one end of the room to the other without talking or mouthing words. They must find other creative ways to communicate with each other. Line orders could include: height order, alphabetical order of first name, oldest to youngest, house number, alphabetical order of middle name, etc.
Students start by standing in a circle. In this activity the students firstly develop a pattern as a group and then replay the pattern. When developing the pattern each student must remember who pointed to them, who they pointed to and what was said. The teacher starts, points to a random student, and says a colour i.e. blue. That student then puts their hand on their head (to show they have already been selected), points to a random 2nd student and says a different colour i.e. red. The students cannot select a person who has already been selected. This process continues until the last student has no one to point at (everyone has received and sent the pointing once) and therefore they point back to the teacher to finish the pattern. Replay the exact same pattern a few times so the students get the hang of it. Then develop a second pattern using the same method as above with each student pointing to someone different and instead of saying a colour use names of place. Once students know both patterns try replaying them at the same time. Students will need to be focused to ensure they send the pattern to the right person. If a student gets confused the other students may help them out. Classes with strong group dynamics will be able to run with more patterns added e.g. animals, foods, car models, etc.
The student walk around the room in neutral. The teacher yells out a combination of body parts e.g. three knees and two left hands. Students must quickly find a pair and find a position together where only those body parts are touching the floor. The last pair to form the position is eliminated.
Give the class an empty milk carton. They must work as a team to hit the milk carton up into the air using only the palm of their hands. They cannot hit it in a pattern and all students must participate. Each time it is successfully hit they get one point. If the milk carton hits the anything other than a person’s palm (floor, roof, wall or another body part) then the count goes back to zero. They will need to effectively communicate to work out the best strategy which works for the group.
Students are divided into teams and given enough paper sheets for every member to have one plus an additional one. All team members must start touching the classroom’s back wall. The aim is to travel across the room using the paper sheets as rafts and be the first team to have all their members reach the other end of the room. The students cannot touch the floor and can only travel by touching the paper sheets. If any member touches the floor, then the whole team must go back to the start. The teams cannot rip the paper. Give the teams a moment to strategize before they start.
Variation – reduce the number of sheets given. Try only half the team getting a sheet of paper + 1 or 2 pieces of paper per group.
Choose somewhere between 1-3 students (depending on class size) to be the Ghosts, and everyone else in the class stands up somewhere in the room still, with their eyes closed (or hands over their eyes or blindfolded). The “ghosts” have to sneak up behind members of the rest of the class, count to 10 in their head, and then tap that person on the shoulder. The aim of the “ghosts” is to eliminate all of their other classmates. The people who are not ghosts can ask “Is there a ghost behind me?” if they think someone is standing behind them, counting to 10. If there is, that ghost is out. If there isn’t, that member of the class gets themselves out. If all the ghosts get eliminated, the class wins. If all the non-ghost class members get eliminated, the ghosts win.
Divide the class into equal groups and line then up seated in their groups across the back wall facing the wall. The first person in each line group is given a written scenario. Give this first person 1 minute to read and practice the scenario whist the other group members can’t see as they are facing the wall. Then get the next person in each line to turn around and watch person 1 act out the scenario as a mine with no sound for 30 seconds. Person 1 then sits at the opposite end of the room and person 2 gets up to take their place. Person 3 turns around and person 2 mimes for them. This continues until the last person has watched the mime and then are given time to write out what they think the scenario is. The last person from each group then shares their responses with the class.
Have the class stand in a tight circle and place their left hand into the circle and grab onto another person’s left hand. Then place their right hand into the circle and grab onto a different person’s right hand. Once they have this tap one pair’s joined hands to release them. The group must untangle themselves without letting go of their hands.
Two Truths One Lie
Instruct students to write down three facts about themselves that is not common knowledge to the group. One of the facts must however be untrue. Taking turns, the students read their ‘facts’ to the class and the remainder of the class must vote which fact they think is untrue. Students are to record their scores on their piece of paper. At the conclusion, find out which student had the most correct guesses.
A little like musical chairs, however, in this game everyone sits in a circle on a chair facing the middle of the circle. There should be one fewer chair than students. The student who is left without a chair stands in the middle and says something like, “Everyone who is born in April.” or “Everyone who has a brother,” or “Everyone who is left-handed.” Any description that is likely to describe some and unlikely to describe all will do. Everyone who fits the description must move to a different chair which cannot be the chair beside them. Whilst this occurs the student in the middle also moves to find a chair. Usually, a different person will be left standing, and it is their turn to call the next “Everyone who…”.
Horses, Knights & Cavaliers
The students walk in neutral around the room. The teacher calls out either horses, knights or cavaliers and students quickly form a pair to complete the action. The last pair to complete the action is out. Horses: one partner gets on all fours on the floor, and the other sits on the other’s back. Knights: one partner gets down on one knee, and the other person sits on their partner’s knee, and raising their right hand as if they are holding a sword to the air. Cavaliers: When this is called one partner jumps in the arms of their partner.
The teacher explains, demonstrates the 5 levels of movement: 1 is standing still in neutral with a soft focus; 2 is walking in slow motion; 3 is walking with dragging of the feet; 4 is walking with energy and a purpose, and 5 is a light jog. Place students in the space and ask them to start in level 1 with no speaking. Then the teacher randomly calls out the different levels and the students demonstrate ensuring they stay focused throughout. Once the teacher is satisfied with the students remembering the levels and the focus, the teacher begins to call out 2 numbers at the same time assigned to 2
different groupings e.g. all boys level 2 and all girls level 4 or John level 5 whilst the rest of the group level 3, etc.
Variation 1- (Advanced) The teacher tells the group that they are now ‘the herd’ and that they will no longer instruct them. Instead, as an ensemble and without words, they will continue to randomly work their way through the 5 levels. The teacher side coaches by reminding the students to stay focused, accept the offers given and verbally guide individual students if they don’t follow ‘the herd’.
Variation 2- Turn this activity into a performance. Split the class in 2-half perform and half watch. Complete variation 1 and towards the end ask the students to form a circle and finish the performance in an interesting and imaginative way. Add instrumental Mood music e.g. ‘We Lost the Sea’ by A Gallant Gentleman to enhance. Discuss the observation with the audience.
Retrieve the Keys
A nominated student is positioned at one end of the room sitting in a chair with a blindfold on and a set of keys is placed under their chair. The rest of the class start at the other end of the room. Their objective is to work together to get the keys out from under the chair and back to the original starting position without being detected. The game is played in silence. Once the game begins the nominated student may say ‘freeze’ and point in the direction they hear any noise from. If they are correct, then that person is out. Give the person on the chair several agreed upon strikes (perhaps 3) for pointing which results in no one getting out. If all players are eliminated, then the nominated person wins but if they run out of strikes then the class wins.
Variation 1 – place the chair in the centre of the room instead.
Variation 2 – play in the dark with a torch instead of pointing.
Variation 3 – make the task harder by introducing other requirements like the keys must be passed between 5 people before they get back to the starting position.
Take the Chair
Each student sits on a chair randomly placed in the space with 1 empty chair at one end of the space and the teacher standing at the other end. The teacher’s objective is to try and sit on the empty chair by walking slowly towards it and sitting on it. The class’ objective is to work as a team and get one student, student A, to swap from their chair to the empty chair. Once student A has swapped into the empty chair, their original chair is now empty, and the teacher’s new objective is to change direction to go and try to sit on it. Another member of the class now needs to move from their chair to sit on the new empty chair. And the game continues. A tally is kept of the number of successful swaps. If the students move the chairs, collide with the teacher, the teacher sits on the empty chair or more than one student is up off the chairs at any point in time, the tally returns to zero. In the first few rounds chaos will ensue. Guide students with questioning and side coaching. When they are focused and working together the swapping is easily achieved.
Variation – Once they get a hang of it increase complexity by moving faster.
Variation – Same as above but no speaking.
Choose one player to be blindfolded. Ask students to scatter the floor of the stage with random objects (a book, a crumpled piece of paper, a backpack, an eraser, etc.). These objects become the “mines”. Place the blindfolded player at one end of the stage, while the rest of the class sits in straight lines in front of the stage. The goal is for the class to direct the blindfolded player from one end of the stage to the other without touching a mine, using precise “stage direction” commands. Each person gives the blindfolded player one direction. For example – 1st Student: Take two small steps upstage. 2nd Student: Take 4 large steps stage right. 3rd Student: Take a tiny step upstage left. If the blindfolded player touches a “mine”, it “explodes” and their turn is over. Once the turn is over, choose another player to be blindfolded while the class re-scatters the stage and plays again.
Variation – Divide the class in half and allocate one player from each half to be blindfolded and one player from each half to be the judge for the other team. Position the blindfolded players at opposite ends of the course and the teams on opposite sides. The first team to get their player safely to the other side is the winner.
Split students up into smaller groups and ask each team to build something with the material provided. For example, you could give each team a packet of paddle pop sticks and sticky tape and ask them to create a bridge that will hold a heavy book, or provide each team with 5 cups and skewers and ask them to create the tallest tower.
This game is played in complete silence. Students are divided equally into 2 teams and sit in 2 rows facing each other, like train tracks, with their eyes shut and hands joined. The teacher places a set of keys between the people at the top of the line where they stand. The two students at the bottom of the line are the only ones who have their eyes open. The teacher can either give a thumbs up or a thumbs down. If it’s a thumbs up the 2 students with their eyes open must squeeze the hand of the person next to them who squeezes the hand of the next person and so on until it reaches the person at the top of the line who once they feel their hand squeezed can open their eyes and grab the keys scoring 1 point. Rotate the line each around so everyone gets a turn at being the spotter and grabber.
The Snake Sheds Its Skin
Split the class into two equal lines. Number the students off in each line from 1 so each student has a number. Students hold hands. One line is team 1, the other is team 2. The teacher calls out “The snake sheds its skin between…” and then calls out two numbers in numerical order e.g. 5 and 6. The students in both lines that are those two numbers lift their adjoining arms high and the students on the end of the lines quickly make their way to the space and pass through pulling the remainder of the line through after them. The winning team is the first who gets back into a straight line. Usually, the best out of 5.
Variation – instead of numbers let students choose colours or actors or play titles etc. The teacher will need to write these down in order so they can call two which are next to each other.
Swords of Paris
Divide the class into two ‘armies’ who stand at opposite ends of the room facing each other in a triangle shape. There is one student at the front who is the army leader and then all the other students are their army who stand behind them with 2 students in the second line, 3 in third, 4 in the fourth etc. Each leader, at the go ahead by the teacher, takes turns in attacking the other army with one of the below movements. All the members of the opposite army need to quickly respond with a defence movement. If they respond incorrectly or are too slow, they are eliminated. The team whose soldiers are eliminated first are the losing army.
Cut off the head: the leader swipes horizontally at head height and the other army ducks.
Cut off the legs: the leader swipes horizontally at knee height and the other army jumps on the spot. Stabbing: the leader jabs his sword forward and the other army jump backwards.
Striking to the left: the leader swipes vertically to their left and the other army jumps to their left. Striking to the right: the leader swipes vertically to their right and the other army jumps to their right.
Students sit in a circle which could be the whole class or smaller groups with one student selected to go first. The teacher explains the structure of a well-made story and gives the class a title or first line. The first student says the opening sentence to the story. The next student says the next sentence and so on. The story must flow and follow the structure. The teacher may side coach by yelling out the section of the story to help the groups advance the narrative.
Variation – Same as above but each student can only say one word at a time.
Knife & Fork
Students work in pairs to create whatever you call out as a pair e.g. knife and fork, flowers in a vase, biscuit and tea. Count down from 10 to1 to help the students get moving and to be silent, frozen and ready on 1. Have a look at what students have created before calling the next pair. After a few attempts, join a few pairs together to make groups of 6 or 8. Start to call out objects or places that fit in with your theme. For example, for Australian theatre: Summer’s day on the Gold Coast, A QANTAS plane, Cane Toad, Weis Ice Cream Bar, Australia Zoo etc. Lastly, choose one freeze frame and ask students to create a movement and sound effect to bring this scene to life. Ensure it is a sound and movement that can be repeated.
Get into groups of at least 3 (but best played with 5 or 7). Form a row facing you. Person at back, aka C, (furthermost from you) creates a shape with their body. Person at front, aka A, must describe (without gestures) what shape C has made so that person in the middle, aka B forms it accurately. Repeat a couple times so people get turns at different parts.
Variation – The teacher could give person C a card with a description of a complex shape on it e.g. lunge forward on your right left with your left hand in your pocket and right hand in an OK gesture over your left eye and face your head toward the ceiling.