5 practical ways to build rapport with your students: Activities 4 and 5

By on August 18, 2014

How are the rapport building activities coming along? Have you planned for them during the first few days? How are they going? Here are two more excellent activities your students will surely love.

Debrief reminder: at the end of each activity, make sure you spend at least 5-10 minutes walking students through a debrief. Here are some questions you can ask.

“What did we just do? Why did I ask you to do it?”

“What did this activity teach us?”

“What did you notice about your classmates’ behavior during this activity?”

“What was challenging about this activity?”


Activity: Silent Puzzle

When: First or second week of class
Instructional Minutes: 30 minutes with a good debrief
Summary of Rules: No talking.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Buy 6-10 blank white puzzles (20-30 pieces) from a craft store like Michael's or find them online. It is important that they are blank. Make sure there isn't color or design on the puzzles.
  2. Divide the class into groups of 4 and 5.
  3. Give each group a set of blank puzzle pieces.
  4. Set your timer. Have all groups begin at the same time.
  5. The group that can put the puzzle together the fastest without talking wins!
  6. Allow for a second and third place team.
  7. Once three groups have completed the task, ask a few questions about cooperation, engagement, and strategy.
  8. Then, have students either mix groups or go to another station where a another puzzle awaits. (I usually use the same puzzles. They can't tell. Every piece is unmarked. Insert smile).

The Debrief:
Ask students to explain their experience. What did they notice? What was challenging? What strategies seemed to work best? Have students share their ideas with everyone in the class. Ask students if the second puzzle was easier to put together than the first.

The Purpose:

The Silent Puzzle is all about team work and strategy. Successful groups have members who are actively trying to solve the puzzle. They are all trying to place pieces together. They learn from each other and share ideas. Successful teams are focused and supportive. I want my students to realize that cooperation in an activity like this is essential in school and at work. I want them to learn the importance of engagement and the value of helping others complete a task. I encourage them to build things together and expect that they will use their strengths to support others in class accomplish their goals.


Next Steps:

After this activity, I like to challenge my students with the Tallest Tower. You can learn more about this fun activity below.


Activity: Tallest Tower

When: First two weeks of school
Instructional Minutes: 40 minutes with demonstration and a good debrief
Summary of Rules: Students can talk. They can only use the materials given to them. They must build the tallest, free standing tower to win.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Divide students into groups of 4-5.
  2. Hand out materials
    1. Two sheets of computer paper
    2. One six inch strip of scotch tape
    3. Scissors
  3. Give students 25 minutes to work.
  4. Groups must build the tallest tower with the supplies given. The scissors may not be used as part of the tower.
  5. Once the time is up, students must place their towers on the floor at the front of the room. The towers must be able to stand alone. They cannot lean on an object. A students cannot hold the tower up. Only the free standing towers can compete.
  6. Evaluate the height of each tower and assign a first, second, and third place.

The Debrief:
I like to ask students what they thought was challenging. Many of them will complain about the amount of supplies. They will believe that more supplies would allow them to build a taller tower. The truth is, a person can build a tower over six feet with two pieces of paper if they use their resources correctly. Ask students to evaluate their teamwork skills. Ask them to talk about their ideas. Were all ideas heard and considered? Were individuals validated for their ideas? Did the group come to an agreement or did one or two students take over?

The Purpose:

The purpose of this activity is to push students to think critically. To problem solve. I also want them to learn how to listen to ideas and validate all members in a group. It is very easy for students and adults to push their ideas on others. I want my students to learn the value of listening and to practice effective communication. I also want them to see the value in working together. Too often with an activity like this, two of the students will check out because the other two or three students have taken over the work. I want them to see the importance of including all group members in the work. Lastly, I want my students to see how their peers think through a challenge and develop a solution.


Next Steps:

At this point, I am engaging my students in a healthy mix of team building activities and academic skill practice. We are reading texts, talking about the ideas in the texts, and practicing various writing skills. Each day, my students are writing creatively or analytically in what I affectionately call the "J" (or journal). I will do other team building activities throughout the year, but they will be less frequent.


I hope you liked the 5 Practical Ways to Build Rapport with Your Students. These types of activities change how your students feel about your class for the rest of the year. And once you establish rapport, students are more likely to trust you, work harder for you, and create lasting experiences with you.


Join the conversation below and by letting us know how this activity went in your classroom, or share another great rapport building activity that you have used so that our community of inspired educators can learn and grow.

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
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