When I was in college, I sang in an a cappella group. Every semester, we went on a weekend retreat where we sang for hours on end. During our retreats, we also had the opportunity to bond as a group. One of the activities we did during each retreat was write “affirmations” to each other. We would sit in a circle and pass around papers with each member’s name on them—one paper for each member. On each paper, we would write something nice about that person. Once my paper had been passed around to everyone and made its way back to me, I couldn’t help but smile as I read the little notes. I tingled with the warmth of knowing that all of these people admired me, cared about me, and respected me. It seemed like a silly exercise, but those affirmation papers are some of my most treasured possessions to this day.
A few weeks ago, I decided to take some time out of class to have students write affirmations to each other. It would be a special opportunity to really guide the kids to see that classmates are teammates that want to see each other succeed. I did have one modification, though—students did not need to write each other notes. If they wanted to draw, that was okay, too. The only requirement was that they had to communicate to their classmates at least one thing they liked about them.
The activity was a hit! My students were so thoughtful with what they wrote to each other. They were running all over the room to find their favorite colored markers to write their notes in. They were so excited to spread kindness to their classmates. One of my kiddos even asked, “Can we do this every week?” The camaraderie I’ve seen between the kids since then has been inspiring. They build each other up, they cheer each other on, and when any student is upset about something, they rally around him or her to bring a smile to his or her face. It’s amazing to think that setting aside just a few minutes to share compliments built such a strong fellowship in our class!
–Written by Elise Hopkins
Have you ever done any team-building activities that caused a remarkable shift in your group’s dynamic? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section!