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Building a tower out of recycled materials seems a far cry from what we traditionally see as activities to build skills for employment (also known as being work ready). But teamwork activities for students that encourage group participation and a shared goal are important in helping young people get work ready.
Firstly, spend some time collecting recyclable objects in your class. Ask students to bring in:
- cardboard boxes
- plastic bottles
- yoghurt and margarine containers
- cardboard cylinders (from tin foil etc)
This is really your first shared goal - being able to work together as a team to collect enough materials to do the teamwork activity in the first place is a sign that your students are already developing some skills which will be important for employment in the future. Also collect some 'joinables' - string, cello tape, masking tape, wool, pip cleaners, elastic bands. You may wish to use paint or colored paper to make an interesting addition to the team towers, but this is not an essential step.
Group students into small groups of around 4-5. Give them a challenge of making a 'teamwork tower' using the materials provided. Share the recyclables amongst the groups, so everyone has a decent pile of cardboard and other goodies. Set a challenge such as creating the highest, most creative or most artistic tower in a given time (eg. 30 minutes). Remind students to focus on teamwork, and award points for acts of teamwork or good communication that you observe. Give a prize for the best tower, and for the group which used the most effective teamwork to create their end product.
Follow up with a discussion on how this teamwork activity relates to being work ready, and encourage students to record their thoughts on the activity in a daily diary on buiding skills for employment during the year.
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The Balloon Game- A Teamwork Activity
This is a "all-in" teamwork activity game which requires a bag of balloons, some chalk, lots of enthusiasm and a wide open indoor space! Mark out an area on the floor with chalk, and explain to students that this is the game area. Blow up about ten balloons (more or less depending on your class size). Tell students the challenge is to keep all the balloons in the air at the same time, and within the game area. The best way to do this (what a surprise!) is for them to all work together. Failing to co-operate with each other will end up with balloons going in all directions, and landing on the ground or going out of the game area. Working together as a group and using good teamwork skills will mean the balloons can be kept aloft easily, without any going out of the area. Ask students to set themselves a time challenge, or to gradually increase their skills to the point where they can keep greater numbers of balloons up at the same time. As they get more used to get game, add other elements such as only using their feet or not touching the same balloon twice in a row.
Again, discuss the link between the teamwork activities completed and how they relate to skills for employment or being work ready. Ask students to give you some examples of other activities that they think may help others learn to be work ready, or discuss the problems which can happen in a workplace if someone lacks the skills for employment needed to get along in a team.
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Blindfolded - Are Your Eyes Open to Being Work Ready?
Organize students into pairs. Give each pair a blindfold (a scarf will do). Instruct students to organize a 'safe word' so the person who is blindfolded can end the game at any point if they do not feel safe. Arrange the pairs in a large, safe area with no obstacles near by. Add an appropriate 'stop signal' of your own, such as a whistle blast (for any hearing impaired students, use a more suitable signal), to tell students there is a problem of some sort and they must stop what they are doing straight away and take their blindfold off. This gives you safe control of the group at all times. The challenge is for the sighted partner to guide their blindfolded partner from one end of the area to the other using only words or sounds. Ensure the groups are well spaced out so there are no collisions. Swap so each person has a turn at being blindfolded. Ask students to share their feelings about the experience, and to give feedback to their partner about how well they guided them to safety.
Conclude this series on teamwork activities for students by discussing how students can carry on building their skills for employment through everyday and out of school activities - camps, volunteering, joining a sports group or being part of a club can all help young people become work ready.
- Written from author experience.