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10-15 minutes


Junior / Intermediate


Per group: six cups, elastic bands, six pieces of string (about 60 cm long)


To promote team building, to learn about one another’s strengths and to enhance communication skills

  • Student teams receive a stack of six cups, an elastic, and a piece of string for each person.
  • The challenge is to unstack the cups collaboratively without using their hands, then re-stack them into a pyramid using the same strategy.

Follow up:

  • How could this be a metaphor for life?
  • What worked in this team activity?
  • What would have made it easier or harder (e.g., no talking)?

Try “Toxic waste”

  • Materials: six cups, elastic bands, six strings, one cup with pompoms
  • Students use the same strategy to move an upright cup of pompoms (i.e. toxic waste) and dump out one pompom at a time into each storage facility (the other cups) without spilling any.

As children learn to work together in the classroom, their communicative abilities become increasingly important. The ability to communicate emotions and express social desires is related to the ease with which students navigate social situations (Beck, Kumschick, Eid, & Klann-Delius, 2012), and giving students the opportunity to practice these skills improves the quality of their interactions, and the emotional climate of the classroom (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011).

Beck, L., Kumschick, I. R., Eid, M., & Klann-Delius, G. (2012). Relationship between language competence and emotional competence in middle childhood. Emotion, 12(3), 503-514. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0026320

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta Analysis of School Based Universal Interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405-432. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x