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10-15 minutes




Beach ball, soccer ball with teacher written questions or thumballs


To help identify similarities with others, improve group cohesion, and build a sense of community within the classroom

  • Thumballs are small balls covered in questions that link to the following areas: getting-to-know-you, curriculum-based, silly/fun, building inclusion and relationships.
  • The balls are passed in a circle or tossed around the classroom. When the ball is caught, the student can read the question under their thumb or choose any of the questions they see. They can also pass.
  • After a question is read aloud, the student can choose to answer or pass.
  • Keep in mind ANY question might be sensitive depending on a person’s experience.
  • Once the student answers the question, classmates who would have answered the question similarly stand up. They then remain standing.
  • The ball continues to be passed or tossed until all students are standing up (can be modified to suit the students in your class)

Understanding our differences and the unique perspectives others bring to situations is highly related to empathy, and quality peer relations (Caputi et al., 2012). Students who are taught to attend to and value these differences are more able to manage their own actions and emotions, so they can respond to peers with compassion and empathy (Barnett et al., 2008; Diamond, 2013).

Barnett, W. S., Jung, K., Yarosz, D. J., Thomas, J., Hornbeck, A., Stechuk, R., & Burns, S. (2008). Educational effects of the Tools of the Mind curriculum: A randomized trial. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(3), 299-313. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2008.03.001

Caputi, M., Lecce, S., Pagnin, A., & Banerjee, R. (2012). Longitudinal effects of theory of mind on later peer relations: The role of prosocial behavior. Developmental Psychology, 48(1), 257.

Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual review of psychology, 64, 135-168.