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Classroom Quilts as Group Building Activities

By Jessica Cook

If you are searching for group building activities to use in your classroom throughout the year, consider creating classroom quilts. Classroom quilts work well at the start of a term or before a holiday break to provide fun group building activities to build cohesion among the class.

Introduction

I'm one of those teachers who likes to get to know her students. Call me crazy, but I believe that an open exchange between teacher and student breeds a positive classroom environment. Will I share all my deepest darkest secrets with my students? Show them my tattoo? Buy them beer on the weekends? No, of course not. But I will share some basic facts about myself and my life with them, in the hope that they will do the same with me. This is how I build rapport with my kids, and it's one of the key factors in my classroom management plan.

In order to have a quick and easy way to get to know more about my students, I like to build classroom quilts. Sometimes I do this right at the start of a school year or a new semester, and sometimes I wait a little while and use group building activities like this when my students and I have had a little bit of time to get to know one another first. This is really a fun, quick classroom activity that you can use any time of the year.

Create a Classroom Quilt

For this activity, you will need a sheet of plain white paper for every student and a selection of coloring utensils. Tell each student to write his or her name in the center of their paper; then they will use the rest of the paper to teach their classmates something about them. I tell my students to draw pictures that represent who they truly are; it has to be something they are willing to share with the class, but it should be something that gives us insight into their inner selves.

I usually provide an example of this activity on my classroom board; I think group building activities work better in my classroom, at least, if I'm the one who starts them. By sharing information about myself first, I open up the floor for sharing time and let the students feel more comfortable participating in this classroom activity. Download a sample quilt square here to see what one would look like (if the person drawing it were actually a computer and not a person at all).

When students finish their quilt squares, they take turns sharing them with the class. Each student should introduce him- or herself and explain the things they drew on their pages. I preface this by reminding the students to behave respectfully when someone is speaking; anyone who violates this rule faces my wrath in a way that they are not likely to witness again. (I take my classroom group building activities very seriously, in case you couldn't tell.) When the students are finished presenting, I collect the papers so I can go over them in my free time and learn about the students in my classes through the things they drew.

In some cases, I like to display the pictures together on the wall, creating giant classroom quilts. To do this, I usually have the kids glue their white papers onto colored construction paper first and then we hang them up together. If I happen to be a floating teacher that year, or if I teach too many classes to allow that much wall space for this activity, then I keep the pictures and put them in the students' files so I can refer to them later. This would also work out well to make a cover for class folders or journals; you can do what you like with them, really.

By the end of this activity, we've all learned something about one another, and we've had a fun day of group building activities time instead of traditional instruction. By creating our own classroom quilts, it's a win-win.