Building Community into your Community of Learners


Starters/RE-starters (not just for the first day)


“I Am …”

I have borrowed an activity (from an unknown author) that has worked well in my classes. The activity is called "I AM," and its goals are to offer students an opportunity to get to know one another and to gain increased self-awareness. The only materials needed are paper and pencil for each participant. It helps if the paper is the same color.


“Brown Bag Introductions”

One of the techniques I have used in my developmental writing classes to begin the quarter involves brown bags (the kind we use to pack our lunches...if we don't have a lunch box).  I ask students to put "things" in the brown bag that they have brought to class.


“Starting  Your Course with a Bang”

Here’s what I do to get my class off to a great start. I take three balloons into class, and with a very stern face, tell the students that we are not going to dive into the course content that day, but instead use the hour to find out about the course, and for me to find out about them.  First, I say, I'm going to find out a little about them by testing their "interactive and cooperative learning" abilities.  As I bat the first balloon into the crowd, I also tell them that as their motivation, if the balloon touches the ground, I will fail all of them for the course.


“Dr. Vic’s ‘Get to Know Me’—Digital Photographs”

1. At the beginning of each semester, I take a Polaroid photograph of each student in my Freshman Seminar.  I have them put their name or nickname on the photo.  I use these photos for the first few weeks to "quiz" myself on their names, so that I know everyone's name in a short period of time.


Many more starter/re-starter activities in section 1 of On Course website:


What is YOUR favorite starter activity to get people interacting?





What is Cooperative Learning and why use it?


  • Structured small group activities
  • Requires students to share resources 
  • Teaches responsibility
  • Learning retention is at highest levels
  • Develops leadership skills



Cooperative Learning Basics, a GREAT Resource:

Some Cooperative Projects: Learning the conventions for making parenthetical citations

·         Summer 2007 punctuation and grammar consultants:

Community Building/Positive Interdependency Activities


“Team Work: A Case Study”

Students in Mrs. Rickshaw's Student Success class are required to do a half hour team presentation on a topic of their choice. Mrs. Rickshaw randomly assigns students to teams. Students have approximately four weeks to research and prepare, including two hours of class time. Marks are given based on an instructor evaluation of the presentation combined with a peer evaluation by their team members.


“Survival: A Group Dependency/Critical Thinking simulation”

You and your companions have just survived the crash of a small plane.  Both the pilot and co-pilot were killed in the crash.  It is mid-January , and you are in Northern Canada.  The daily temperature is 25 below zero, and the night time temperature is 40 below zero.  There is snow on the ground, and the countryside is wooded with with several creeks criss-crossing the area.  The nearest town is 20 miles away.  You are all dressed in city clothes appropriate for a business meeting.  Your group of survivors managed to salvage the following items. . .


More Survival Scenarios.  Good for team-building, negotiating, group writing projects.


“Group Presentations: Your  Group, Your Chapter”

Here is a classroom strategy that I use in class with On Course. Each semester I have student groups present an On Course chapter. I present the first two chapters to model for them. Below you will find the guidelines for group presentations. The feedback has always been positive. The students love the challenge of working together, being creative, presenting to the class, ect. Some of the more creative presentations have included skits, videotaping, and chapter presentations. It's fun for all of us, students and instructors and, well, isn't that what it's all about? Enjoy!!!  --Stephanie Rodriguez


“Empowering Students to Deal with Troublesome Teammates”

Recently, three of my children sat commiserating about the miserable team experiences they were having in a middle school history project, a high school science project, and a university senior political science course.  (Fortunately, the fourth child was playing hooky for the evening at the movies.)  I’m an engineering professor, but I couldn’t help wondering if a simple trick I’ve found to be effective in my courses might be just as effective for any course that asks students to work in teams. The trick starts like this . . .


“Dream Teams”

Here is an activity to help students become more aware of the impact of the people with whom they spend time.  It also helps them view relationships as resources that can, and should, make achieving their goals and dreams easier and more fun.  While I use this activity in my College Success course, it can be used in any class or group to help students identify a goal (project, paper, etc.) and create positive support for achieving that goal.  It takes about 50-60 minutes.