As the weather warms up, I remember the summers I spent at Camp Whispering Oaks, a Girl Scout resident camp in Southern California. Now that I am a teacher and a mom, I know that I can’t go back, but I can bring camp into my classroom.  The improv game Questions Only is one of the games that my students enjoy. As a little background, at Camp Whispering Oaks, the entire camp attends a large opening campfire on the second night of each session to welcome the girls.  These are upbeat evenings filled with singing, staff introductions, and skits performed by counselors.  In order toRead More →

Sometimes zombies (students) just need help discovering what they have in common in order to create friendships.  Play the icebreaker, As the Wind Blows, to help your students build face-to-face connections. An Icebreaker to Spark Friendships Some days sound like my classes of seventh grade English learners and emerging readers socialize too much.  But, even on these days, I sometimes notice my quieter students go from the chatty line outside my door to the rush to the cafeteria without saying a word unless it is part of the lesson.  Sure, these quieter students help to balance out the chatty ones, but I worry that they have notRead More →

When most people think of team building activities, they often picture elaborate events, such as ropes courses, or games that involve supplies, such as the popular Saving Sam activity. Even though I have never saved Sam, I have led hundreds of Girl Scouts through a ropes course and understand the value of asking a group of people to work together to complete a challenging task followed by a debriefing.   I regularly use team building activities to build camaraderie within classes and to prepare students for group work.  This year, I’ve had to search for a few new games to add to my list sinceRead More →

Like many of my favorite games, Honey, If You Love Me comes from Girl Scout summer camp.  I don’t remember when I actually learned this one, but I remember that we often used it as a simple instant program.  To explain, at camp, there are times when units of campers and counselors have a few minutes to spare between activities.  Instead of allowing the girls to just sit around, the counselors are trained to fill these gaps with what is called instant program to keep the girls engaged. In schools, we often refer to similar activities as time fillers to support bell-to-bell instruction.  However, IRead More →

Whether or not we are aware of it, most of us have traumatized youth in our classrooms.  While teaching at San Pasqual Academy, a residential high school for foster youth, many of my students had experienced trauma.  In an effort to learn how to best support this special population of students, I began reading books about trauma.  As I read The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D. I learned that the development of empathy, relationships, and healing can be supported through participation in improvisation activities. I remembered the improv games the staffRead More →

As previously mentioned, I spent my childhood, teen, and young adult summers at Camps Winacka and Whispering Oaks.  At these camps, like most west coast camps, new groups of campers arrive weekly. To help the counselors and campers quickly learn names, each unit plays name games during down time on the first day.  On a safety level, this prevented situations like, “Counselor, my friend fell down and got hurt!” “Who?” “Ummm…I don’t know her name!  Help!” and on a more human level simply helped the girls feel validated and form friendships. I now use name games in my classroom toward the beginning of each course.Read More →