Facilitating activities for student leaders in elementary and high schools can be challenging. Attention span of teenagers are quite shorter compared to that of adults, especially in lectures. You need to tickle their imagination and you need to let them physically move. As their adviser, you need to get them involved in activities because that is how they retain their learning.
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Hopefully these learning will hone their leadership skills for the future. Your main role as a facilitator is to provide them with activities that will get them engaged. You can let them play some games. However, to let feel a little bit of thrill, you can call these games as challenges. Their confidence as a team builds up once they succeeded in a challenge.
Your second role is to guide them in the reflection. Except for some filler games, like stretching exercises and getting-to-know games, it is important that there is enough reflection after each activity. This way, they see meaning in everything they do, despite its play format.
During the entire activity, you have to be enthusiastic. The mood of the team is greatly influenced by the mood of their adviser.
Though you are their teacher as well, when conducting team-building or leadership activities, you have to take off your hat as a lecturer. This time, you are a facilitator and not their teacher who tells them to do this and that.
Here are some of the tips I can share with you when facilitating team-building activities with your student leaders.
1. Make the team-building experiential. Avoid lengthy lectures. If you are to give some insights, make it quick and brief. Provide them more physical activities than talks. Give them projects. Let them run the majority of the program. As Confucius once said, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
2. Define your basic guidelines. Before you start the whole activity, make sure to announce these guidelines. For example, “Turn off all your cellphones.” Everyone is encouraged but not forced to participate in all activities. This will give them a sense of control of their own decisions. Make sute to include priority of safety of each participant and cleanliness of the activity area.
3. Be clear with the goals of each activity, but be creative. For example, the activity is basically to cross from one area to another. Instead of stating it directly, use a story line. Play with their imagination. You could say like this: You live in an island surrounded with vicious sharks. One fateful day a volcano is releasing some poisonous ashes. All the inhabitants must relocate to the mainland. Their challenge is to cross to the mainland alive. Something like that! To add more thrill, allocate time for the activity. Teens love to be timed.
4. Process the activity. After a challenge, you have to gather them in a circle. You have to be with them in the circle. This way they will be more open to you. When processing, use open-ended questions. It should start with “how was the activity?” Avoid saying “did you enjoy it?” Ask them, “How did you feel about the activity? What do you think contributed to the success of the activity?” If they failed in an activity, ask them “what do you think could each of you have done to improve next time?”
5. Summarize the activity. When you summarize the whole activity, use the words they say. Or you can paraphrase their statement and ask them for confirmation. That way, they will know you were listening and that you value their inputs. Make sure that they realize the “Aha!” moments in the activity. Still, avoid forcing to them what they should learn. Let them realize the value and meaning of what they are doing.