Community Building Activities

Community Building Activities

(Goal: set norms and build relationship between participants.)

(Note to facilitators: We are still curating this list fully and will be done in a couple of weeks.)

Remember: when you’re done with your lesson(s), end your Foundational Anti-Hate #USvsHate lesson by inviting students to create anti-hate messaging in any media. (See the bottom of this resource list, and see Getting Started for instructions.)  

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED before you start: Make some agreements for respectful dialogue if your classroom/group doesn’t already have them! Here are two examples.

From Teaching about Controversial or Difficult Issues (Morningside Center)

  • Grade Level: K-12 educator professional development
  • Highlight: “To create a safe and supportive environment, make group agreements. . .  These might include guidelines like ‘no name-calling,’ ‘no interrupting,’ ‘listen without judgment,’ ’share to your level of comfort,’ ‘you have the right to pass,’ and the like. Remind students that when they talk about groups of people, they should be careful to use the word ‘some,’ not ‘all.’. . .Most importantly, model how to talk about sensitive and controversial topics by being honest and open yourself, respecting different points of view and accepting of students' feelings.”

Guidelines for Respectful GSA Discussion (GLSEN)

  • Grade Level: K-12 educator professional development
  • Highlight: A short list of student-friendly community agreements!

(See also Productive Group Dialogues for more ideas.)

Getting to Know Each Other

20 Face-to-Face Advisories (Teaching Tolerance)

  • Grade Level: K-12
  • Highlight: Lots of highly recommended community-building activities in here! Pick one or more to build community!

Activities Before Mix It Up (Teaching Tolerance)

  • Grade Level: K-12
  • Highlight: A list of activities designed to prepare kids for deeper conversations about identity and inclusion. (Teaching Tolerance encourages schools to use them in advance of Mix It Up at Lunch Day.)

Exploring and Sharing Identities: Busting Stereotypes and Caring for Each Other

“Ready, Set, Respect”! (GLSEN)

  • Grade Level: elementary
  • Time Required: 30-45 Minutes each lesson
  • Materials Needed: handouts provided
  • Highlight: Explore these many community-building and anti-hate lessons for elementary students!

The Ins and Outs of Groups (p. 17 of “Ready, Set, Respect”) (GLSEN)

  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Time Required: 30-45 Minutes
  • Materials Needed: Provided handout
  • Highlight: Lesson that specifically addresses building an understanding of being a part of a majority or minority group. Includes activity with movement based on non-divisive examples for students to see what it can feel like to be included or not included in a group.

Identity and Labels (Facing History and Ourselves)

  • Grade Level:
  • Time Required:
  • Materials Needed:
  • Highlight: Helps student ask: How do the labels and assumptions others make about us influence our identities?

Identity & Community: An Introduction to 6th Grade Social Studies (Facing History and Ourselves)

  • Grade Level: 6-8
  • Time Required: 10 lessons that are 1-3 hours each, can be adapted to fit anywhere from a two-week to six-week unit
  • Materials Needed: See each lesson description.
  • Highlight: A great way to start the year! This lesson provides a way for students to engage with their own identity and their place within different communities. The last, lesson 10, describes creating a community in the classroom and norms.

It’s Okay to Feel Different (Teaching Tolerance)

  • Grade Level: K-5
  • Time Required: N/A
  • Materials Needed: Book: It’s Okay to Be Different, Posterboard, Construction Paper, Crayons or Paint
  • Highlight: Create a jigsaw puzzle with pieces representing each student to showcase the diversity in your classroom. This lesson helps students develop an understanding of the importance of diversity in a community.

Appreciating Differences and Acknowledging Stereotypes (HRC/Welcoming Schools)

  • Grade Level: 5-8
  • Time Required:
  • Materials Needed:
  • Highlight: An overall introduction to stereotypical thinking.

That’s a (Gender) Stereotype (GLSEN)

  • Grade Level: 1-3
  • Time Required: 40 Minutes
  • Materials Needed: Chart Paper, General Class Supplies
  • Highlight: Group activity around stereotypes relevant to the age of the students, with suggestions for follow up activities to reinforce the message.

I Am Poems [HRC/Welcoming Schools]

  • Grade Level: K-8
  • Time Required: 1-½ hours
  • Materials Needed:
  • Highlight:

The Shape of Home (Teaching Tolerance)

  • Grade Level: 3-10
  • Time Required: 1-3 hours
  • Materials Needed: Copies of handout and story, Lined paper (or a notebook) for each student, chart paper or a whiteboard, map of the United States
  • Highlight: A lesson on the meaning of “home” for different people and communities.

My Family Rocks! (Teaching Tolerance)

  • Grade Level: PK-2
  • Time Required:
  • Materials Needed:
  • Highlight: Students explore the definition of family, learn about different kinds of family structures and explore what makes their own family unique.

What is Community? (Teaching Tolerance)

  • Grade Level: K-2
  • Time Required:
  • Materials Needed:
  • Highlight: Students will identify people and places that make their own neighborhoods special.

Understanding My Family’s History (Teaching Tolerance)

  • Grade Level: K-5
  • Time Required: One week
  • Materials Needed: objects gathered from home, including a photo of each student, world map, colored push pins, colored markers, color-coded map key with enough colors for each student (colors correspond to pin colors), literature addressing immigration, slavery and Native Americans, copies of the Family Data Sheet; For the second part of the lesson: markers, copies of the “nine-patch sheet” to create a personal ‘paper quilt’, supply of gathered objects from home (see “A Homework Assignment” section below), glue sticks, scissors, 9” x 9” construction paper squares for backing the paper quilt sheets
  • Highlight: Art project; hands-on. After exposure to relevant literature in class, students will research their family history by interviewing their parents and then tell their story to classmates.

Our Family

  • Grade Level: 2-8
  • Time Required: 10-20 minutes
  • Materials Needed: Video ( 7 min) and questions or worksheet
  • Highlight: “This short film is a collaboration between Our Family Coalition and Not In Our Town to encourage conversation about the many diverse family constellations, to give children the opportunity to see and appreciate their own families, and to be open and respectful to those who are different from them.” Shows American classroom discussion about family diversity.

Empathy Lessons (Teaching Tolerance)

  • Grade Level:
  • K-2: What Is Empathy?
  • 3-5: Understanding Empathy
  • 6-8: Developing Empathy
  • 9-12: Showing Empathy
  • Time Required:
  • Materials Needed:
  • Highlight:

When You're Done with Your Lesson(s): 

End your Community Building #USvsHate lesson by inviting students to create anti-hate messaging in any media. (See Getting Started and this Guide for instructions.)

Schools can display these messages via school walls, activities or websites.

Any such student products (in any media) can be sent to #USvsHate at any time for broader sharing via our website and social media.

Twice a year, winning entries in an #USvsHate contest will be amplified nationally via our website and social media, and also made into free posters and stickers for participating classrooms! (see Getting Started for instructions and dates.)

#USvsHate anti-hate messages do one of the following:

  • explicitly address, explore, and refuse racism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, sexism, or other hate forms in schools;
  • communicate that people across lines of difference contribute to our communities, regions, and nation;
  • bust a myth about a “type of” kid too often misrepresented;
  • ask peers to treat peers kindly and respectfully so schools stay safe for learning.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: To support your students in creating anti-hate messaging, end with one of these activities!

“Do Something”!: (Teaching Tolerance)

  • Grade Level: K12
  • Highlight: To support your students in creating anti-hate messaging after any #USvsHate lesson, consider ending with a Do Something! Most of these performance tasks ask students to make public anti-hate messages to take action against hate and bias, after exploring their lives and others. You can filter by grade level.

Now check out Foundational Anti-Hate Lessons and
More Specific Anti-Hate Lessons to go deeper!

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