Building Trust in a Classroom

By Brent Vasicek on March 30, 2011
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Trust. It's the foundation of any great relationship. Trust. It can take years to build and moments to shatter. Trust. Can be the difference between a pretty good class and a pretty great class. So how do you build it? Read on.

 

Trust. It's the foundation of any great relationship. Trust. It can take years to build and moments to shatter. Trust. Can be the difference between a pretty good class and a pretty great class. So how do you build it? Read on.

 

Over the years I have realized that trust is essential to a learning environment. Below are three activities that I use to build trust among my students. The first two activities are fairly safe to do. They can be completed during the first month of school, as a year-end culminating event, or whenever you feel the class needs a team building boost. The third activity involves more of a risk, and I recommend doing it only if you truly know what you are doing and truly trust your class. The key to facilitating any of these activities is setting a tone of complete focus. Students that are not willing to focus are simply invited to sit on the sidelines.

The Zipper 

This activity is one that I saw at a summer camp. Students face each other in two parallel lines. They extend their arms to block the path that lies between them. One student is chosen to walk, jog, or run — depending on his or her comfort level — through the path. The dialogue and actions are as follows:

  • Johnny: "Zipper ready?" 
  • Class: "Ready, Johnny!" If Johnny doesn't hear all of them shouting and see all of them focusing, then he may repeat his first question until he is sure he has their undivided attention.
  • Johnny: "Today I am going for a jog."
  • Class: "Jog on." 
  • At this point Johnny jogs through The Zipper and each member of the class drops his or her arms just before he encounters them. The more trust the student has, the quicker he or she will go through The Zipper.

Vasicek Zipper 1  Vasicek Zipper 2

The Wind in the Willows

This activity involves a bit more trust as more control is relinquished. Johnny stands straight with his feet together and arms crossed over his chest as shown in the picture. A group of about eight students surround Johnny. Their hands are up with palms towards Johnny, and they have their dominant foot in front of the other for stability. The dialogue and actions are as follows:

  • Johnny: "Spotters ready?"
  • Students: "Ready, Johnny!" Again, Johnny must feel that everyone is focused on the task at hand.
  • Johnny: "Falling."
  • Students: "Fall on." At this point Johnny starts to lean forward or back. The group's job is to prevent him from falling to the ground by gently pushing him back, forth, or around. You can tell how much trust Johnny has in the group by how close together his feet remain and whether he bends at the waist. To add risk, Johnny can close his eyes.

 

 Vasicek Willow 1  Vasicek Willow 2

Trust Fall

Remember the Nestea Plunge commercials?  You know the one where the guy falls backwards into a refreshing pool of water? The Trust Fall is based on that idea except instead of a sea of water, you fall onto a sea of hands.

Caution: This activity involves the most risk and should only be led by a facilitator who has been trained to lead it. Call up a local camp or team building instructor and learn the proper technique. I recommend this for students who are significantly older than elementary school. You can see the Trust Fall in action in the video at this Web site. I have done this activity only with classes that I think have deep commitment to the team. I also create a two-foot-thick cushion with the gymnastic mats in the gymnasium.

 Vasicek Trust Fall 1   Vasicek Trust Fall 2

Anti-Trust: If you are interested in illustrating the effects of distrust before you do these trust building activities, then try the X/Y Game, which is also called Win As Much As You Can.


What sort of activities do you do to teach the importance of trust and to build your team?

2I2 Trademark 2010 Vasicek Fall on,

Brent

www.mrvasicek.com

2i2 is a trademark of Mr. Vasicek's class. It represents living to your potential and living with integrity.

Comments

The Zipper is a new one for me. I might have to work that in somewhere. Thanks for another fantastic idea!

:)

You are welcome, Krista! Thank you for reading! Brent

Hello Brent Vasicek,

Read out your blog & i am impressed from the title of your blog "Building Trust in a Classroom"

Thanks for sharing great article.Good day.

You are welcome! Thank you for reading. Brent

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