Students explore their experiences with the group and develop a sense of community/comfort by occupying a common ground.

Objectives

  1. Cognitive: Students will be aware of commonalities throughout the group and able to give examples of common experiences.
  2. Affective: Students will feel safe sharing preferences and comfortable/accepting of others’ preferences.

Materials

Open space, list of prompts, slips of paper, writing utensils

Teacher Prep

Generate a list of ideas for things students may have in common before the activity (samples below). Try to create prompts to cover a wide range of topics, arranged in increasing degrees of level of intensity/disclosure.

Exercises

Time Activity Notes
1-2 min
  • Bring students together in a circle. Give an overview of the activity, explaining that the exercise will highlight different things that students in the room have in common.
Encourage curiosity and an open mind (stepping out of comfort zone).
3-5 min
  • Ask students to anonymously write down ideas for things that classmates might share in common.
Be sure to scan your students’ body language to check in with how they’re feeling.
5-8 min
  • Read prompts one at a time beginning with simple concepts, moving into more sensitive areas as appropriate. (Note that trust is important here.)
  • After each prompt is read, if the prompt applies to a student, he/she moves to the “common ground” in the middle of the circle.
  • Option: Introduce a new rule to high-five (or use another gesture with) someone in the center of the circle before rejoining the others.
Example Prompts:

  • play a sport
  • ride the bus
  • walk to school
  • have siblings
  • play an instrument
  • love pizza
  • born outside the US

Consider and honor cultural factors. (For example, being “from a different country” has different connotations for different backgrounds.)

8-10 min
  • Wrap up the activity by highlighting the connection and community.
  • Ask: How can having common ground support connection?
  • Offer time for students to gather thoughts.
  • Ask students to share observations (in pairs, small group, whole group).

Optional: Note student responses on a whiteboard, being sure to use student-generated terms.

Celebrate unique differences and experiences.

Highlight commonalities – for example, who may have similar goals for the future?

Teacher Reflection

How did you feel after the activity? Did students participate and seem engaged?

Remember to ask the students to share their feedback on the activity: What went well? What suggestions do they have for making the activity better? Think about what you might do differently next time.

Emotional Intelligence Tips

  • Offer a wide range of prompts, with low-stakes examples first and more sensitive topics last.
  • Encourage students to be honest, respectful, open, and reserve judgment.

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