Monday, January 4, 2016


Zombies and Teamwork

In addition to my year long English courses I teach two semester classes. As the new year starts, I begin a new class as well: speech!

I LOVED taking speech as a student, so it is really fun to teach it now.

As most of my readers know, many of my students do not speak English as their first language. Sometimes this isn't an issue, and they are motivated to speak, write, and read in English. In other cases however, there is a tendency to use as little English as possible. As a result, I use an adapted version of a team building activity I love. The point? To show them that they don't need to rely on language...period. love using this to start my speech class as it focuses on nonverbal skills (something many students lack). It also builds their teamwork (key since this class involves LOTS of  group projects). Finally, it involves some critical thinking which I feel is always a plus.

Without going into too much detail, students are divided into groups of three to four and the dire situation is explained. The tower that normally keeps the zombies away has fallen and it is up to this group of students to reassemble it without going into the zombie zone.

Of course, as zombies are VERY sensitive to noise, they must work in complete silence with absolutely NO talking.

Students are graded based on their teamwork, their ability to follow the rules, and whether or not they complete the mission.

To be honest, this is an old activity (though I used to teach it with nuclear issues instead of zombies). I wasn't sure how it would go with my students. I hit a few speed bumps early on. Normally, I use hula-hoops taped to the ground as the city barrier, but my trusty dollar store was out, so I taped off squares instead (amusing since all of my directions stated circles, but students got it).

You can download a free preview of the Zombie Teamwork activity at TeachersPayTeachers which basically explains the concept in more details, but here's a step by step guide of setting your classroom up.


You can use a lot of things to make this happen, but you NEED string, cups, and rubber bands (the rubber bands should be able to expand to go around the cups). You can give the students pre-cut string, or one loooooong piece and scissors.

Other things you'll need
  • A way to make an enclosed section (hula hoop taped to the ground, chalk, tape, etc.). 
  • Random school supplies (You don't NEED this, but I like to give the students random things and see what they can do. Today they had: Velcro strips, pennies, paper clips, a high lighter, pencil erasers, pencils, and binder clips

  • I also like to put little Lego men inside the city. I would put zombies inside, but I don't have any zombie toys, so I tell my students the zombies are invisible.
Set Up
  •  You'll need space. I don't like the groups to be much bigger than four students, and each group needs at least 3 square feet to work in. Spread them out so they aren't sitting on top of one another. Each group gets a "city" The cities should all be the same size and have three cups inside, Lego men inside, and a cup or box with all of their supplies nearby.
  • I didn't get a chance to this time, but you can usually score some really cheap zombie decor after Halloween. Anything you can throw in the room gives it that extra appeal. My students likes my DANGER ZOMBIE INFESTATION signs I had on the door and around the classroom.
  • I leave copies of the directions (one per group) by their city as well.
 Buy In
  • I HAVE taught this class without speaking, but for my students this year we walked through the directions. They were intrigued from the start! I am glad I went with zombies this year...the topic definitely caught their attention.
Depending on the group of students you have, there are MANY different ways to have them build the tower. Have it be a three cup pyramid, or a six cup pyramid. Have one student be blind-folded etc. There are more variations discussed in detail in the pack, but get creative!

Walking around I was really impressed with my students. They were working together, getting creative and learning from their mistakes.

What did students think? One of my favorite parts of this lesson is the debriefing where they can sit and reflect on what they did and why they did it. Here are some of the insights my students shared with me:

"I learned that communication is more than just the words that come out of our mouth. It is also what we do with our bodies"

"I learned that I can get things done if I just put my mind to work."

"I solved most of the problems we had not talking by paying more attention and not being lazy. Basically, I had to think harder" 

The best part? A student who stopped by after class, "I just wanted to tell you that your class was really fun today!" Well heck! That makes it a better day.

If you have a new batch of students in January and want a fun activity, or you think your students would do well with some practice in group work. This is a great zombie download for you. Until the 6th it is only $2.20 (that's 20% off the normal price of $2.75). Try it out and let me know what your students think.

If you don't have it in your budget right now, enter to win below! You get one free entry just for reading! You can earn more by tweeting or pinning. The contest opens the fifth and closes the tenth!

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