Jan Evers
  This is the second in a series of four lessons in a unit on Communicating at Work. The lessons are: (1) Communicating at work: Five basic human needs (2) Communicating at work: Building a successful team (3) Communicating at work: Listening strategies and skills (4) Communicating at work: Facilitating good communication

  Interpersonal relationships, Life Skills, Problem Solving, Communication

Learner Level:

Time Frame:
  1-2 hours

Learner Grouping:
  Whole class (in teams)

  This activity was developed as a spin off from PROJECT BRAVO, which is used with parents and schools to learn conflict resolution skills that help build resilient people. Resilient people are able to bounce back from negative situations and treat each other with respect while doing so. This is the second of four lessons in a series that include small group work, role-playing and other interactive activities.


  OVEC Family Literacy

Type of Program:
  Basic Skills

Student Population Served:

Communicating at work: Building a successful team

Working in teams, learners will participate in the "Lifeboat Game." Discussion following the game will help learners process the activity to realize teamwork skills they used to facilitate meeting their game goal. __________________________________________________________

Learning Objective:
Participants develop a heightened awareness of the significance in teamwork between co-workers. Learners will discover skills which facilitate teamwork.

Primary Skill:
Cooperate with others

Secondary Skills:

Learner Needs & Goals:
One of the basic human needs is for Fun and Enjoyment. This activity provides fun and enjoyment while learning to appreciate the skills necessary for teams to accomplish their goals.

Learning Activity Description:
(1) Warm-up
Instructor may ask participants to remember one team they were part of while growing up. Share what type of team that was with class. After the sharing, ask participants to reflect on that particular team experience and try to remember if it was a positive or negative team experience.

(2) Review
Remind the participants of the five Basic Human Needs which they became aware of in the last session and ask them if these basic needs were met when they were part of the team they are recalling from their childhood. Is it possible to meet these needs and still produce the desired results from a team environment? How?

(3) Activity
The purpose of this activity is for participants to learn the importance of listening, cooperating, concentrating and working together toward a goal. Begin by asking participants to share ideas on "How do groups work best to solve problems?" Write these ideas on a flip chart to reconsider later when processing the activity.

Divide participants into teams of 5-12 people. Tell the story of the lifeboat. Use your own story. Take 18" x 24" pieces of poster board (the "lifeboats,") and clear an area for each group to place their "Lifeboats" on the floor. Start with 4 students from each team standing in a circle facing each other around their lifeboat.

OBJECTIVE: To get all of your team players onto the lifeboat by helping balance and support each other. Impress upon the participants how important cooperating and concentrating together will be in this game. They will be working closely together. Pushing or playing will keep them from success.

Each team starts with the first four team members climbing aboard their "lifeboat" by putting most of one foot in the lifeboat and balancing on that foot while picking up their other foot and holding their position for a period of 5-10 seconds. The instructor gives the signal for when the time period is to begin by saying, "Ready, foot on board NOW." The instructor then counts slowly to five while the team members in the boat hold their second foot off the floor. After the count, the instructor says "Okay, down." When these participants have both feet down, 1 or 2 more team members are added and the process is repeated.

You should be able to get 6-12 participants "in" a lifeboat at a time. The activity continues until team members are unable hold their other foot up for the count. If there are team members who have not yet participated when the team is unable to add any more people to their "lifeboat," have some or all of the original four members in the lifeboat give their places to the remaining team members and proceed so that everyone has a chance to be "saved" (involved).

(4) Process the Activity
Sit down and discuss as a whole class what learners have learned about working together to solve problems. Cooperation and teamwork for this activity demands quite a bit from each participant. They will not only be touching physically, but they will be "leaning on" or depending on each other for balance and support. Invasions of their space or privacy will have take place during the activity.

These words can be varied: This activity is fun, but required you all to support and balance the other team members in order to succeed. There was not enough room in the "lifeboat" to fit everyone unless you assisted and supported each other. Eventually you needed to begin developing strategies for problem solving. Everyone needed someone else's help.

  • What were some of the ways you all had to cooperate?
  • Did you have to touch someone you didn't want to touch?
  • Did you have to work with someone you wouldn't have normally worked with?
  • Did you see strengths in co-workers you never knew about?
  • Do you think this applies to your workplace?
  • How?

During the discussion of these questions, add the points made to the flipchart list of how groups work best to solve problems.

Ask what Basic Human Needs (from the previous lesson) were met during the activity. This leads to a discussion of how teamwork skills can mesh with basic human needs, and how the two might sometimes seem to conflict.

Materials and Resources:

  • Flip chart, markers
  • One piece of 18" x 24" poster board for each team of 5-12 members.
  • A good additional resource for the instructor (which could also be used with the class) would be the KET Workplace Essential Skills video, Part II: Communicating At Work: Working Together. It is a part of a PBS LiteracyLink project available through KET, The Kentucky Network - Enterprise Division, 560 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502-2200, phone (800) 354-9067.


From the class discussion while processing the activity, the teacher can make a determination of how well learners recognize the skills which facilitate teamwork and how aware they are of the importance of teamwork in their work situation. Questions which facilitate this awareness could include:

  • What team work skills did you learn during this activity?
  • How would you transfer these skills into your workplace?
  • Would working in teams help your work environment?
  • Is there a plan you can make to move towards a more team spirited environment in your work place?

At the beginning of the next class, debrief teamwork skills learners have used in the previous week of work.

This activity was well received by the OVEC Summer VISTA Volunteers with whom it was field tested.


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