The Water Lily Way

A school counselor's story of how to live, work and play…the water lily way

Team Building Activity: Tower of Cups

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I have to give credit to my practicum supervisor for this one (as I am sure I will be doing a lot over the next few months as I continue on in my practicum course).  Every Monday when I am at my site we spend a good chunk of our time in the classrooms. The activity that follows is one we presented to the fifth grade classrooms during the unit, “working together.”  I chose to share this specific team building exercise with you because it is one that I really thought all the kids enjoyed doing! They all participated both during the actual activity, and after the activity when we processed together as a large group. I love activities that reach and engage all students and quite frankly, I think this can be quite the challenge when it comes to teaching curriculum in classrooms. As we all know, there are so many different learners, and students with different needs. From what I observed, this lesson captured them all!

Groups: 5 students per group

Supplies (for each group):

  • 5-7 plastic cups of equal size (no handles)
  • One rubber band (must fit around 1 plastic cup)
  • 5 pieces of sting (around 24 inches)
  • 5 large pieces of paper ( approx. 2 ft x 2ft)

Prep Instructions:

  • Cut 5 pieces of string into long pieces (24 inches) for each group
  • Tie each piece of string to a rubber band (evenly spaced apart) -you will have what looks like a five legged octopus
  • Make one of these octopuses  for every group of 5 students

Here is a picture just to get a visual of how this activity looks! This example only has a four legged octopus, which would work just fine as well! (Unfortunately, I did not have my camera on handy to take a picture of the kiddos when we did this activity!)



  • Have each group circle around each other all throughout the room
  • Place a large piece of paper in the middle of each group’s circle
  • Give each group a stack of 5-7 cups and one 5 legged octopus
  • Scatter the cups (face down) on the paper in the middle of each group’s circle

Directions for Groups:

  • Build a tower of cups by working together! For the first round, have all cups face down on the piece of paper.
  • Team members may not touch cups with their hands, or any other paper of their bodies (even if a cup tips over)
  • Each person must hold on to one of the strings that is attached to the rubber band
  • The group can only use this rubber band octopus to pick up the cups and place them on top of each other (by pulling and releasing the strings on the rubber band to place around the cup)
  • If there are less than 5 people in a team, select a team member to hold more than one string
  • To make more challenging, encourage students to avoid having their hands cross over the large piece of paper.
  • If time permits, try doing several rounds of this activity. Possibly face all the cups upright for the second round. For the third round, have some cups upright and other face down, or on their sides. Experiment! 🙂
  • Another option: Use more cups (approx. 10?) and have the kids work together to build a pyramid (5 for the base, 4 cups for the next row, etc.).

Discussion Questions:

  • How did you complete the task?
  • What needed to be done to complete the task?
  • What did your group struggle with? How was your group successful?
  • Was there a leader in your team? Did your team leader step us as the leader, or, were they elected?
  • Why was it important to work together as a team?
  • What does it mean to work together with others?
  • What skills did you use to make this activity successful?

Have FUN! 🙂


Author: jesserannp

Professional School Counseling Graduate Student

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