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How to Use the Activities and Approaches

A brief guide to facilitating and using the activities and approaches designed for classroom and group settings.

Most of the activities on building developmental relationships you’ll find in this section will stand alone. They are designed to integrate into classroom or group settings in a way that fits with your goals. They were conceived for groups where an adult facilitator leads a group of young people, but can also work for youth leaders and their peers or groups of adults.

Generally, the activities can be done in any order that works for you. But you might find it helpful to begin with the activity Get to Know You and Establishing Group Norms.

All of the activities are adaptable for use with different ages, program settings, and contexts. We encourage you to use your creativity to tailor activities to meet the needs of your group.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Prioritize adaptations that allow all participants to feel included and fully participate (physically, mentally, and emotionally).
  • Consider the needs of the group. Levels of trust, rapport, and maturity in a group are often stronger predictors of the success of an activity rather than age or grade. Also keep in mind your group’s strengths, interests, and areas of confidence/comfort, learning styles, and energy level.
  • Contemplate logistics: the amount of space available, the number of participants, the time allotted, and access to materials and resources.

Practical Tools

How to Use the Activities and Approaches

Class or Group Setting

While the activities in this section focus primarily on the five elements of the developmental relationships framework, they can also be used to practice or build additional skills. Some are designed for building relationships among participants with the leader in a facilitator role; others prioritize building relationships among participants.

As a secondary focus, each activity can also include opportunities for participants to practice a variety of relational skills and CASEL’s Core Social-Emotional Learning Competencies.

The developmental relationships framework identifies five elements (and 20 actions) that help build strong developmental relationships with young people. Most of the activities in this section focus on a specific element or action in the framework, such as listening, reflecting on failures, or sharing power by taking a stand.

These activities invite young people to explore their own experiences of developmental relationships, what they want in their relationships, and where they see gaps. In the process, teachers and leaders can build a foundation for deeper relationships.

We believe all young people deserve strong relationships. As a facilitator, think about how you can use these activities to create bridges across lines of difference and establish spaces that celebrate each participant. Here are some tips for facilitators:

  • Respect that participants bring diverse experiences and identities. Create space for everyone to share, listen, and be heard.
  • Avoid making a young person an example or token representative of an aspect of their identity, especially if their identity is under-represented in the group.
  • You know your group best. If part of an activity will not resonate with your group, make changes.
  • If you come from a different background or culture than the majority of the participants, be aware of how that dynamic may affect your facilitation of the activities and/or participants’ willingness to be open and vulnerable. Put extra emphasis on listening to and learning from participants.

Facilitators should be willing and able to fully participate in anything they ask young people to do, including being vulnerable and open. Activities that ask participants to be particularly vulnerable include facilitator notes and suggestions, but any relationship-based activity has the potential to bring up sensitive topics.

As a facilitator, make sure you have an understanding of your group and what these activities may bring up. Be aware of community and cultural norms, appropriateness of topics and activities, and resources that are available to participants. When you are leading activities, be aware of participants’ comfort and be prepared to make changes as needed.

Encourage participants to challenge themselves to participate fully, but remind them that they always have the choice to step back, pass, or sit out as needed.