Social skills are the skills we use every day to interact and communicate with others. The development of specific social skills such as communication, teamwork and problem solving improves our connection to peers, teachers and family members.

This lesson will challenge students to participate in a practical activity to develop these skills, and will provide students and teachers an opportunity to experience a challenge together. Initiative games can be a powerful tool to assist in building connections and developing social skills in small groups.

Year level



20 minutes


In class activity

SEL Competencies

Social awareness

Relationship skills

Learning intention

Students participate in a group challenge activity to develop skills in communication, teamwork and problem solving.

Key outcomes

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • recognise how participating in practical challenges with a group can develop their social skills

  • build on their social skills in communication, teamwork and problem solving.

Materials needed

  • 1 hoop or stick per team

Mapped to

Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education

  • Analyse the impact of changes and transitions, and devise strategies to support themselves and others through these changes (AC9HP8P02)

Australian Curriculum: General Capabilities

  • Personal and social capability:

    • Self-awareness

    • Self-management

  • Critical and Creative Thinking:

  • Reflecting

  • Inquiring

NSW PDHPE Syllabus

  • Examines and evaluates strategies to manage current and future challenges (PD4-1)

  • Investigates effective strategies to promote inclusivity, equality and respectful relationships (PD4-3)

Victorian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education

  • Investigate the impact of transition and change on identities (VCHPEP123)

  • Evaluate strategies to manage personal, physical and social changes that occur as they grow older (VCHPEP124)

Show details

Activity 1

Initiative game: Helium hoop/stick

20 minutes

As the facilitator, introduce the problem to solve in an exciting and engaging way. Ensure that steps and rules are strictly followed, to challenge students, and debrief with each group to allow students to learn from the experience.


  1. Introduce the ‘helium hoop’ (e.g. a hoop or stick).

  2. Each group lines up in two rows that face each other, or position themselves around the hoop/stick. Ensure that each participant can touch the hoop/stick.

  3. Ask participants to hold out their arms and point their index fingers.

  4. Lay the hoop/stick down on their fingers. Get the group to adjust their finger heights until the hoop/stick is horizontal and everyone's index finger is touching it.

  5. Explain that the challenge is to lower the hoop/stick to the ground.


  • The catch: Each person's finger must be in contact with the hoop/stick at all times. Pinching, curling or grabbing the hoop/stick is not allowed – it must rest on top of their fingers.

  • Remind the group that if anyone's finger isn’t touching the hoop/stick, the task will be restarted.


  • Some individuals in a group, or some larger-size groups, may be inclined to give up after 5–10 minutes of trying, believing the task is too hard or even impossible.

  • The facilitator can offer direct suggestions, or suggest that the group stop the task, discuss their strategy, and then have another go.

  • Less often, a group may appear to be succeeding too quickly. In this case, be particularly vigilant about fingers not touching the hoop/stick. Also, make sure that participants lower the hoop/stick all the way to the ground. You can add further difficulty by adding a large washer to each end of the stick and explain that the washers should not fall off during the exercise or the group will have to restart.

  • Eventually, the group needs to calm down, concentrate, and very slowly and patiently lower the hoop/stick to the ground (easier said than done).

Debrief discussion

  • What was the initial reaction of the group? Discuss with students that people who have a ‘don’t care’ attitude when playing this game generally also have such an attitude in life. While conceding that it’s hard to change one’s attitude and start caring, ask students: ‘Who had more fun and more success in completing the activity?’

  • How well did the group cope with the challenge?

  • What skills did it take to be successful as a group?

  • What creative solutions were suggested, and how were they received?

  • What would an outside observer have seen as the strengths and weaknesses of the group?

  • Did people play different roles?

  • Did group members learn anything about themselves as an individual?

  • What other situations (at school, home or work) are like the helium hoop/stick?

  • How could the same skills used here be useful in the future?

    • Teamwork: They need to be there for each other in challenging/stressful times (such as adolescence) if they want to succeed.

    • Communication: How you talk to people is important in making sure the right message gets through.


Free teaching resources emailed to you

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest teaching resources on mental health and wellbeing.

To see how we use this information check out our Privacy policy.