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Team building with ringtones

This is an excerpt from Team-Building Activities for the Digital Age by Brent Wolfe & Colbey Sparkman.

Whether you are strolling across a college campus or just walking down the street, the number of people using headphones or earbuds is staggering. Music holds tremendous importance for young people, and today’s youth constantly seek out new music. In addition, varied music is more accessible than ever before. No longer do people have to go to a record store to purchase music; they simply log on and download whatever they like, and this ease of access has helped create a generation that often seems to live for music. You will quickly see evidence of this dimension of young people’s lives as you progress through the audio activities presented in this chapter. Your participants are likely to be both knowledgeable and passionate about their music!

Ringtone Relay



Ringtones are one of the most popular high-tech means of self-expression today, and this activity uses ringtones as a springboard into a conversation about how and why people express themselves in the ways they do. Groups whose members understand how and why their fellow members express themselves have the potential to grow closer and more accepting of one another.


Prior to the activity, create a list of at least 10 types of ringtones. Possible categories include pop music, boy band music, country music, holiday music, bits of TV or movie dialogue, classical music, college fight songs, love songs, TV or movie theme music, and cartoon character voices. Some participants may also have designated specific ringtones to indicate calls from mom or dad, a significant other, a person they’re not excited to talk to, or an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.

For the activity itself, have participants form teams of about 10 members each, then ask all participants to make sure that their cell phones are turned on. Next, tell them that you are going to call out a category of ringtone. If they have this style of ringtone in their phone, they have to find it, hold up their phone, and play the appropriate ringtone (or music) for everyone. The first two people to play the correct ringtone (or music) each get 1 point for their group. In the end, the group with the most points wins, but please remember that points are a secondary concern during this activity; most participants simply enjoy the opportunity to use their cell phones and share their music with others.


Self-expression: Deep down, we all desire to be known, and it’s often the case that the best activities allow people to express part of themselves in a fun and unthreatening way. This activity merges the self-expression that today’s students enjoy and the technology that they thrive on. As members of your group seize the opportunity to express themselves (and as they become more comfortable with expressing themselves around their teammates), the group is likely to become more cohesive because members will understand and accept each other more fully.


Cell phones with ringtones or music


3 to 10 groups of 6 to 10


  • Whose ringtone surprised you the most?
  • What is the most embarrassing ringtone on your phone?
  • What ringtone did you hear today that you want to get for your phone?
  • What does someone’s ringtone say about him or her?
  • What does your ringtone say about you?
  • Have you ever been embarrassed by your ringtone? When?
  • Are you thinking about changing your ringtone after this activity? Why or why not?

Go Wireless!

Rather than having participants play their ringtones, ask them simply to share about songs that fit the selected categories. In this version, participants do not try to be the first to play a sample from a selected genre but simply identify as many songs as they can that fit the genre.


Rather than indicating certain music genres, select specific songs for participants to find on their cell phones (this approach greatly increases the difficulty of the activity). For this upgrade to be effective, it will be important to have an understanding of your group members and have an idea of the music that is on their phone. It is best to utilize this upgrade after you have played Name That Tune, Musical Expressions, Got a Song For It!, or What’s on Your Playlist? because these activities give insight into the music that is on participants’ MP3 players and cell phones.

This in an excerpt from Team-Building Activities for the Digital Age.

More Excerpts From Team Building Activities for the Digital Age