8 Quick Lunch Bunch Activities for Elementary School 

By Laura Driscoll
Read Time:  min
Is it worth it to run lunch bunch? Yes, but you have to have the right purpose and quick activities.

Does lunch bunch immediately make you think of spilled milk and wasted time? I hear you. You got 30 minutes max including getting students to your office and helping them open their lunches. Not exactly ideal for running counseling groups. You need quick lunch bunch activities.

Instead of trying to force counseling groups into a taco meat covered 20 minutes, use lunch groups for other things:

  • Building relationships
  • Improving social skills.
  • Learning quick strategies
  • Giving students with tier 2 services opportunities to practice (not learn) new skills.

Even with these goals, 20-ish minutes it not a lot. Here are tips and activities for making the most of the time.

Getting Started

Choose Students

I think all students should have an opportunity to participate in lunch groups. They are a simple way to reinforce classroom skills and get to know students. That said, they are out of the normal routine so I would recommend sending home permission slips. This is up to you, but I know there will be some parents who would prefer their children not participate. 

Read this post on Why I Gave Counseling Permission Slips to Everyone for more info.

Get Them to Your Office

Create a set of lunch bunch passes you can use again and again. You can print them and add them to name tag holders on lanyards.

See if you can get students from their class a minute or two early so they can get their lunch first. If that isn't possible, try to have them go to the front of the line. You can usually have adults who supervise lunch be on the lookout for your lunch bunch lanyards and get students in and out quickly.

lunch bunch activities

20 Minute Lunch Bunch Agenda

Start with a Check-In

This could be a simple feelings check-in that let's you know how students are doing and also let's them practice identifying feelings.

Another option would be something like a rose - thorn - bud activity. Students reflect on their day or week by picking a small win, a challenge, and something they are looking for to. 

lunch bunch activities

Set Your Purpose

Don't keep students in the dark about what you are trying to accomplish with the lunch group. You are more likely to see improvement in social skills or stronger relationships if you let them know that that is what you are trying to do.

You can improve the chances of any SEL skill sticking by using three simple steps.

  1. Set the purpose 
  2. Do the activity
  3. Reflect on the activity

Simple, Quick Lunch Bunch Activities

Keep your activities simple. Forget the pencil and paper tasks. They just don't mix with second graders still learning to not get yogurt everywhere. 

Wrap Up

Thinking back to your purpose and have students reflect on the activity. Say you did an activity on including others. Ask students to think of one way they are going to include someone else this week.

First Lunch Bunch Activity

Use the first lunch group to set rules and build some group cohesion. I think a simple activity where you come up with 3 to 4 positive phrased rules and a group name is perfect for your first meeting.

Come up with a simple group name. Students can pick three adjectives that describe them as a group. Then they become the Smart, Sassy, Silly Third Graders.

8 Quick Lunch Bunch Activities

Conversation Starters

Conversation starter cards are perfect when you need to break the ice with a new group or have a few extra minutes at the end of group. Create a list or set of conversation starter cards that you can use for multiple grade levels. 

It's helpful to have different types. This deck has:

  • Would You Rather? - Students pick between two choices.
  • (Not) My Favorite - Students answer with their favorite or least favorite.
  • If You Could - Students answer hypothetical questions.
  • I’d Like To Know - Students answer interview-style questions.
  • What’s the Question? - Students tell their answer and other students have to guess the question.
conversation starter cards

Get to Know You Game

A simple get to know you game is a great way to get students talking and building relationships. Use any regular game and have students share something above themselves when they take a turn.

get to know you game

All About Me Activities

If you want to venture into the paper craft areas, an all about me activity is a great way to get students sharing about themselves without lots of pressure. The one below does require some gluing, but it is something you can do quickly after students leave.

all about me craft

Setting Goals

Goal setting is a skill that can carry over to the classroom but isn't always something that teachers have time to do. Download this simple six question intention setting activity for students in upper elementary and middle school.

goal setting activity

Build Positive Thinking

Lunch bunch is a great time to help students build their positive thinking skills and self-confidence. You can explain to students that sometimes negative thinking can get in the way of us doing something. When we use positive self-talk instead, we are more likely to try our best. 

Have students come up with their own positive self talk phrase they can say to themselves. This would be great before big tests or when they have to try something new. Research does show that effort-based self talk (I can try my best) is more effective than ability-based self talk (I am smart).

positive thinking craft

Quick Stress-Busting Strategies

Calming strategies, stress busters, mindful minutes or whatever you want to call them. Teaching students low effort strategies is a perfect match for lunch groups. After you have taught one, use it at the end of lunch bunches to have students get ready to return to class.

I would start with deep breathing exercises since it requires no materials and is something students always have with them. 

Friendship Skills

Practice different social skills like sharing, playing fair, compromising or listening. Use simple board games or targeted activities.

  • Give fewer supplies than are needed so students have share the materials.
  • Change the rules in the middle a game or try to a play a game where there are no rules.
  • Have students create the rules for a game. How do you decide who wins? Who should go first?
  • Play a listening game where students have to remember one thing about each group member.

Solve Social Problems

Write twenty or so social scenarios that happen to students. Things like losing a game, being left out, or getting called a name.  Write these out as "Dear Abby" questions and let students give advice. 

Making Lunch Bunch Work

Lunch bunch is quick, but it can still be purposeful. You shouldn't try to run your typical counseling group on anger in 15 minutes with sticky orange juice spraying everywhere. But you can use it to build relationships, practice social skills, and learn strategies.

Use time-savers like lunch bunch passes to get students to your office quickly.

Create a simple and consistent agenda so students know what to expect.

Use activities that are fast and targeted to building relationships or developing social skills.

lunch bunch activities

If you are looking for a place to start grab the Lunch Bunch Bundle. It has your permission slips, passes, first session activity and get to know you activities.

Recommended Resources

lunch bunch bundle

Lunch Bunch Bundle

This Bundle has all the supporting materials done for you, including permission slips, lunch bunch invitations, student check-ins, your first and last activities, a get to know you game, and an all about me craft.

Conversation starter Cards

Conversation Starter Cards

96 conversation starters that will give you a fun way to get students talking and building relationships. Perfect for getting to know you activities, social skills practice, and icebreakers.

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I’m a school psychologist who left her office (closet?) and got busy turning a decade of experience into ready to use counseling and SEL resources.

I live in New York City with my adventurous husband and relaxed to the max daughter who’ve grown to appreciate my love of a good checklist.

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