Grades K-2
Grades 3-5

Secret Handshakes

Challenge students to create their own secret handshake with a partner!

Activity Partner
Total time estimate:
15-20 minutes
Activity Objectives
  • Students will create a secret handshake with a partner, which will serve as a shared tradition and strengthen their connection with each other
  • ‍Then, students will reflect on other traditions which can bring people together, hold a special meaning or significance, and contribute to a common culture or history

This activity supports the development of the following
social-emotional skills: relationship skills and social awareness.


Introduce students to “secret handshakes,” which are when two (or more) people come up with their own unique greeting by combining gestures, dance moves, facial expressions, songs/words, etc. into a fun sequence! Explain that secret handshakes are a shared tradition which can bring people together, strengthening a special connection or common culture between them.

As inspiration, watch the video below with your students, which explains how to perform several secret handshakes. Then, ask students to find a partner classmate and work together to create their own secret handshake. Encourage them to get creative and playful!

After students create their secret handshakes, invite them to perform their handshakes for the class.

Note: during the COVID-19 pandemic, students should come up with handshakes which don’t include physical contact.


Invite students to share their secret handshake with your Empatico partner class during a live virtual exchange, or by using a tool like Flipgrid. You might even challenge them to come up with a secret handshake with someone in their partner class that they can perform together over video!


Guide students through a post-activity reflection by asking the following questions:

  • How did you and your partner come up with your secret handshake?
  • How does performing your secret handshake with your partner make you feel?
  • What are some ways that you could include others in your secret handshake, and turn it into a group handshake?
  • How can shared traditions, like a secret handshake, strengthen our connection with others?
  • Can you think of any other special traditions that you share with your family, friends, or community members, and describe why these are important to you?

This activity was created in partnership with the Merrills EDU.

Did you finish this activity? We'd love your input.