Yes, it’s time to go back to school. Yes, it’s time to implement your routines, discuss this year’s curriculum and lay down the law so that this year is a smooth running one.
It’s important to me to create a supportive class climate, so I begin the year with fun ways to get to know my kids. Many teachers prefer to begin with classroom rules and instructions. I feel that it’s more important to get to know my students; their strengths, weaknesses, quirks, etc.
Last year my students created autobiographical slides (I found out about them), a marshmallow statue (I saw how well they worked with others to solve a difficult problem) and images that someone else had to recreate (I had a chance to judge their descriptive writing abilities).
Create an autobiographical slideshow
Build a Marshmallow Tower
Decorate, describe, switch and recreate
Below are activities that you can try out with your scholars.
Have students create a bulleted list of 25 words that describe them and the things they like. They then need to trace their hands and begin to write their words around it in a variety of different colored pencils or markers. Have them cut out their outlines so that you can mount and display the hands.
Student Dictionary Directory
Create a dictionary and not the standard index card with their vitals. Create an interview template and have students interview one another. Students then use the interview responses to write a “dictionary definition” of his or her partner. For example:
Burton, Valerie. noun. 1. Teacher. 2. Born in Chicago, Il. 3. One brother and two children. 4. Lover of french fries.
4 Facts and a Fib
Start it off by letting your students know that you are going to tell them five things about yourself. Four of the statements should be factual statements and one of the five statements is a total fib. The students have to guess which is statement is the fib. Next, the students take up the challenge and create their own list of five statements — four facts and one fib and the guessing game continues.
House of Cards
Arrange students into groups of three or four. Give each group a deck of cards. Explain that each group will use the cards to build a house using the supplies you give them – tape, glue, staples, and so on. They can decide to enter their house in any one of three contests: the Biggest House Contest, the Strongest House Contest, or the Most Creative House Contest. Students are not allowed to talk during this process! Set a time limit for the activity, and set a timer to ensure that groups are constantly aware of the time remaining. After the houses are built, each group gets to share their house and how they learned to communicate.
Plan a treasure hunt to familiarize students with your classroom. Create a list of essential classroom items and resources and have the students search the classroom for those items. They will learn where to find the dictionaries, glue sticks, papers, graphic organizers, and so on.
Provide each student with a 4- x 5-inch index card. Have them write their first and last names in the middle of the card. In each corner of the card have students write about themselves. For example:
- Top Left Corner: Number of brothers and sisters
- Top Right Corner: Favorite style of music or favorite music group or musician
- Bottom Left Corner: Favorite movie
- Bottom Right Corner: Dream vacation (country or city)
When the cards are completed, have students partner with a classmate they do not know. The students trade cards and read what their partner has written. For the next 4 minutes, they interview each other about the listed topics. One student plays the role of interviewer for 2 minutes and then the students switch roles and the interviewer becomes interviewee.
Apply for the Job
Post a list of classroom jobs and have the students create job applications. Sample jobs: pencil sharpener; monitors for windows, closets, supplies, plants, library, and chalkboard; messengers, etc. Let them check their job preferences and include a space where they can share any work experience they may have (at home and other places).
10 down to 1
Have students number two sheets of paper from 1 to 10. On the first sheet, students must write ten unique things about themselves. Students pair up with another student in the class. On the other sheet of paper, each student must write his or her partner’s name next to the number 1. Then students share one of the ten unique things on their lists as their partners record the unique fact next to the student’s name. As students share a fact about themselves, they cross off that fact on their lists. The students then pair up with somebody new and repeat the activity by sharing one of the remaining nine facts. After they have paired with ten of their classmates, they should have crossed off all ten of the unique things on their personal lists and have another sheet with the names of ten of their classmates and a fact about each of them. Then give each student an opportunity to sit in a large chair at the head of the class as ten of their classmates share a different unique fact about the student.
For this activity, each student will decorate a quilt square with interesting bio facts. For example:
- What are three things you are good at?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What do you like most about your family?
- What do your friends like about you?
- How can you help shape the future?
- What do you think you can do better than almost anyone else your age?
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- What is something you have already done that makes you feel really good?
- What is one thing you are planning to change about yourself so you will be even better?
Kids, Follow Me!
All students start this activity in a seated position. Then give instructions for students to follow:
- If you traveled this summer, stand up.
- If you have a brother, sit down.
- If you are the youngest of all the children in your family, stand up.
- If you own a pet, sit down.
- If you have a sister, stand up.
- If your family owns a computer, sit down.
- If you live in an apartment, stand up.
- If this is your first year in this school, sit down.
- If you are in ____ grade, stand up. (Fill in the blank with your grade; all students will stand.)
- If you were kissed by someone this morning, sit down.