We asked teachers:
What back-to-school lessons or getting-to-know-you activities do you do with your class on the first few days of school?
Submitted by Leah from Massachusetts, Fifth Grade
I play a game called 2 Truths and 1 Lie and have students tell the two most wildest facts about themselves and one wild, but untrue fact, is among the three total. It is up to the class to guess which fact is untrue. I usually begin and tell the class:
- I water ski frequently.
- I used to have pink hair.
- I love the Jonas Brothers.
Submitted by Keisha from Georgia, 4th Grade
I allow my students to pair up in groups of two and each group receives a sheet with pictures of a haunted house, music store, school, grocery store, etc. There is also a circle by each picture. All around the classroom are the same pictures larger with an envelope located beneath. Inside the envelope are strips of paper with a word problem on it. The groups have to take a strip and solve it before the other groups. When they solve, they must come and check with me to see if it is correct. If it's correct, I place a sticker in the circle by the picture that they solved. The first group to receive all 6 stickers win. They receive a certificate for becoming detectives! It's a good way to get to know each other in the process and become familiar with the new classroom.
Submitted by Lesanne from Wisconsin, 4th Grade Teacher
Scavenger Hunt the Class and Classroom. Pairs of children are given a list of questions about their class and classroom to answer. First most accurate sheet wins. Some examples are: How many children are in this class, how many girls/boys are there, how many dictionaries are in the room, what day is Sept 9th, where are the games kept, where can you find a sharp pencil? This activity helps the children get to know each other and their new classroom.
Submitted by Di from New Zealand, Year 8 (age 12-13) Intermediate
A poster entitled 'About Me' - it has spaces for a photo of the child, likes and dislikes (foods, movies, books etc), about their family, what they like to do in their spare time, schools they went to before and birth date. (I like to give a Birthday Certificate or card to children)
Its a way for me to get to know the children and if the children are new to each other, its great for them to learn more about each other and find a new friend with similar or same interests.
Submitted by Susan from New York, Special Education Teacher
I do a Time Capsule every year with my students as one of my first activities. It includes their favorite color, book, tv show, sport, animal, school subject, etc... One they have each completed one, they fold it up and seal it and it goes in a box that I have labeled Time Capsule. In May, they compete the same form and then they open the one from September and compare their answers. To much of their surprise many things have changed over the course of eight months. They even notice a difference in their handwriting. This activity is always a winner with my students. I have been doing it for years!
Submitted by Marina from Texas, Kindergarten Teacher
One of the items the children have on their school supply list is construction paper. I sort construction paper all around our classroom by color. I explain that I need to organize the construction paper by color and I need their help. Then I tell the children that they need to look for the same color sheets and place them on top of each color sheet and form stacks. We work on holding our sheets without dropping them. It is all about team work. The children help each other and I step back and enjoy the conversations and the inquiring minds when they find different shades of blue and they try and find the matching color. They really enjoy the freedom of going everywhere in our classroom and completing a job for their teacher.
Submitted by Melanie from Nebraska ,Third Grade Teacher
I take a beach ball and write activities on it in black permanent marker. Some things I add to the ball are: play tag, sing part of a song, play duck, duck, goose, Say your favorite color, etc. Then the students and I go outside and stand in a circle. One child starts with the ball and tosses it to another child while calling out their name. The student whose name was called catches the ball and wherever his/her thumb lands, they are to play or say whatever the ball tells them. This really gets the kids excited about playing with one another and they get to practice names! They LOVE that it's outside on the first day too! It makes a nice break in all of the rules and telling/teaching expectations for the first day!
Submitted by Patricia from Uruguay, 6th Grade Teacher
I had a very good experience doing a class mosaic. I give each student a square piece of white cardboard and I ask them to write, draw, or put anything that represents them as individuals. They decorate the piece of cardboard as they wish. Some of them may find that their piece has a restricted area, a colored part. They should not write in that colored part. When they finish, they have to put the mosaic together as if it was a puzzle in order to see what that colored part in each square forms. When the mosaic is put together "6th FORM" can be read. I tell them that the class works as a whole and if one part of the mosaic is missing, falls or is torn, the class is not complete. We are all part of that class and we all build it up.
It's a great experience to make class bonds. I forgot to mention that the teacher should decorate one square her/himself. I hope this is clear enough and gives some ideas to other teachers in the world. Enjoy it and have fun doing it!
Submitted by Christie from Wisconsin, 5th - 8th Grade Math Teacher
I take my classes to down town Rice Lake (within walking distance). They have somewhat of a scavenger hunt in teams for math related items. Since many students want to know how math is related to everyday life, this gives them the opportunity to answer that question for themselves. Their job is to find the answers to the following questions (or ones like it).
- Find the size difference between a twin and full mattress.
- Find 3 examples of different angle measurements.
- Find out the start-up cost for one business.
- Find 5 things with different types of numbers and uses.
- Find a discount item and calculate the % of the discount.
- Find 2 examples of different rates that would be found in a home.
- Find the area of the sidewalk in front of the stores for one block.
- Find out how many couches would fit around the outside of our classroom.
- Find 2 examples of 3-dimensional figures and find their volumes.
- Find 3 examples of fractions or decimals.
Submitted by Natalie from Florida, Third Grade teacher
The first day of school I bring in a paper bag with 3 - 5 items (i.e. family picture, a picture of my pets, something purple (my favorite color), A Clifford book (my favorite story character), etc.). I stand in the front of the room and take out one item at a time, show it to the class and tell the about myself. I give the children a chance to ask me questions after each item.
Then I give the children a bag with a short typed note explaining the assignment and ask the children to bring in 3-5 items that tell about them that they would like to share with the class. After each child presents their bag the audience is allowed to ask questions. By the end of the first week the students and I have learned a lot about each other.
Submitted by Kelly from Kentucky, Third Grade teacher
The "Scoop on My Summer" Bulletin Board Idea: In the center of my bulletin board I put a large scoop of ice cream on top of a sugar cone which is easily made from bulletin board paper!The title of the interactive bulletin board is "The Scoop on My Summer." I place photos from my vacations, summer hobbies, my summer discoveries and such on the large center ice cream cone with labels describing my summer activities. Then I involve my students the first days of school by having them complete a smaller version of the cone that has 3-4 scoops of ice cream on their individual paper cut cones (you may use a preprinted cutout if you wish) for them to list what they did over summer vacation. This lets my students and their families get to know me as a real person and helps the students learn about one another as an introductory activity. These individual student cones surround the center teacher cone. Turns out great! You should try this one! Ice cream is the perfect summer treat! Maybe you could have an ice cream social at the end of the first day of school!
Submitted by Megan from California, Second Grade teacher
We have a discipline program called Conscious Discipline and I talk to the students about how we are a school family (through good, bad, and ugly). To help them grasp this concept, we complete a class project together during the first week.
First, I have the students draw a self-portrait of themselves. Next I matte each drawing and laminate the pictures. Then, I bind the book together and create a "School Family" classroom book. I put the book on display in the classroom, and allow students to look through the book. I also let parents view it at Back-to-School night.
I started this last year, and it was by far the most prized and viewed book in the whole classroom! To put it all together, I then have them draw another picture at the end of the year and make a new book and we can see how they have changed. I then raffle all of my classroom books off at the end of the year. The "School Family" books were the most sought after prizes =)
Submitted by Mary from Florida, 7th Grade teacher
We create a parts of speech foldable. Take two pieces of notebook paper place one sheet a 1/4" down from the other turn papers upside down staple top. They must define the part of speech, place it in a sentence and draw a picture of it. This serves a rolodex for future references during the course of the year.
Submitted by Angelica from Missouri, Homeschool Grades 1, 5, and 6
I like to have the kids do a picture or story about what they did over the summer. The older ones must draw pictures with their story and present it to the class. And the smaller ones must write two or three sentences with their pictures. I will usually read them to the class or have an older one read it aloud. We are homeschooled.
Submitted by Christine from Cranston, Kindergarten
One of my favorite getting-to-know you activity is building a friendship web using a ball of yarn. We all sit in a circle and I start with a ball of yarn (pref. school colors. I say my name and then throw the yarn to a friend. When my friend catches the yarn, he/she states his/her name and then throws it to another friend. It is a great way for everyone to get to know each other. I tell all the children we are building a friendship class web where we are always here to help each other. They really enjoy this activity and always ask to do it again! Enjoy!
Submitted by Jennifer from Michigan, 7th Grade
The first day of school in lieu of going over the rules, I do an activity where we sit on top of our desks and take one spool of yarn and throw it to each other holding on to our piece and telling something about ourselves. At the conclusion, we are all connected by this web of yarn, and I discuss that we are going to be a web of learners who need each other to create a learning atmosphere appropriate for learning. We discuss how this might happen, for example, respecting each other, listening to each other, supporting each other, etc.
Submitted by Nancy from Michigan, First Grade
Before the first day, I write each child's name and birth date at the bottom of white lunch bags. On the first day I pass out the bags and let each child completely illustrate and color the bag (that isn't theirs) writing their name at the top. They really enjoy using their new crayons for this activity. I then take the bags and fill them with birthday goodies, staple the top, put them in a plastic bin in the order I will pass them out and they are done for the year!
Submitted by Renee from New York, First Grade
During the summer I send each student a letter introducing myself and telling them a bit about me
I ask them to bring a box to school on the first day with things --no more than 7 (objects, pictures, etc.) that tell about them, their family, and things they like. I start by sharing my box and telling about myself and my family. After seeing what's in my box and sharing my stories about each objects, students can't wait to show their objects and talk about themselves. I learn a great deal about each child and their lives. This is also a great speaking activity!
Submitted by John from Melbourne, Third Grade
The entire school completes a unit of work called "Learning to Learn." The idea is that the children are given an active role in settling up the classroom for the year. It involves writing a class vision statement, teachers and students exchanging letters, writing expectations for different parts of the day, creating class mottos and mascots as well as behavioural expectations (rules). We have discovered that because the children are actively involved in the process, it develops a great rapport between teacher and student, as well as making the children more responsible for the actions. This unit (with 14 year's experience) has made the beginning of the year the easier and has replaced the need to rush into Literacy, Maths etc and allows you to get to know the kids.
Submitted by Rinita from New Jersey, 2nd Grade
I have the students pair up with one another and make microphones. After making microphones, they interview each other and give a news report about that student.
Submitted by Leah from Massachusetts, Fifth Grade
I have students create an "artifact bag" where they are to place three to five items that symbolize themselves into a brown paper bag. I also create one for myself. One-by-one, I invite students to go up and choose a bag to "investigate." Students will pull artifacts out of the bag and muse aloud about what they might symbolize. For example, a baseball card or ticket stub might tell that you are a Red Sox fan, etc. A compass might tell that you love hiking in the summer. Then, students have a chance to guess to whom each bag belongs.
Submitted by Sarah from Mississippi, Third and Fifth Grade Homeschool
Well, since we already know each other, due to the fact that we are a homeschool family, I think, for us, we need to concentrate on our daily goals and getting to know our strengths and weaknesses. I pray that my two children (son 8yrs, and daughter 10 yrs) will be intellectually strong enough to work well once again with each other even though the two of them are at two different grade levels.