Those first day of school jitters can sneak up on even the most mature middle school students, let alone new kindergarteners! How you introduce the class to one another in those first moments on that first day of school can play a huge role in the type of community that evolves in your classroom. If you are looking for some new ideas, check out the activities below from some veteran teachers who know all about making the first day special for their students.
Getting to Know Your Students Is Fun!
Share Dreams In The Classroom
“On the first day of school, I read aloud from the book, My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Christine King Farris and Chris Soentpiet,” explains Gail, a 3rd Grade Teacher from Ooltewah, Tennessee. “I then talk about my own childhood dreams and how dreams start in the hearts of children, as well as adults. I then ask the children to complete a sentence starter revealing their dreams. I post their dream statements on the wall in the classroom. As the year progresses and students make different choices, I direct them back to their dream statement and ask them to reflect on whether or not their current behavior is helping them move toward or away from their dream.”
Fill Your Classroom With Junior Detectives
Students in Devra’s 3rd Grade class in Manchester, Connecticut get moving with a fun scavenger hunt on their first day of school! “After our initial meet and greet, I have students fill out a survey featuring questions, such as: Do you have brothers or sisters? Does your family participate in any traditions? and Do you like chocolate ice cream?” Devra says. “Students answer the questions, but do not sign their names to the survey papers. After all of the students have finished, I cut out the questions and answers separately and redistribute them to the students. Their job is to go around the room and interview each other in an attempt to fill in the missing names on the surveys. Students who answer ‘Yes’ to any question will write their name on the back of the question. When all students finish and have collected multiple names, they must analyze, compare, and share the pieces of information they’ve collected about their classmates. This is a great way for the students to get to know each other and practice sharing with the group.”
Learn New Names With A Fast-Paced Fish Toss!
“The best way to learn names and manners is to have fun while doing it,” advises Karen, a 5th Grade Teacher from Stedman, North Carolina. “To that end, I purchased five colorful stuffed fish from my local dollar store. On the first day of school I ask my class to gather in a circle. Students must throw a fish to another student in the circle. Before a student throws a fish, he must state his name, as well as the name of the child he is throwing it to. Students must throw the fish to a new person every throw. After everyone has received and thrown one fish, I add another fish to the toss. To play, students must pay very close attention to the location of both fish. By the end of the first week, we’re throwing all five fish around, making for a very humorous learning experience. We also use this strategy during the year to review math skills, non-fiction reading information, and parts of speech.”
Start The Year On The “Right Foot”
“On the first day of school I write this sentence on the board: “Start the year on the RIGHT foot.” We talk about what the expression means and its importance,” says Sylvia, a 4th Grade Teacher in Fremont, California. “I then have each student trace and cut out his or her right foot (shoes on!) from paper. I ask students to use a bird’s eye view to add details to each paper outline so it resembles the real deal. I display these footprints on a bulletin board with other art. When I take them down, I store them away until the end of the school year. On the last day of school I have them repeat the activity, this time tracing their left shoe. I return their right shoes for comparison. Students are always very excited to see how much their feet – and their artistic skills – have grown.”
Inspire Kids To Think and Link Together
Margaret, a 5th Grade Teacher from Spring, Texas, understands the importance of making those first day connections. “On the first day of school, I kick off a conversation by telling the kids something about myself,” she explains. “I might say something like ‘My family lives in Austin.’ I then ask my class if anybody else has family in Austin. If someone does, they come and link arms with me and tell the class something else about themselves. If someone in the classroom can link arms with the student linked to me, they do so. We keep repeating this process until all of our arms are linked together. This activity shows the class that, even though we are all different, we are all similar in some ways.”
What are some of your favorite first day of school jitter-busters? How do you help your students get to know one another?
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