Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education
Back to School
Students are too busy sucking up the sun in the summertime to realize teachers have been working feverishly to prepare for their return to the classroom. But once back-to-school time hits, they may become anxious as a new year awaits them. Questions about new teachers, friends, rules and curriculum may have students feeling nervous and out of sorts. Teachers can help by creating fun activities and crafts for students.
These activities serve several purposes. They can be a warm welcome to your classroom and school as well as a way for students to get a 'feel' for you as a teacher. Some of them can help students understand rules, routines, and expectations, like gathering supplies, and others just allow them to blow off some steam and reboot their systems. Students of all ages benefit from getting-to-know-you activities, which help them put names to faces and feel more comfortable in their classroom environment.
- Hula - This fun game gets students working together in a hurry. You'll need a hula-hoop and enough space for students to form a standing circle.
To play, have students form a circle and hold hands. Break one pair of students' hands and insert the hula hoop. Challenge students to move the hoop around the circle without dropping hands. They'll need to communicate, support and help one another to complete the task.
- Building Blocks - This game demonstrates how important and challenging communication can be. Gather blocks, such as Legos or simple colored wooden blocks, and items you can use as a screen between two students, such as file folders. Divide students into pairs.
To play, give each student the same number and type of blocks and instruct them to put up the dividing screen. One student makes a construction using his blocks, then has to tell the other student how to make it. Watch as students attempt to figure out ways to communicate direction, location and proximity. After the activity, discuss what was challenging and connect to the importance of clear communication in the classroom.
Getting to Know You
- Smart Buddies - Use Dum Dum lollipops to create buddy partners or groups for the first few days of school or short-term projects. Before students arrive, create a 'getting to know you' questionnaire. Also, sort lollipops, finding two of each flavor, and place in a bowl or gift bag. When students arrive, have each choose a Dum Dum and find the other person with the same flavor. After brief introductions, students then fill out the questionnaires together. Have pairs share what they've learned about one another with the whole group when all students are finished.
- Bingo - This activity gets students up and moving right from the start. Before school starts, create a bingo card with different activities and adventures your students enjoy, like swimming, reading, traveling or sports. List these activities in the squares. To play, instruct students to find others who meet the criteria for each section and sign the corresponding spots on their bingo cards. The first person to get a 'Bingo' wins, but you can continue playing until all students have Bingo.
Establishing Rules and Routines
- Scavenger Hunt - Get your students up and moving while allowing them to explore the classroom in a productive way. Make a scavenger hunt for students, including items like 'This is where we keep tools to divide paper' or 'You go here to hang your coat'. Print clues and cut apart into slips of paper. In each area, hang an envelope with a clue tucked inside. This way, students read the clue and move on to the next area and won't get bottlenecked in one spot. Use partner pairings (from your lollipop game!). Afterwards, review the list and procedures for visiting each spot.
- FAQ Jar - Allow students to get important questions off their chests with this fun and simple activity. Give each student 3 pieces of paper and allow them to write a question for you on each. Fold and put in a jar. Throughout the day, pull a question from the jar, read aloud, and answer. Students tend to ask questions such as 'Can I chew gum?' or 'What time is lunch/recess?' Encourage them to ask 'burning' questions, ones they don't think others will ask but are important, allowing you to cover ground you may not have considered until the situation arises.
Finally,this activity is a hit at any age and can be adapted in many ways. Before school starts, make homemade play dough (search for a simple recipe online). Divide dough into small balls, enough for each student and a few extra just in case. Using your finger or a craft stick, make a small hole in the dough and fill with one drop of food coloring. Hide the drop so the dough still appears to be white. Place each dough ball in a small plastic zipper bag.
For younger students, you can tell them it is a magic ball that turns a color when touched by a student who will have a wonderful year. Older students can be grouped according to colors for activities, or instructed to meet with other students to create a group mascot with their clay. Consider allowing students to keep dough tucked in their desks for the first few days of school - it's a great stress reliever and time filler when activities finish early.
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