Classroom Activities: Welcoming Back Middle-School Students
These four ideas encourage students to express themselves and get to know each other.
Looking for clever, meaningful ways to ease students into the start of the school year? These welcome-back activities are easy to introduce, don't take long to complete, and encourage creative thinking and interaction. They also give you immediate insight into your students' individual personalities, interests, and abilities.
Author Your Own Book
Try this twist on "What I Did Over Summer Vacation" essays. Challenge students to incorporate their summer hobbies, interests, excursions, or day-to-day activities into a booklet they write and illustrate. For instance, an aspiring chef or baker could pull together a cookbook or menu featuring descriptions of favorite summer meals or desserts. A budding cartoonist could create a comic book in which the hero saves a vacation town. An avid baseball player could pen a playbook featuring teammates or highlights of the best game of the summer. Movie buffs could write reviews on five blockbusters they saw at the cinema or on TV. Other students could develop an inside guide to babysitting, pet-walking, even beating a video game, or trading card collections. Have students share their booklets in a read-aloud or book exchange session.
Give students a chance to be both a star reporter and a sought-after celebrity. First, develop a list of questions for students to ask/answer or use this Classmate Interview form. Distribute the interview questions to student pairs and give them 20 minutes to conduct interviews with each other. At the ten minute mark, let them switch roles. When everyone is done, work with the class to create a graph that helps students see that they share many interests, but also have some unique ones. You can also have students write one-paragraph celebrity "profiles" about the classmate they interviewed.
Big Bubble Name Posters
Kechia Williams, a middle school teacher in Columbia, South Carolina, has students design a collage that features their names written in big bubble letters, filled with words and pictures that define them. To start, she has students practice printing their names in big bubble letters.
"I tell them to aim to fill an entire 8" x 10" sheet with the letters in their name or nickname," says Williams. After they figure out how to stylize their names and make a final copy on white paper, students fill in each letter with information about themselves. As Williams explains: "The topics could include family, friends, pets, favorites, hobbies, goals, food, or sports. They can fill letters with drawings, small personal photos, and magazine or newspaper pictures that embody who they are, what they like, or a personal characteristic." When they are complete, she hangs the posters on her walls or bulletin boards. Students enjoy seeing everyone's designs and the colorful displays are a way to personalize the classroom for Back-to-School Night.
Give an old game a new angle. "On a sheet of paper create a bingo grid of five squares by five squares," suggests Bill Singer in The Scholastic Teacher Plan Book. "Then, write a phrase in each square that might relate to a student, such as 'has a brother or sister at this school', 'has a birthday in September', 'has never broken a bone', or 'knows how to swim'."
The object of the game is for each student to find another student in the class to sign the squares on his or her bingo board. "For instance, if Marcus has a little sister in kindergarten, he could sign Jessica's bingo grid in that square," explains Singer. "You can make the game more challenging for older students by limiting the number of times they can sign off on the same classmate's bingo board." Game play continues until all students get five in a row, or until one student has every square filled.
This game can also be played game-show style with no board. As the emcee, call out the phrases and ask kids to stand up if they "play on a soccer team" or "have a pet dog." Kids love the up-and-down action and seeing that they have much in common with their new classmates.