Getting-to-Know-You Activities: The First Week and Beyond

By Michelle Sullenberger on August 25, 2011
  • Grades: 1–2

The desks are arranged, favorite books are displayed, math manipulatives are sorted, and lesson plans are being written. It’s time to start building the classroom community. As I write my lesson plans, I include getting-to-know-you activities. These activities provide opportunities for the students to interact positively with one another. The children are eager to make new friends, learn about the classroom environment, and become part of a school family. After all, the classroom will become a home away from home for the next ten months.

When a classroom functions as a community, children feel safe and accepted. They interact respectfully and responsibly with one another. Building this learning community is fostered through structured routines, consistent schedules, class meetings, shared experiences, and flexible groupings. All of these things take time. However, it is time well spent. Here are a few getting-to-know-you activities to promote friendship and to begin building a positive classroom community.

All About Me Bags Me Bags

On the first day of school, I share my "All About Me" bag. I fill the bag with four to six special items that tell about me. For example, I may include a special bookmark to share my love of reading or a small dog statue to talk about my family pet. After sharing my bag, I ask the students to design an All About Me bag to take home and fill. The students take the bag home with a note requesting four to six special items that tells us about him or her. Students bring the bags back to school and share them with the class. Classmates are given an opportunity to ask a question or share a compliment.  Here’s the All About Me pattern I used to design the bag. This template is from the Scholastic Resource 30 Instant Collaborative Classroom Banners by Deborah Schecter.

All About Me Books

My students enjoy creating “A Book About Me”.  I prefer to use a formatted template for the book, but you can generate a list of topics and give students blank paper for book making. I learn a lot about my students by reading their books and the families enjoy reading the books at back-to-school night. If time is limited, try an All About Me poster.  While browsing Scholastic’s Printables, I came across the “I Am Special” mobile activity. If your school’s fire code permits hanging items from the classroom ceiling, this project may be exactly what you are looking for to brighten your room. I would suggest recruiting a few parent volunteers to help with assembling this project.

Student Interest Inventories  Mingo 

Scholastic’s Getting-to-Know-You Interest Inventories and Mingo game are great ways for students to get to know each other while providing movement within the classroom. As a group, review the vocabulary on the sheet and demonstrate how to play. To play, students circulate within the classroom to interview their classmates. Remember to model your expectations for pairing up with a partner prior to handing out this activity. When a student finds a classmate that matches the given clue, the classmate signs his or her name. The students really enjoy these activities and you may need to watch the clock to stay within the scheduled time. With first-grade students, I use a simpler “Find a Friend” version of this idea.

Self-Portraits Self Portrait

Have students draw and color self-portraits on the first day of school. These self-portraits make great displays for back-to-school night and perfect keepsakes to pull out at the end of the year. Inspired by an idea from the Get Into It curriculum guide, this activity would be further enhanced by having students write an “I Am” poem. Each line of the list poem starts with the phrase, “I am”. Students brainstorm descriptive phrases about themselves to write their poems. Younger students could brainstorm a list of descriptors as a group and copy their ideas onto sentence strips to write a class poem.

Dream Clouds

Here’s a goal-setting idea from Crayola.  Students design dream clouds to reflect their goals for the school year. Students use a cloud cutout and complete this sentence: “My dream is …”.  Students form small groups to share their dreams. Follow-up discussions with the class or individual students focus on how to reach these goals. This idea could be used to set individual and class goals for each grading period.

A classroom community is always a work in progress and shaped by all those enter. It takes time and effort to build relationships with and among students. Icebreaker activities allow students to feel at ease in the classroom and support positive interactions. Do you have a favorite getting-to-know-you activity to share?



You could have a student come up, show one item and have the audience practice inferencing prior to the student sharing.

Hi Marianne, I'm so glad you found an idea you could use in your classroom. Thank you for your nice comment. The All About Me idea is adapted from a classroom banner example. The professional book is from a Scholastic book club order. I do not think it is available from the online store at this time. You could include a simple note to families requesting three or four small objects for each child to share.

I love all of these ideas! I am teaching 2nd grade this year after 6 years in 5th!!! I was wondering if you have a copy of the letter that goes with the all about me bags? I tried searching for teh book you mentioned and it doesn't come up under scholastic...maybe out of print? Thanks :)

Janine, What a clever idea! It sounds like it would be fun for everyone. Thank you for sharing. Have a great year!

I like having a portrait party - students do blind contour drawings of each other. It is fun and gets kids moving around the room. We laugh at the results and they learn something new about drawing and each other.

Hi Jeremy, Thank you for sharing your interactive idea with us. It is great to hear what others are doing in their classrooms. These ideas could be used throughout the year.

Hi Jenny, What a great twist on an old favorite! I really like your writing idea. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

One icebreaker that I often do is to ask pairs of students to interview one another, then report to the class what they learned about their new friends. It helps to have a few questions prepared to get the ball rolling.

I use the All About Me bags but with a twist- students don't put their names on the bags so we have to guess whose items they are! After 3 guesses (or a correct guess) that person comes up to share about their items. The students love it!

I also had students write "All About Me" writing pieces after using a graphic organizer with a friend. They end with "Who Am I?" and then I display them on a folded piece of construction paper so that after someone has read, they can open the flap and find a picture the student drew of him or herself. These were great to have out at Open House.

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