You're not the only one excited and nervous about the first day of school. Your students are, too! Here are three getting-to-know-you activities that will help everyone break the ice and create a sense of classroom camaraderie from the very beginning of the school year.
Spin a Classroom Web
Melissa Walker, a teacher in Graham, North Carolina, begins the school year with a "unique" discussion circle. "I take a ball of yarn and tell them one thing I think is unique about me," shares Walker. "I will say, ‘I competed in a tennis tournament this summer and won the whole tournament.'" She then holds onto the string, tosses the yarn ball to one of her students, and asks him or her to reveal something unique. By the time the ball of yarn has made its way around the circle, everyone will be holding a part of it, and it will look like a web. "When we finish, I ask the kids, ‘What did we make?'" explains Walker. "They will, of course, say that we made a web. I will then ask them to tell me about the web. I encourage them to discover that, even though we are all unique and special, we are all connected to each other like the web, because we are a class. The kids end up loving the activity once they see the connection and ask me several times through the year if we can do it again to see how they have changed."
Show and Tell in a Lunch Bag
About two weeks before school starts, Amy Scalf, a teacher from Winchester, Kentucky, sends her students a letter in which she introduces herself and describes some of the exciting activities her class will be doing during the school year. She also sends them each a paper bag and asks each student to fill it with four or five items that are of some significance, perhaps a photo, an item from a collection, a souvenir, a token from a favorite game, or a team memento. "On the first day of school, we all sit together and open up our bags to show each other something about ourselves, myself included."
Since she teaches upper elementary and middle school students who are already familiar with their classmates, Anna Hallock, a teacher in Elgin, Illinois, turns getting-to-know-you into a fun guessing game. "On the first day, I have students write three unique facts about themselves, such as a pet's name, favorite sport, talent, and so on. I collect the papers and read a description aloud to the class. The students then guess to whom I'm referring. I continue until all the descriptions have been read, including my own."
One More Thing to Keep in Mind
Getting-acquainted activities aren't just for the first day of school. Experienced teachers recommend sprinkling these types of icebreaker and welcome-back activities throughout the first week of school. They know it's the quickest route to building a strong class community.