Great for older students. In this activity, I create six pieces of chart paper with one statement on each piece of paper. I group students and give each student a marker. Students rotate through the pieces of chart paper responding to the prompt on the paper. Each student has to write something since each student is holding a marker. At the beginning of the year, I make the statements more low-key, but as the year progresses, I increase the complexity of the statements, even using academic questions to review content. Here are some suggestions for topics at the beginning of the year:
- Favorite moment
- What I wonder about
- What I want to be when I grow up and why
- Things that scare me
- Things that get me excited
- What I like about school
- What I dislike about school
- Things people do that annoy me
- Things that people do that I like
- I feel sad when
Know Your Neighbor
Great for a class of students that already knows each other pretty well. I write down a bunch of questions on index cards. Each student gets a question and secretly writes down his/her answer on the back. Students take turns reading their questions out loud, while the rest of the class tries to guess what their answers are.
Gallery Walk Consensograms
I place various posters around the room with different topics for students to respond to. For some questions, students submit their own answer on post-it notes (Favorite food? Favorite sport? Favorite form of entertainment? Favorite subject?). For other questions, students “vote” by using stickers on one of the answers listed on the poster (How do you feel about 6th grade? Excited/just okay/nervous. How do you do your best work? In a group/with a partner/alone.)
Team-building activity. Student groups are given the following materials: 20 pieces of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string, 1 marshmallow, and scissors. The challenge is that students must create the tallest freestanding structure out of these materials with the marshmallow on top–in 18 minutes or less. At first, students may think a marshmallow would be light and easy prop upright. But they soon find out that it’s much harder than it seems at first. The best part was the recap at the end of the challenge where we discussed that most everything in life has a “marshmallow aspect” to it, where it kind of throws a wrench in the plans and how we can overcome it in reading/writing.
Letter to the Teacher
Either on the first day of class or at some point during the first week, I will pass out a letter I have written to my new students to introduce myself. Students will begin class by silently reading the letter. I’ll then go over the letter with the class and go into more detail about who I am (using a PowerPoint slideshow with photos to go along with it). Students will then have a chance to write their own letters to me. I tell them that can write to me about whatever they want me to know; but I also have ideas to help the students who prefer more structure.
- What is something I should know about you?
- Who are you closest to in your family?
- Tell me about your pets.
- What are some questions you have for me?
If you have time, this is a great way to start off with a “mini lesson” over friendly letters. Jump right in to the “academic” stuff and give students an idea of what your teaching style is. Once students are ready to begin, I give them the rest of class time to work on their letters. I usually allow them to finish their letters at home because some students really want to put a lot of thought and effort into their letters to me.
Other Resources for Preparing for the First Week