I confess. As a teacher it used to annoy the summer sunshine right out of me when the stores starting stocking their shelves with school supplies on about the Fourth of July. I had barely finished posting grades and watching the most recent class of seniors graduate and the merchandisers were trying to entice us into another school year.
Yet by August I was ready to begin the cycle once again. I actually enjoyed decorating bulletin boards and thinking up new activities for getting acquainted with my students. Shiny floors, new calendars, bright posters, a clean desk (which only occurred once a year), and students decked out in their favorite outfits gave a fresh exciting feel to a profession I loved.
One of my top priorities was to build a community within my classroom. I created and “gathered” (stole) many ideas for helping students to connect with one another over the years. We knew we had a community only when every member of the class was valued by everyone else. The first part of becoming a community was learning facts about one another.
Bulletin Boards Created by My Students
- Let them work on a project together. Not everything in the classroom has to be perfect when they walk in. Let them take ownership of their new home by designing some of their surroundings.
Have the students bring a photo or a baby photo on the first day of school. Make a display.
- Let the students bring items from home that illustrate important items or times in their lives. Have them describe what those items stand for in front of their peers.
- I always had a True/False Quiz about myself on the first day of school. I wrote statements about me and had them write answers about whether they thought each statement was true or false. I tried to fool them. Allow some of the students who would like to participate to make up true false quizzes about themselves to try to stump their peers.
- Type up a paper with everyone’s name on it. Have classmates circulate around the room until they have listed two things they have in common with every other student in the room.
- Line Up. The first week of school have them line up in a variety of ways. They have to get up and talk to each other to determine how to arrange themselves. Line up youngest to oldest, Alphabetize themselves by the first letter of their middle name. Group themselves by sports or school clubs they are involved in. Line up by the number of siblings they have. Line up by the grade they were in when they moved into your district. Etc.
- Let them write riddles about themselves that end in Who Am I? Peers use the clues to guess the student as the teacher reads the clues aloud.
- Give out snack sized bags of M&Ms or Skittles. Have them tell something about themselves for every piece of candy they have in the bag.
- On the first day of school, I used to have my Teacher Academy students draw a picture using only their feet to hold the crayon. I’d play funny music as they made these crazy drawings. The point? It was an icebreaker, but it also illustrated how uncomfortable students could be in our classroom when we asked them to do things that were new or difficult.
- Give out a few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to each student. Don’t reveal the design. Have them work together to assemble the picture. It can be a large drawing of your school logo, but it will take them a while to figure it out. Meanwhile they make new friends.
- Have them bring their chairs into a circle. Ask a question to which they must all respond. Example: ” Describe a person who makes you feel valued? How do they make you feel that way?:” This helps them focus on how we can make our classmates feel valued. There will be a positive feeling in your classroom at the end of this activity.
- Get them excited about working on a creative project together. In our high school we were encouraged to decorate a grocery cart (instead of a parade float) for the Homecoming Game.
You can’t build a community in a day. However, working on building positive relationships within your classroom walls, will pay dividends for all your students. it is time well spent.
TEACH…To Change Lives
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