Back to school activity ideas that work…

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Every…veteran teacher has his/her favourite first-days-of-school activities.Here are a few of mine.They work….

My favourite activities, aren’t particularly unique or creative.They are intended mainly for fun.Let’s jump right into a few of them…every now and then, I’ll  be adding  more activities to  this list so, you’d better stay tuned!

ME IN A BAG: I bring a sack with a running shoe, a bread pan, a piece of stained glass, something of my daughter’s etc.I group students and dump a few things on each table.Then, I give them a few minutes to say what they think each item says about me!I invite them to bring their own sack on the following day and I am  always surprised of how many kids  actually, bring one!

Sometimes, it helps if we send a letter to parents about it, like this one…..

“Dear Families,

Your child is bringing home a “Me Bag” today. Please choose 4 or 5 items with your child that will help the class become better acquainted with him/her. Tomorrow your child will share the contents of the bag and the class will develop a “Me Chart” for your child. This will be used in our reading and writing programme.

Our charts will be based on the following sentence frames to help our emergent readers and writers.

I am ______________.

I have _____________.

I can ______________.

I like ______________.

My favourite _______________ is ________________.

As an example I shared my own “Me Bag” with the class. I included a special apple (I am a teacher), a picture of my family (I have 3 children), a piece of fabric (I can sew), a book (I like to read), a camp hat (my favourite vacation is camping).

Thanks for your help with this project.

Sincerely “

 

ANOTHER TIME CAPSULE IDEA: For this activity, I use a Pringles can.

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1) I have the kids write a letter to themselves about how they feel being in the 6th grade, what they think they will be doing during the year, what their expectations for the year are, who their “best” friends will be, what they would like me to do during the year, ( how I can best help them) what the most important thing they wish to learn during the year is and anything else that comes to their mind.

I ask my younger learners to write sentences starting with ” I can” , “I will”!

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2) I put them in a ziplock bag and put them in the Pringles can to be opened the last week of school and reread by the students.

They really enjoy this, particularly knowing that they will be able to open the ” time capsule” at the end of the year!

They tend to forget about the “time capsule” during the school year though, and it’s always a big surprise for them in June, when it’s brought to class!It’s a great  lesson , too: they are  reminded  that, goals setting is important!

FILL IN THE FUNNY BLANKS

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During the first week, I give them a handout with a paragraph about ME! They work in groups to figure out, which facts on that sheet are not right and are asked to write the correct version of that paragraph about me mainly, by guessing…

” My name is Cecilia and I am 104 years old!

I have three bunnies: Gabriella is 6, Felipe is 16 and Rex is 17.

I have been teaching juggling for 20 years! In my free time, I like jumping off airplanes and jumping around in one foot!

I don’t like eating books but, I love eating butterflies!”

As homework, they are asked to write a similar paragraph about themselves for their classmates to guess. They work in groups first, sharing their paragraphs and then share with the class! So much fun!!

MY NUMBERS

I start the first lesson, by drawing a line on the board where I write important dates in my life  plus important numbers in my life eg, 1994, September 3rd, 19, 3, 20 etc….Students have to ask me questions about my life to guess.If the answer to a question they ask is one of the numbers on the board, I cross that number out….

eg -How many children have you got, miss?

-Three-3!

Students then, draw their own timeline and talk in pairs about it. I move around listening. Later, they share what they’ve learned about their partner with the class.

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ALL ABOUT ME

Hand out an 8.5″ =14″ piece of paper ( let the kids choose a colour)

Ask them to write their name in large colourful letters ( fancy, bubble, etc..) in the middle of the page.

When finished, I explain that, they are going to stand up, use tape and put their paper on any wall around the classroom,  facing out…

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They have to quietly walk around and write positive adjectives or simple sentences or phrases ( it depends on the level ) which refer to the person whose name is written on each piece of paper! I do insist though, that they ONLY refer to their classmates’ positive characteristics , talents, attitudes, etc…I tell them that everybody has something we like, something which makes him/her unique and really special!

This takes about 15 minutes. Then the children sit down.Then, I go around the room and introduce each child to the class and ask : ” Who can tell me something interesting about this person?”

Students are surprised to see how many nice things their classmates have noticed and mentioned! The shy and the introvert ones, feel really happy!

Finally, students are asked to collect the paper after the exercise and as homework, they are asked to write a short paragraph about themselves  , incuding most  of the adjectives or phrases on their piece of paper. I also ask them to add , at least ,one more positive characteristic or talent/skill they think they have and nobody has noticed yet! Great activity for boosting self-esteem!

GROUP PHOTOS

For the first day of school, I always ask my students to stand in groups of 3-4 somewhere in the classroom, holding their name cards in front of them.

I photograph each group and later, I take a class photo, too.

I make copies of the pictures right away, to start to memorise students names and faces at home that evening.

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Our english class photo album in our pen pals' hands!

Our english class photo album in our pen pals’ hands!

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First Day in class poster

 

I also, use these photos , in different projects throughout the school year and  on a big poster or ready-made bulletin board  with all my classes photos on it.

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I put it  on the door and I choose a different theme each year….last year  it was: “Fist day at school”, this year I have decided to put the photos on a boat, with a  ” Welcome aboard” theme !

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I also use the photos on projects we send to our partners abroad! My most favourite one  is ” My class photo album” ,where each student, introduces him/her self on a different album page under his/her cartoon figure with  his/her photo attached on it!

TWO WELCOME BACK SONGS

English teachers,  may become Art teachers, Music teachers, Geography teachers, PE teachers, Math teachers, Social studies teachers, Drama  teachers  and so many more…. during the  school year!

I love singing with my students in class! Music plays an important role in my teaching, too!

For instance, there is always welcome to class music, before the lesson starts. Music, when they work in groups ,on any activity. Classical music when they write tests! Musical …countdowns,  in games!Music, in skitses and school shows!

In the beginning of the school year, two of my favourite songs are:

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Welcome to our classroom (Sung to: Sing a song of sixpence)

Welcome to our classroom

come in and sit right down

we are all together

take a look around.

Here, inside our classroom

there’s lots to see and do

I am happy being here

and making friends with you.

The summer’s over ( Sung to :You are my sunshine)

The summer’s over-no more vacation

But, I have had a lot of fun

And I am happy, and I’m excited

’cause now at last the school year has begun!

MY MUSIC

My desert island discs:

Which music or songs would you take with you? Why? Choose your number 1 melody. Hum the song.If there are words to the song, which ones mean something to you? Why?

Variation: I give them a prompt sentence eg ” During my holidays this year, I…” or ” When I was on the desert island, I….”. While listening to some music I have chosen , they write whatever comes into their mind! With younger students, I do some braistorming and put key words on the board before they start writing!

MUSIC MINGLE

Move with the music, stop, grab a partner and talk about a happy summer memory!

A CLASSROOM SURVEY

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 This is one of my students most favourite activities because, they stand up and move around the classroom freely!….

I give them a handout with the following on it:

Go around the room and ask your classmates about the items below.Ask each question, until you receive  a positive answer. Have the first student who answers “Yes” to this  question,  sign his/her name next to the item corresponding to it  and move on to the next item…You may sit down when you are done with all your items/questions.

Find someone who….

Has a brother

Has a sister

Has a dog

Has a cat

Plays soccer

Likes Harry Potter

Has been out of the country

Has red hair

Has blue eyes

Has brown eyes

Likes spinach

Loves pizza

Can swim

Takes dance lessons

Speaks two languages

Can recite a poem

Is a new student

Loves Math

Loves reading

For  homework, I ask them to write ( In S. Present, 3rd person singular) about  5  of the most interested things they have found out about their classmates, doing this activity and share them with the class during our next lesson.

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PROFILES

I ask my students to draw their friend’s profile on a piece  of paper . They should look funny!

Later, the students are asked to put their  profiles  on the walls .  All the students walk around the classroom and write questions one everybody else’s paper around the profile. These,  should be short e.g. School?, Hobbies? Dislikes? Favourites? etc I always play background music during that…

Then, students take their papers down and introduce themselves using the questions. Can be set as homework, too!

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SMARTIES

Firts day in class, I bring my students lots of Smarties to treat!

I ask them to take as much as they want but not eat ,yet!

Each colour of candy, corresponds to a different type of information.eg Green : Something about my school

Red: Something about my family

Blue: something about my likes/dislikes/hobbies

Yellow: something about my future plans

Students are THEN asked to write as many sentences per colour as the number of different coloured candies they have got! Tricky!!

Variation: A Roll of ….toilet paper! (” You can have as much as you need”) Ha,ha…

FIVE THINGS WE HAVE IN COMMON

I  split the students into pairs.Each pair will have 30 seconds to find five things they have in common/five things they have in common concerning their summer holidays.

At the end of the 30 seconds, I put pairs together and and give the foursome a minute to find something all four students have in common.Finally, each group, can present the list of things they have in common!( You can use this activity to form student groups, too)

MY SUMMER  HOLIDAYS  OBJECTS

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 First, I bring a sack with 3-5 objects which are related to my summer holdays! I bring  them out of the sack one at a time  and ask my students to make guesses about  how they are related to my summer vacations!

For homework, I ask my students to bring to class, three objects which remind them of their  own holidays ( leaves, pebbles, sea shells, stones , wood etc) and we repeat the procedure.

A class discussion follows!

I AM SPECIAL

This is a great activity to display for the beginning of year, or any other time that I would like to focus on unique qualities of individual students.it’s a fun activity, that allows you to introduce and/or practice quotation marks with students.I have a class set of a basic person shape.Students then decorate and cut out the shape.Students write their own sentences explaining why they are special.Here is an example: Maria said : ” I am special because , I can sing beautifully” They write their sentences either on the shape or on a piece of paper that resembles speech bubble!

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MY FAVOURITES

We need a piece of paper divided into four sections , one for toys one for food one for person and one for animal. Also, colouring pens and pencils.

You can see the template below.

I ask the children to draw one in each section. When they have finished , sit all the children in a circle with all the pictures in the centre. Can you quess whose is which?

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A variation is to play a game: a volunteer comes to the board holding his paper in a way that nobody can see what’s in it. He tells the class three true favourites on his paper and one lie. The class try to quess what which one is not true! The first to quess right, is the next one to come to the board!

MY BEAR

This is a game that shows children that they are unique but, also allows them to see things that they have in common. It works best with students aged 8-9.I first hand them the printout of the bear you can see below.Then , I ask them to listen to my questions and colour in their bears in answer to the questions.

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You can make up your own questions. I have a list of mine.

An example is: ” Do you have any sisters or brothers? If you have a sisiter, colour the bear’s tummy red. If you have a brother, colour it blue. If you have both, colour the bear’s tummy purple”!It is best to keep questions down to two or three answers.When They are finished, I ask the kids to look at one another’s bears.Can they spot similarities or differences between them?

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Some more questions might be: Do you like summer or winter best Do you have any pets?  Do you prefer to read a book or play computer games? What’s your favourite desert? Ice-cream or cake?

CLASSROOM TREASURE HUNT

I give my students a handout with some directions on it which are asked to follow. They work in teams . The first team to finish the activity, wins!

Wow! You are in a new classroom this year! You can go on a treasure hunt with your team! On the lines below, describe what you have found in your new classroom….

1. Find something made of wood

2. Find something shorter than you

3. Find something made of metal

4.Find something that is yellow

5.Find something that has wheels

6. Find something that locks

7. Find a word on the word wall

8. Find something made of plastic

9.Find something taller than you

10. Find something that starts with the ‘N’ sound

11. Find something that has corners

12. Find something that hangs

13. Find a book that has three words in the title

14.Find something that has legs

It’s one of my students’ most favourite group game! I never forget to reward them with stickers when we finish! The winners , get big, ‘scratch n’ sniff’ TREND stickers.

To be continued….stay tuned!

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