During my first few years of teaching, I drastically underestimated the importance of building/nurturing/growing my "classroom family." Students are more likely to grow individually if they are able to work together as a group- developing ideas through conversation, debating multiple solutions and giving appropriate, constructive criticism. (This also simulates many work environments that they should be preparing for). During the first week of school (which starts in less than 3 weeks...ahhh! ) I spend time working on this.
Here are a few of my favorite games/activities (some taken and adapted from other teachers, some are original):
1. The "Wanted Poster": This is a way for students to share information about themselves in a creative way. I post them in the classroom as they finish. At the end of the first class, I ask the students to write one positive adjective on the poster of each person that sat at their table.
2. "Who Am I?" powerpoint: I go through a brief presentation that tells the kids a little about me. I make sure to answer questions that I will have them answer in later activities. (my favorite movie, things I do in my free time, my celebrity crush, etc.)
3. "Four Questions": I give each table a paper with four questions on it. They each choose a question to answer (verbally to the people at their table). Then, I call on students to share something that they learned about someone at their table. Here are a few examples of questions I use:
If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
Were you named after anyone?
What word describes you best?
Who is your role model? Why?
If you could be any animal, which would you be and why?
If you could witness any historical event, what would it be?
4. Show and Tell: This may sound juvenile, but my students LOVE it. On the first day, I tell them they have homework . . . and they groan. Then, I tell them their homework is to bring in an item for "show and tell" that will teach us something about them. Some of them pretend to think it's silly, but they know they love it.
5. People Bingo: I give students 10 minutes to find other kids to sign their name in the appropriate Bingo space. Examples of spaces: "Knows the names of all 4 ninja turtles," "Is allergic to cats," and "Has fainted or thrown up in public." They can't use the same person for 2 separate squares. They get a small piece of candy for a line and a slightly bigger prize (like a free late pass) if they get a "cover-all."
6. Class Mailbox: This is a new thing that I'll be doing this year. (I actually dreamed that I did it and thought it was worth trying). I plan to make a mailbox for each of my classes. I'll talk to the kids about how important positive affirmations are and explain that any time they want to give someone a positive affirmation, they can write it on a piece of paper and put it in the class mailbox. It can be anonymous, or they can sign their name. Every Friday, I'll "deliver" the mail to the recipients. During the first week of school, I will ask them at random times to write something positive about everyone at their table and put it in the mailbox. This will get them into the habit of using it, and on Friday, everyone should have received "mail." Later on in the year, I'll write another post about how this is going.