The beginning of the school year can be a tough time for students as they head to a new class with a new teacher and new kids. As a teacher I believe that one of the most important things I can do at the beginning of the school year to create a classroom environment that will help my students feel welcome and comfortable. Over the years I’ve noticed that the faster my students get to know each other, the faster they begin to feel comfortable. And the faster they feel comfortable, the faster real learning begins. Today I am excited to share with you 3 ways that I help students get to know each other and begin the process of making new friends.
1. Whole Group Ice Breakers
What I love about whole group ice breakers is that everyone is put on an even playing field. I like to do fun and silly games that get us moving, talking and working together – all while getting to know each other! One of my favorite is called Stand Up, Sit Down. For this ice breaker everyone sits together in a circle. I prefer a big circle on the floor over sitting at desks, but you could do it either way. The teacher calls out a statement and everyone who agrees with the statement stands up. Those who disagree with the statement stay sitting. For example, I might say “Stand Up if you like pizza.” Then I pause to give the kids a moment to stand and allow students to take note of who is standing. Next I might say “stand if you like to dance.” Students who are already standing have a choice – remain standing or sit down. Students are sitting can stand or remain sitting. As the group gets the hang of the game you can call out statements more quickly.
If you teacher older kids, you could change it up by letting them call out different things. The great thing about this is that it allows them to pick something they want to know about or helps them find other students who like the same thing they do.
2. Name Games
I am always amazed when I meet someone once and they remember my name. This is a talent that I just don’t have! It takes me time and practice to remember names and I’ve found the same true with many of my students too! So I love to do name games at the beginning of the year to help them learn the names of their new classmates. One of my favorites (and my students too) is Willoughby Wallaby Woo (from the Raffi song)! If you teach Pre-K or Kinder this is a great song for rhyming too!
Here’s the song by Raffi to help you get the tune down if you are not familiar with it.
In this game students sit in a circle and sing or chant the following rhyme:
Willoughby Wallaby Wee
An elephant sat on me.
Willoughby Wallaby Woo
An elephant sat on you.
Now it’s time to start rhyming and naming people. As the teacher I would say:
Willoughby Wallaby Wike
An elephant sat on Mike.
Now Mike would finish the rhyme and choose another person.
Willoughby Wallaby Wangela
An elephant sat on Angela.
Continue going through this song/rhyme until everyone has had a turn. We added an extra dose of fun by using a stuffed elephant as we sang. The students LOVED getting to make the elephant sit on their new friends – including the teacher!
3. One on One Activities
As much fun as it is to do whole group games, I also like to incorporate one-on-one activities to the beginning of year mix. I do this because it gives students a chance to get to know their new classmates on a deeper level. Additionally, for those students who are shy or struggle with anxiety this is a great way to get them to participate and open up a little more. I love having my students make a book about their new friends. In this activity students will be paired up with one new person each day. They can be a buddy all day or just for this activity. Students will interview their buddy and then document what they learned. I like to save all of the pages and bind them together to make a book at the end of the week. If you’d like to give this a try, you can find my book by clicking the picture below.
The great thing about this activity is that you can use it at any grade level. In my packet I have created 2 different cover options (one with images of younger looking students and one with older looking students) and 4 page options with varying degrees of difficulty. I even created an Interview Sheet that older students can use to help them get started. Everything you need to get started is included.
When planning my Get To Know You activities for the the first week of school I really try to include a balance of all 3 different types of activities. There are many activities that fit under each category. Try a simple Google, Pinterest or You Tube search to find many more. Speaking of You Tube, I want to leave you with this great video that has 4 more activities you could easily use in your classroom!
Do you have a favorite Get to Know You activity that you use in your classroom? Help another teacher out and share it in the comments!