Creating that Family Atmosphere & Freebies

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As I get ready for the start of a new year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is that creates a comfortable classroom environment.  For me, it is diligently working from day one to turn 20+ individuals into a family.  Our class will be our home away from home for the next 9 months.  To me it is vitally important that everyone feels like they belong, and that means working together and standing up for each other.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t just magically happen on the first day of school.  I spend a substantial amount of time during the first week on ice breakers, team builders, and get to know you activities. (As a side note, my first year of teaching I did not do this because I felt the “need” to start teaching, however, in other years I have seen that this has paid off).  My goal by the end of the week is that everyone knows each others name, and that they feel like they have something in common with everyone in the class.  How do I do this?  Here are a few of my favorite activities for the first week of school.

1.  Me Bag

It starts out like this, a plain brown paper bag on their desk at Meet the Teacher night.  To the top of each bag I staple the Me Bag instructions.  The students take their bag home, fill it with 5 items that represent themselves, then bring it back.  During the first week, we take turns sharing our bag with the class. I go first, of course, on the first day of school as a way for the students to learn about me.  This is also a great way to demonstrate ideas of what could go in a Me Bag.  The kids love it, I love it, and it definitely puts us on the way to creating a comfortable classroom environment.  If you would like to use the Me Bag with your class, click the link below to download the Me Bag directions.  Just print, copy and cut and you are ready to go!

2.  The Name Game
Every year this is a class favorite, and I don’t mean they just like it, I mean they BEG to play it over and over.  The entire class stands up and forms a circle.  The only thing you need is a bean bag or soft small ball or stuffed animal.  First time through I start by tossing the object at a student and saying their name.  The student catches the object, tosses it at another student as they say their name.  Once they are done they sit down.  This chain keeps going until everyone has had a chance to receive the object with their name being called.  After the first time, I tell the class that I am not going to play this time.  Instead, I grab a timer and I tell them that we are going to time it to see how fast we can complete the game.  I keep a note on the board of the fastest time we have gotten.  We also set a class goal for the end of the week (usually about 20-25 seconds).  The students LOVE the challenge and it really helps with the learning of names.
3.  Togetherness
Each year I inevitably stumble upon a quote or saying that I love.  Last year, I knew as soon as I saw it (yes, on Pinterest of course) that this quote would be hanging in my classroom.  I created my own poster and had it hanging in the front of my room all year.  Here it is:
This is designed to print on 11×17 paper which your local office supply store is able to print.  It can also be printed smaller by inserting it into word processing document or scaling down the print size.  Just click HERE to download your copy.

What do you do to kick off the new school year and develop a sense of family in your classroom? I’d love to know!  Leave me a comment below and I just might try it this year!

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