Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Best Get to Know You Games For the First Days of School

Today I am brining you the perfect combination of back to school ice-breakers and games for those first days of school! 

Back to school is a crazy time and we all want to hit the ground running. There are routines and procedures to teach and we are ready to get to them the second those kids walk in the door. Building community and getting to know your kids has to come before or alongside all of that, though.

 As a kid, I remember starting the first day of school with an ache in my stomach because I was so anxious about having to make new friends and meet my new teacher. The unexpected and unknown terrified me. 

These games are meant to warm your kids up to one another and get them feeling comfortable in their new classroom one- step- at- a- time!

This first one is the most comfortable for kids. They don't feel super vulnerable because it is predictable and they have the support of the whole group during a very short share.  

It’s called Pick a Stick. I use these colored toothpicks in the container. You can also use colored popsicle sticks, straws, or anything else you have around. You can print the editable handout here or create a chart and hang it up. 

1. Have the kids sit in a circle.
2. Model for the class by choosing a colored stick at random and matching it to the prompt. Start by sharing your name and then whatever the prompt was. 
3. Have the kids take turns passing the sticks around the circle and sharing using the color code. 

If you’re worried about them choosing a specific color you could put them in a paper bag or have the kids close their eyes. This is a great one to start with because kids can see the questions/prompts ahead of time and feel prepared. They don't feel vulnerable standing up in front of the class or working one on one or in a group with people they don't know at all. 

The next game is perfect as kids are getting to know one another and becoming more comfortable. To play you pair kids up or allow them to choose a partner. Give each student a key. 

Before getting together with their partner teach them to play “Math Pop”. Math Pop i like rock paper scissors, but instead they each hold up 0, 1, 2, or 3 fingers. They then find the sum of both of their fingers. Easy peasy!

1. Now that they know how to play Math Pop have them pair up and begin. 
2. The sum of their two hands corresponds to numbers on the key. They can answer a question more than once. 

This game goes by pretty quickly (5-10 minutes per partners). In my classroom we play several rounds by mixing up the partners after those 5-10 minutes.  They make lots of new friends before recess!

This download is also editable. You can change the questions or prompts and if you teach upper elementary you can make it work for multiplication by having them find the product of their two hands!

Now the kids are really getting to know one another and settling into their new classroom!
Last year I took an equity course. One of the things that we did to get moving and learn more about one another was this amazing game. It didn’t have a name so I decided to call it Master in the Middle. So, here is what you do:

1.     Have kids make a big circle with their chairs. Depending on how your classroom is set up, you could also have them stay at their desks or their tables.
2.      Take away one chair. There has to be one less chair than there is a person.
3.     The teacher will demonstrate Master in the Middle first by saying something like, "My name is Mrs. Newport, and I have 2 pets."
4.     Everybody that has 2 pets has to get up and swap chairs as fast as they can. They cannot go to the same chair, but because there is one less chair than there are people there will be a new Master in the Middle!
5.     The new master in the middle has to think of something they want to share. They might say, “My name is Joey and my favorite color is green.” Everybody who has the favorite color is green has to get up and find a new chair. Whoever is chairless is the new Master in the Middle and the game continues. Each time the kids are recognizing friends that they have something in common with and they're engaging in some fast paced fun movement!

I always start by modeling and allowing them time to think of 1 or 2 things they would want to share so that they are prepared if they become Master in the Middle. In the younger grades you may even want to make a list. Some ideas might be somewhere you've gone on vacation, a favorite food that you have, a book that you read, a sport you play, that you took swimming lessons, or what your   favorite animal is.

Click HERE or any of the pictures above to grab your editable printables!

I would love to hear about games and ice-breakers you use in your classroom to build community and get kids feeling comfortable! Share your ideas in the comments with all of us.

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