The bulletin boards have been hung, the names have been put on the cubbies and desks, the butterflies in everyone’s stomach are fluttering, yet your lesson plans sit empty. It’s not because you don’t have a million standards and concepts to teach, it’s just that those first weeks are made for something more.
Relationships, expectations and a sprinkle of content! That’s how I like to design my first weeks back with kids. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression, so it’s time to set the tone for the year and this is your chance!
I take the first few weeks in my classroom to focus on building relationships with my students. It is my goal to learn more than just their names those first few weeks. I also want them to know who I am. These students are going to be spending approximately 1,155 hours with me over the school year. They need to know that I don’t sleep at school, I have interests, hobbies and a family outside of school, and that I truly care about each and every one of them. How you show your students this is up to you, but I’m going to share with you my favorite activity that is low prep, low stress and lots of fun for both you and the students!
Who doesn’t love a good game of Pictionary? Better yet, what teacher doesn’t love introducing a graphic organizer in a way in which students don’t even know they are learning about it!
The goals of K-W-L Pictionary are many, introducing a K-W-L graphic organizer, practicing using it, practicing organizing and keeping our work in our binder and most importantly- learning about your teacher. You can grab everything you need to prep this in the K-W-L Pictionary freebie in my store.
Simply copy one graphic organizer for each student, and then write facts about yourself on the provided tabs. Ideas include, your favorite color, favorite candy, number of family members, pets, hobbies, you get the idea. Cut out each of these facts and put them in a fun hat, bowl or container that represents you in some way. I usually use an Oregon Duck hat which automatically teaches them something fun about me!
I use this activity for the entire first week of school (possibly even the second week if we are having a great time) and it makes for a great brain break or transition after recess or lunch. First, have the students each fill out the K and W section of their graphic organizer with any facts that they may already KNOW or WHAT TO KNOW about you. It’s ok if they don’t know much, this would be a great time to have them work on making some inferences based on what they see around the room or by observing you. Create a larger version of the K-W-L chart on a piece of butcher paper and fill it in together as students share what they already know about you and want to learn.
Once you have you filled out the first two columns, the fun begins! Have students take turns coming up and pulling out a fact about you from your hat. Then, they must draw a representation of that fact for the class to guess. Once the kids guess the fact, have everyone add it to the LEARNED column on their chart. You can see how this is a great transition activity or brain break that first week of school. You will find that you have kids begging to come up and draw, which helps break the ice for everyone and gives kids a turn to shine in front of the class in a low stress environment.
As an added activity, I often have a “How Much Do You Know About Mrs. Dessert?” quiz at the end of the week. I let kids “study” their graphic organizer (another sneaky introduction to a skill I want them to use during the year) and then give them either an oral quiz or a quiz on a Google Form. (Yep, another sneaky skill introduction!) I always award “extra credit” for correct answers- I mean what kid doesn’t love some extra credit those first few weeks of school? ;) Up to you if you really want to use it or not.
Just like that, you’ve built relationships, had a soft start to introducing some key tools and strategies the kid will use this year, and had a few laughs along the way.
Once again, don’t forget that you can grab all you need for this game as a freebie in my store HERE!
What is your favorite way to start the year? Leave me a comment below!