Sunday, September 7, 2014

First Week Activities

During the first week of school, I like to do a variety of "getting to know you" and team building activities.  We practice routines and they get to know my expectations.  This year I tried a few new things as well as some of my older standards.

One of my favorite things to do each year is an activity I call "ABC Me!"  It is incredibly simple, but it reveals so much about each student.  At a glance, you can tell which students are likely to need a lot of extra support during the year, which students are very creative, which ones race through their work and which ones take a long time, etc.  In addition, it makes a quick and easy display for Back to School Night.  On a legal size piece of paper, I run the letters of the alphabet down the left hand side.  I include a line after each letter and a line at the top for the student's name.  The directions are simple:  in phrases, tell me all about yourself.  Each phrase needs to start with the letter of the alphabet it written next to.

A new activity I tried this year was "Save Fred."  I saw it originally on a collection of First Day of School Activities on the blog "Teaching with a Mountain View."  Then in searching for more information about it, I came across this link:
It was a lot of fun...some groups were more successful than others in saving poor Fred, but they all managed to reflect on strategies they had used to solve the problem.  I really liked the kids that told me that they could have figured it out if they had only had a bit more time.

 Every year I have them create tear art self-portraits.  I think that they are hilarious and I love that the kids who are not as artistically blessed can feel successful too.  The best part, for me, is that there are always a few kids who actually manage to create a self-portrait that actually looks like they do.  I limited their time on it this year, and actually all but one completed on time--which was a first for me!  (Usually I give them two blocks of 45 minutes and end up with three to four kids who never finish it--this year, they just had 60 minutes--which included 10 minutes of instruction on how to pinch the paper as it is being torn in order to maintain better control.)

I also like to teach being kind and empathetic during the first week.  For a lot of our kiddos, their home lives are difficult. Many of them come to school without the skills that they need to succeed socially.  In their world, taking offense and fighting back (either with words or physically) is often the first thing that comes to mind.  By specifically teaching the skills of empathy and practicing kindness, I have found that my year will generally run a bit more smoothly.

I have two posters hanging in my room:  one is the classic "Before you speak" and the other is one I made a few years ago called "Practicing Kindness." (I had a particularly difficult class one year that needed weekly lessons on how to be kind.)  The first day I review empathy with them and go over the two posters.

(I created two versions of this poster--one with a blue background and one with a black background--then I had them printed on Vistaprint.)

Then the following day, we do the classic toothpaste activity (the one where they squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube and then have to try to put it back.)  They had a lot of fun trying to get the toothpaste back, but were ultimately unsuccessful.  Then they shared their thoughts about "What happened to the toothpaste" and I hit pay dirt when one response was, "It made a big mess."  (Don't you love it when that happens!!)  After I finish charting their responses, I flip over the chart paper to the statement to the
right.  Maybe it is because they are 6th graders, but the light bulbs go on immediately.   We discuss how mean words and things are like the toothpaste---once they are out, no matter how much we apologize, we can't take it back or get a "do over."

Then this year, I took it one step further.  The next day (yep, three days worth of discussion and activity) I passed out a statement to each group (I have 8 groups so I had to include a quote as well.)  The statements were specific ways that a person could practice empathy.  They discussed the having
empathy skill with their groups and then shared their thoughts about it.  If a group didn't really understand the statement, I helped steer the conversation in the right direction.  It was a great discussion and at the end of the week reflection they did, many of the kids talked about how important it was to have empathy.  Success!  I created an anchor chart that we can refer back to during the year (if needed!)

No comments:

Post a Comment