As educators we all know the importance of the first few weeks back to school. It is a time to build community (read how to Kick Up Your Classroom Community with Spotify), set routines, and lay the foundation for what’s to come. Transform your back to school with these beginning of the year activities!
Play a Game of Kahoot
Kahoot is my go to game-based platform to review or introduce material. The game is fun, fast-paced, and keeps kids engaged! I use Kahoot at the start of the year to introduce students to myself and my class. It makes covering those boring procedural routines way more fun and at the same time builds an energetic classroom climate. Have students create their own Kahoot game about themselves and play one a day until you work through your entire class. Check out my Intro to MS Tech game to see how Kahoot can be used to kick off your start of the year!
Create images in Google Drawing to add picture-based questions (for example, to point out different areas of your classroom or how an organized space should look). Later on in the year play a Blind Kahoot to introduce new ideas and concepts. You can then replay the game at the end of a unit or class to measure what the students have learned!
‘Slides’ to Meet You
Google Slides is a versatile tool that extends way beyond simple presentations! Create a shared class Slides template where students introduce themselves to you and their peers. Students can add a picture of themselves and images that represent who they are and what is important to them. Ask students to add images of their favorite movie or book, places they have or would like to visit, a favorite quote, or a song they’re currently listening to on repeat. Make sure to model by creating your own about me slide first! Then have a few students a day present themselves to the class (avoid one long class of 24 student presentations – most students will tune out after the first few!).
Check out how Eric Curts from Control Alt Achieve uses Google Slides to memorize student names and interests. Check out his post Learn your New Students’ Faces, Names, and More with Google Slides to read a detailed how-to.
Break the Ice with Breakout EDU
Breakout EDU is an “immersive learning games platform” where students work together to solve clues in order to open the locks and ‘Breakout’ of the box. Think escape room for your classroom. Breakout EDU hits the Four Cs like no other tool out there, including collaboration! That’s why it makes such a great beginning of the year activity. Through playing and reflecting a Breakout EDU game, students will establish what goes into successful collaboration, an important foundation for any school year. Plus, it’s just plain fun and will get students excited about your class!
Breakout EDU topics and themes cover the gamut from team building to any class content standard. Therefore, Breakout EDU can be played all year, at all grade levels, and in every class course! Use one of the already designed games from their platform or create your own, and watch student thinking and collaboration come alive!
Note: Breakout EDU is a paid product and service and in my opinion worth every cent! However, if you are looking to create a free alternative, see Tom Mullaney’s Digital Breakouts site for ideas on how.
GooseChase Scavenger Hunt
GooseChase is an online scavenger hunt platform that allows players to submit text, photo, video, and location answers as solutions to the clues. Games are easy to set up and easy to access. Design a GooseChase game to get to know your students. Have them submit photos of them and their pets, add a video of them playing their favorite game or listening to their favorite song, or have them submit text about their goals or expectations for the year. The possibilities are endless!
In addition, GooseChase is an excellent tool to introduce new students to your district or orient incoming students to your school. We used GooseChase to help students new to our school get to know different parts of the campus and many of our staff members. We teamed them up with student ambassadors to help them through the game and to create some immediate peer connections. Our 5th grade team also designed a game to orient students to all of the ins-and-outs of middle school. In both cases, it was great watching students run around the school working together and having fun!
GooseChase goes way beyond the beginning of the year! Design games to get staff into each other’s rooms learning about all that is happening across your school as a form of PD. Use GooseChase to make field trips interactive or over a longer period of time to track student independent reading. Post questions around the school and have students play a game to review content. Share some of the ways you can use GooseChase in the comments below!
Makerspace Team Challenges
Get your students creating through a Makerspace team challenge. Put students in groups and have them design a team mascot or 3-D logo. Have students brainstorm different ideas based on their collective personalities or interests. Through discussion and designing, students will get to know each other and have fun doing so. Use the creations to decorate the room or vote on a winner. When done, make sure to reflect back on the process and extend forward what it takes to collaborate effectively. You can repeat this activity throughout the year, placing additional constraints or setting different criteria.
Makerspace activities are not just for younger students. Get high schoolers and staff designing and building. Brining in this playful element can build a positive community climate and is a great way to model the design thinking process. Check out how Jacquelyn Whiting designed a maker activity for her colleagues in her post Playing the Long Game.
About Me Infographics Using Canva
Infographics are a great medium to teach others about a topic or idea, so why not have students create ones about themselves! I love using Canva, for myself and with my students, because it makes creating top-notch designs accessible to everyone! Have students use one of Canva’s infographic templates to design an infographic that will teach the class about themselves. Have them create a summer infographic or one that covers their interests. Add in some math skills by having students calculate the average number of hours they slept or miles they travelled or number of hot dogs they ate! In the end, students will have learned more about each other and acquired some serious design skills in the process.
Infographics can used across every subject and across all ages (watch Digital Design with Canva to see how). Consider how students can use an infographic to show off what they’ve learned in a particular unit. Canva can also be used for all types of designs. Have students create better presentations with Canva or design their own quote graphics. Students can use Canva’s templates or design something from scratch.
What do you do in your class in those first few weeks back? What activities transform your beginning of the year routine? Share you ideas below!