A classroom full of learners is a very important community. The tone and environment set by the teacher are fundamental to the success of the students. All members should feel welcome, that they matter, and can connect with each other. These relationships help develop social and emotional skills that are deeply connected to their learning. To establish and nurture classroom relationships, try having your students play Get to Know You games and activities near the beginning of the school year.
Here are some games my students loved. See how you can creatively use these ideas with your class:
Getting to Know You
I like to send home a blackline shape of a “paper doll-like” student at our Meet the Teacher Night. I attach simple instructions for the students and families to have fun designing it to look like themselves and even add pictures of things that they love and hobbies they have. This is such a fun way to get to know your students’ personalities and things that interest them. Students bring their “Getting to Know You” picture to share with the class. We practice learning each other’s names. This is a great way for them to work on their social, speaking, and listening skills. We celebrate all the things that we have in common and celebrate all our differences that make us unique and special too. These can be displayed by their name in the classroom or hallway.
“All About Me” Bag
This is a variation of the classic show and tell. I like to send home a small paper lunch bag with a note instructing each child to put in 3-5 things that tell us about themselves. (Pictures or items that represent hobbies, sports, favorite books, foods, things they love etc….)
Three students present their “All About Me” bag each day until each child has had a turn to show their selected items. This activity lends itself to practice respectful listening as a class and how to politely ask questions or give compliments after each turn. Consider doing a class cheer such as “Oh ya!” “Ya Hoo!” or “Yee Haw!” for every student.
* (I’ve found that doing more than 3 a day is too many because the students get restless from practicing “respectful listening”. We want our practices to be successful so we limit how many at a time.)
Hop In the Middle
This is a fun brain break game to get students moving and learning about each other. To play, all students stand in a circle. The teacher can call out a question and if the students can answer “yes” to the question, they hop into the middle of the circle and see how many others have similarities with them. Examples of questions are:
Do you have a pet?
Do you like the color blue?
Do you have a brother?
Do you have a sister?
Do you like basketball?
Do you like to sing?
It’s fun to ask the students in the middle more questions such as their pet’s name, for example.
The game resets by students going back to make the circle and play can continue with another question.
Stand Up, Sit Down
This game is very versatile, fast-paced, can be used as a transition, played in a sitting circle, at desks, at rug time, or really anytime you need to keep students engaged or to refocus. The teacher starts by calling out a color. If students are wearing that color for the day, they quickly stand up.
The teacher can continue to call out different colors or can select a student to be the next “caller” to call out a different color and so on.
For another level of play, the caller can choose a different topic instead of colors. (for example, they could call out “tshirts” and all those wearing tshirts quickly stand up. Students really need to be paying attention and focused as to not miss what is being called out. That’s part of the beauty of it.)
The previous caller gets to choose another caller and the game resets with everyone sitting down.
FREEZE Dance with a Twist!
This is a favorite no matter what age!! Turn on some lively, upbeat music. (Some favorites are “Hamster Dance”, “Boogie Wonderland-Happy Feet,” and “Mario Mix: Dance Dance Revolution”)
While the music is playing, students may dance around. As soon as the music stops, their bodies have to completely FREEZE! (this includes no talking and no falling down). It’s super fun when you, as the teacher, walk around and point out all the amazing freezing examples; even details such as those who are not even moving their eyes. The kids love this!
For a fun social twist, after each Freeze, have a signal (for example: In a sing- song or chant style voice say “Look left, look right, who do you see? Look left, look right, who’s looking at me?”) that cues them to look at and make eye contact with a person closest to where they are freezing and one, either introduce themselves or two, see if they can remember the other person’s name.
Dancing resumes when the music begins again!
Don’t forget to set the rules and routine for safety before starting this activity. Examples: boundaries in the classroom, staying off of furniture, being careful not to run, and personal safety spaces (Not touching anyone or anything as they move around)
I hope you find these “Getting to Know You” games and activities helpful in building your classroom community with positive relationships among your students. Of course, you can adapt them to work best for you. If you have more ideas you’d like to share with our teacher community, please feel free to message me at: email@example.com. I would love to hear from you and include your amazing ideas in future posts!! Have a wonderful week!
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