Back-to-School Community Building and Breaking the Ice

August is upon us and if you haven’t already started thinking about your first few days of school with students, you soon will. A big part of the first few days is building community, setting up routines and procedures, and plain ol’ “getting-to-know-you” type stuff.

Nothing wrong with any of that; in fact, it’s essential. Relationships, community, and routines are crucial to the success of any classroom.

But put yourself in the shoes of a middle-schooler (or high-schooler, for that matter) who has just filled out, for the fourth time, a “Getting to Know You” worksheet or has played “People Bingo” for the third time in one day.

There are better ways 🙂

Work with Your Team or Department

The “Getting to Know You” things are crucial, but what about a team/department google form?

People Bingo and other activities that get kids up and moving around the room are great too, but how about as a team, just doing it once?

Class procedures are necessary, but instead of reading them, how about giving 8 minutes private reading time (or less) and then doing a 10 minute kahoot on the high points? I promise kids will be more engaged in learning about class/team rules and procedures than they would be otherwise.

How About a Couple of Engaging Labs?

Science teachers, what about an engaging guided inquiry that builds in interactivity, partner and group work, AND asks students to start using scientific dialog while working with variables all the while building community? On top of all of that – requires little in the way of “real” science supplies?

Here’s a bundle of two guided inquiry labs that are suitable for grades 6 – 9.

Guided Inquiry Bundle

These engaging labs are great anytime but are especially good for the beginning of the year because they don’t require a lot of equipment – great for those first few weeks back to school when things are so very hectic. All you need for both bundles is meter sticks, paper clips, paper, scissors, and some sort of timing device – I have my students use their mobile phones 🙂

The bundle also has a couple of logic puzzles – great for transitions, enrichment, or even as a part of sub plans and as an ADDED bonus, there is also an editable powerpoint on experimental design, variables, controls, and constants.

Give it a try this year and see if your students don’t respond better than they do to the same ol, same ol, getting to know you worksheet. 

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