6 Activities I Use To Build Connections With Students At The Beginning Of The Year

6 Activities I Use To Build Connections With Students At The Beginning Of The Year

by Jackie Gerstein

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Most classes, starting with about middle school, begin the school year with reviewing the content to be covered, expectations regarding grades, and other academic information provided by the teacher or instructor. The human or social element is often disregarded.

What is interesting is that most learners enter the classroom wondering who is in the course. They want to know about the teacher and the people in the class not what material is to be covered. What this says to me as an educator is that it all begins with a social connection – between the educator and the learners, and between the learners themselves.

Because of this belief, I begin all classes focusing on having the students make connections between themselves and me. I want students to learn about one another in a personal way. I want to learn about my students so my instructional strategies can be more personalized and tailored to their needs and interests. 

Based on age/grade level, I have begun my classes in a variety of ways. What follows is a sample of activities I have used to begin the school year or even college course.

1. Team Contract

Class members meet in small groups to develop guidelines for making the classroom a safe place to learn and to take risks. The groups then create a visual project that represents their guidelines.

 

The activity in the pictures is called Puzzling Moves Tangrams – a favorite of students of all age students.

All About Me Activities

Some example activities I have done:

2. About Me Posters

These provide a great way to get to know students. After they are completed, I ask students to share them with the rest of the class and allow time for questions of each presentation.

For the older students, I had them randomly select another class member and they used the Biography posters to create a biography for the selected student. These were posted on one of the classroom walls drawing immediate attention of classroom visitors.

3. I Am Poems

Students created I AM Poems using magnetic poetry.

4. Personalized Wallet

Students began by creating an origami wallet. They then drew self-portraits and included identifying information.

5. ‘Roomination’

When I taught 6th grade, I did not spend the week prior to the school year decorating the classroom for the students. I just piled the furniture and wall decorations in the middle of the room. In small groups, students developed blueprints for the classroom. Teams presented their designs to the rest of the class and their favorite design was voted upon. Students arranged the room according to the winning design.

6. Building Cubbies

After the Roomination exercise, students built and painted their own cubbies. I provided the wood pieces and specifications, but the students built them needing to assist one another to do so. They individualized their cubbies through painting them as they desired.