When planning for my first week of school, I plan for content (of course), but I also decide what routines and procedures to teach each day and then I like to tie in a culture building piece too. It is not reasonable to teach every routine and procedure in one day, but you can teach 2-3. Building classroom culture cannot be done in a few days (or weeks), but you can start your year setting this positive tone for both students and yourself with some first week of school activities.
First week of school ACTIVITIES TO BUILD CULTURE & TEACH ROUTINES
1. How to work in groups with an Interview Activity
This realization came to be once a couple of years ago when I found out that in November some of my students still didn’t know the names of their table mates! Say what!? In order for students to be successful in class, they have to have the full support of their teammates. I’m thinking that it is harder to ask for help from someone who is nameless.
The Routine: Students in my classroom must ask the help of every person at their table before asking me. I explain to my students that they learn by teaching each other!
The Activity: The activity that I am going to try out this year is table interviews. You give students a list of questions and they take turns asking the questions to their table mates. This breaks the ice, is non threatening for students who struggle with math/reading/science, and is an activity where you can float around and answer interview questions from students, but only after they have asked everyone at their table. Practice makes permanent!
2. How to Move Around the Classroom Safely with a Matching Activity
The most stressed I get as a teacher is when students are out of their seat without permission. This does not mean that students must always remain seated in my class, it just means that I have very specific procedures around moving safely around the room. I teach how we stand, how we push in our chairs, how to wait for their tables to be called, the volume when we are walking around the room, the speed, and the awareness of our bodies. This seems ridiculous, right? Actually students must be taught this or you will have students literally on the floor.
To build culture and practice this routine, students will participate in “Salt and Pepper.” Essentially, students will all have words taped on their backs (one student might have the word ‘salt,’ and they will have to walk around until they find their match (‘pepper) using only descriptive clues. A spin on this activity is to make students get in birthday order without talking. They get to release their wiggles, practice how we move around the room, and use their brains.
3. Other Activities
Although these activities don’t align to a procedure, they can still help build culture and break the ice with students.
- Two Truths and a Lie – Quick ice breaker that requires no prep work.
- This or That – Builds camaraderie among classmates. You could have students defend their answers and practice answering in complete sentences. (Stand if you prefer waffles to pancakes. Call on students and ask them to explain why.)
- Rock, Paper, Scissors, Posse – This teaches students to cheer their teammates on even when they lose.
- Telephone – If you have 2-3 minutes to kill and you need students to be quiet. 🙂
- Simon Says – Classic. You could tie this into how it is important to follow directions.
- Heads Up Seven Up – Even my sixth graders love this! This activity is self run, so it forces students to learn the names of their classmates.
If you are interested in more activities to build culture in the first week of school (or really anytime), check out this bundle here. The activity includes the Interview Questions Worksheet, the Salt and Pepper Matching Activity, a paper version of This or That, and 8 more activities. I plan on using more of the activities during advisory or if we are advised to stay inside during recess because of the heat. It is always better to have this stuff on hand ready to go! What are your go to first week of school activities? Telephone is my favorite! For math related activities, you can find all of them here.