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Five Activities to Start the School Year Off Right

Colleen Potter
June 28, 2021

Those first few days of a new school year or semester can be filled with mixed emotions for educators and students alike. However, these first few days are also arguably the most important. They help set the tone for what’s to come and are vital in building relationships and creating a classroom atmosphere that invites learning.

Here are five activities that your students are sure to love, which will:

  • Help you get to know your students
  • Help your students get to know each other
  • Set the groundwork for creating a safe and inviting learning environment

Read on for five copy and paste activities that you can use with your students.

Not sure how to create an activity in Spaces? Learn how.

Activity #1: Creating a Classroom Community

Creating an inclusive and inviting classroom environment is the first step in setting students up for success in a new school year/semester.

This activity has students take part in co-creating classroom community pillars to guide and shape the learning environment, by sharing what they believe makes a safe learning space.

Just copy and paste the instructions below and assign the activity to your students! (Note: we recommend adding both audio and written instructions)

Once students have completed the activity, review student submissions and make note of the common themes that emerge.

Post the top themes that emerge in your Class Space, and have students vote on the three they feel are the most important. These three items then become your classroom community pillars and act as a learning contract for all class members!


Activity instructions to copy and paste

Title: Creating a Classroom Community

Space: Individual

Instructions:
As a class, we will co-create our classroom community pillars. These are the things that will guide us throughout our time together and ensure we are all contributing to a positive, safe, and inclusive learning environment.

Choose the format of your choice (video recording, audio recording, or written text).

Please share:
1. What a positive and safe learning environment means to you
2. Three things that need to happen for you to feel part of a classroom community
3. How you can contribute to creating a positive and safe class community


Activity #2: Name Game

Has your name ever been pronounced incorrectly? Or maybe you’ve mispronounced someone else’s name in the past?

Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to correct people when they get our name wrong. The Name Game helps avoid this while helping your students feel valued and respected.

This quick activity has students record themselves saying their own name and then share any other relevant information related to their name, such as a preferred name or nickname.

Review the submissions and leave audio feedback, saying their name and sharing something about your own.

This activity can be assigned to either a student’s Individual Space (private to you and that student) or the Class Space. By assigning it to the Class Space, once you release the completed activity, all students will be able to hear how others pronounce their own names. However, if more sensitive information will be shared, you may wish to assign it to the Individual Space.


Activity instructions to copy and paste

Title: Name Game

Space: Class

Instructions:
Let's kick off the school year on the right foot.

1. Use the audio recording tool to share how your name is pronounced
2. Add anything else I should be aware of (ex. if you have a nickname or a shortened version of your name that you prefer I use)
3. Is there a unique or interesting story behind your name? Feel free to share it!


Activity #3: Breaking the Ice

For some students, it can be daunting when faced with a class full of new faces. Ease the anxiety and help create a class community with this activity.

Break the ice has students get to know a classmate better by interviewing them and reflecting on what they found out.

Copy and paste the instructions below and assign the activity to your class. After assigning it, split the class into pairs and have them interview each other using the format of their choice. After students have submitted their interview and reflection, review and release the submissions so that all students in the class can get to know one another better!


Activity instructions to copy and paste

Title: Breaking the Ice

Space: Class

Instructions:

You've been assigned a classmate to get to know better!

1. Interview your classmate using the prompts provided below (you can record the interview in written or audio form)

  • Favorite subject
  • Hobbies
  • Something not many people may know about them
  • Where they would visit if they could go anywhere in the world and why
  • Favorite TV show/movie
  • What food they would choose to eat for the rest of their life if they had to eat the same thing every day
  • Something they could teach someone else how to do

2. Upload your interview as part of this activity.

3. Explain what you learned about your classmate

  • Did anything surprise you?
  • Do you have any common interests/similarities?
  • What would you like to learn more about?

Activity #4: A Letter to Your Teacher

Looking to get to know your students better and begin laying the foundation for a successful school year?

This activity, designed for the Individual Space, has students write you a letter outlining their hopes and fears for the school year, how they prefer to learn, and what they value in a teacher and in a learning environment.

Copy and paste the instructions below and assign the activity to your students. After students have submitted their letters, respond with a letter of your own!


Activity instructions to copy and paste

Title: A Letter to Your Teacher

Space: Individual

Instructions:

To help me get to know you a bit better, please write a brief letter (or record a video) sharing the following:

  • what you enjoyed the most about last school year
  • what you're looking forward to this school year
  • what qualities a great teacher has
  • what you're nervous about
  • one thing you'd like me to know about you
  • what inspires you
  • whether you are introverted or extroverted
  • how you learn best (a quiet environment, hands-on activities, collaborative groups, etc.)

Activity #5: Ready, Set, Goal!

Help set your students up for success right from the start of the new school year/semester by having them set a SMART goal with an action plan to achieve it.

If your students are not familiar with setting SMART goals, you may wish to have a discussion about them prior to assigning this activity.

Simply, copy and paste the instructions below and assign the activity to your students.

Optional: include the URL below to give your students examples of SMART goals


Activity instructions to copy and paste

Title: Ready, Set, Goal!

Space: Individual

Instructions:

Set yourself up for success this school year by creating a SMART goal for yourself, along with an action plan (3-5 steps you will take to meet your goal).

Consider: what do you want to achieve in this course or, more broadly, this school year?

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. See below and the link provided for examples of SMART goals.

Not a SMART Goal: I want to participate more.

SMART GOAL: By November 1, 2021, I will have raised my hand in class at least three times a week to answer questions and improve my overall participation.

Media Attachments: https://www.developgoodhabits.com/smart-goals-students/


Bonus Activity

Looking for a fun and engaging ice breaker activity for students?

Read: Break the Ice in the New School Year with This Activity!

Do you have a fun activity that you use with students at the start of a new school year or semester? Tweet us @spaces_edu to share!

Colleen Potter

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