By Susan Jerrell, TOFT Founder
Get to know you activities are the staple of the first week of school for many teachers. With social distancing protocols, there are still ways you can create classroom culture and get to know your students. These 10 activities are enjoyable to students elementary through high school.
2 Truths and a Lie
This is a favorite activity for many students as they try to guess which clue is inaccurate. In the process they get to learn 2 things about each classmate. You can give them a topic or simply ask them to write down 2 facts that are true about them and one that is not.
When it is time to share the Truths and Lie you can either have the student read their own, have them randomly draw a paper and read it, or you can read them for them. After the three options are read, the class needs to determine which 2 are true and which is a lie. Depending on time and your goal, you can have the student tell a little about the two truths so students learn even more.
This or That
In this game you give students a statement and they have to decide whether they would choose This or That. Ex. If you had an hour to yourself, I would sleep or read. In the typical game, students would move to the right side of the room for “sleep” and the left side of the room for “read,” however, you can adapt this class favorite for social distancing by having students sit at their desk for the first choice “sleep” and stand up for the second choice “read.”
Students of all ages like this because they get to move a bit and because it is a very non-threatening way to learn about their classmates and to see what they have in common. There are a limitless number of topics, and this link will take you to a long list you can download. This is a fun brain break to use throughout the year as well.
This activity can be adapted in many different ways. The general idea is to pair students and have them interview each other and then share the information with the class. Depending on the age level and how much time you want to spend there are several adaptations
Give students a list of questions and have them interview each other and then verbally share the information with the class.
Students write their own questions, interview their partner and then write a short news story to introduce them. (As a journalism teacher I used this one so students got practice writing questions, interviewing, and writing a short profile. Within the first week I was able to teach and let students practice 3 standards and get to know each other.)
Have students interview each other with a video recording and then create a short introduction video that is shared with the class.
Have students interview their partner, take a digital picture and create a Q&A poster that can be put up in the room. Canva and Adobe Spark are both free resources that students grades 6 and up can use.)
Brown bag interview
This activity is enjoyed by all grade levels. Have students choose five small items that mean something to them or tell something about them and bring them to school in a brown bag. (You could use anything, but a brown bag, even if you have to give it to them, limits the size of the objects they bring and keeps the classroom space from being an issue.) You will do the same and model the exercise for them.
You will draw an item out of your bag and then explain why you chose that item and what it means to you or how it tells something about you. Continue until all five items are discussed. Each student will have the opportunity to tell about themselves through the items in their bag. You can spread this out over the first week.
Students of all ages like to learn about their classmates during this activity because even when they know the other students in the class, they usually learn something new. It is also very non-threatening because the student gets to choose their own items to share and talk about.
This activity allows students to draw and color, something students of all ages enjoy. (I used this activity with freshmen, and they loved it. Younger grades may need a printed name card that they can color.)
The first day of class, tell your students that you are going to try to learn all of their names by the end of the week and you need their help. Give them a piece of plain paper folded like a desk name plate. Instruct them to clearly print their name on the front and to then decorate it with pictures that describe them. They might choose to draw pictures of the band instrument they play, their favorite sport, their dog, their car, etc. When they finish, you can have them introduce themselves by sharing what is on their name card.
I had the students place the name card in front of them for the first week of school so that I could connect a name to their face until I learned all their names. It also helps with memory because you have visual cues about things that will help remind you of them. (The first year I did this, I was afraid they would think it was too elementary, but they actually told me it made them feel professional with their name card in front of them!)
Roll the Dice
This activity is simple and quick. Roll a die and then whatever it lands on the student whose turn it is has to share that number of things about themselves. You should model this. So if the die lands on 4, you will tell them 4 things about yourself. (Ex. I like ice cream. I have a dog named Bruce. I drink coffee every morning. My favorite color is red.) This shows the students that they can share simple, non-threatening information.
Print a handout that has a list of topics and ask students to write their favorite things. (movie, animal, sport, song, color, food, pet, TV show, book, etc.) For a nice touch take their photo, print it out, and add to the handout. These can be posted around the room as well as shared verbally.
You’ve Got Mail
Write a letter to your class telling them about yourself and a little about your class. Be sure to ask some questions throughout the letter about them. After you have shared the letter with the class, give them some paper so they can write a letter back to you. This activity allows you to learn a lot of information about your students as well as things like how well they write, organize their thoughts, follow instructions, etc.
A variation of this is to mail the letter to each student before school even starts. Everyone loves to get mail, and this is a good way to send them a friendly greeting before they meet you in person. If you do this, include paper so they can write you back and bring it the first day of school.
Collect old magazines and make sure each student has his/her own scissors and glue stick. Give each student a print out of a silhouette of a person’s head. Have them find pictures and words in the magazines that describe them. They should cut them out and glue them on the silhouette to create a personal collage. These can be shared with the class and then hung in the classroom.
Have students create a poem by using the first letters of their name. Each word they choose should describe them in some way. The older the student, the more detailed each line can become. See example for Janice:
When these are complete, include a photo and post around the room. Insta-bulletin board!
Get to know you activities are a great way to ease back into the school year and to help not only you, but to also help your students get to know each other.