A huge part of the Back to School season is ensuring that your students feel comfortable and connected in their new classroom environment. These tips will help you to use Getting to Know You activities to build a positive and inclusive classroom culture from day one.
I remember my first day of teaching like it was yesterday. The bell rang and 28 nervous nine-year-olds walked into my classroom and sat down. These students had been names on a class list for the last four weeks, but now they were 28 little humans, ready to spend the next 200 days in my classroom. I didn’t know these students, and they didn’t know me, but I knew then that I needed to build a positive community – a sense of team – with these children, and quickly!
Over the next ten years, I modified and honed my getting to know you icebreaker activities, picking up some great ideas from mentor teachers and others in the wider teaching community. Below are my tried and tested tips for using getting to know you activities in your classroom.
Compile a “Getting to know you” bag of treats
As a kid, I was fascinated by my teachers and loved hearing stories from their life and learning more about them. A great way to help students to get to know you is to share with them your bag of treats. This can be done in a variety of ways. Collect a range of artefacts that sum up who you are and what is important to you. As you pull out each item, the students can guess what significance the item has. [Side note – I am all about teaching and modelling expectations around putting hands up and listening to others. This activity is a great chance to address those routines from day one.]
– A keen gardener could include gardening gloves or a packet of seeds.
– A baker could add a wooden spoon or a cherished recipe.
– Someone who loves the beach could show a beach towel, a bucket and spade, or some sunscreen!
This fun activity:
- Builds a discussion
- Can introduce humour
- Helps the students to see you as more of a multi-faceted human.
I have seen this activity done with a few variations also.
- Create a PowerPoint presentation or short movie showing photos of you and your favourite things.
- Create a collage poster that highlights aspects of what makes you “you”. You could also place these in an area where parents can view it.
Aim to break the ice!
They aren’t called icebreakers for no reason…
Often the environment of those first few hours in a new classroom can be a mix of anxiety and awkwardness. A great way to break the ice, so to speak, is to play some fun icebreaker activities. This helps the students to get to know each other, to mix with children they don’t know and create a sense of fun.
Here are two of my favourite getting to know you icebreaker games. You can find the full range in our Team Building Ice-Breaker activity pack.
Think Outside the Box With Your Getting to Know You Activities
This is not your students first Back To School rodeo, so I challenge you to think outside the box and get creative with your activities. Your students may be new to you and to their new classroom, but they have been through their first-day jitters and routines before. Furthermore, they will have completed many getting to know you activities and icebreakers previously. The last thing you want to hear when you introduce your activity is a groan, and murmurs of, “We did that LAST YEAR!”
Our Getting To Know You Puzzle Poster
We have a great activity that can help you to get to know your students – a Getting to Know You Puzzle Poster.
I am a big fan of this activity for a bunch of reasons:
- The completed puzzles look stunning hung on your wall and are a great way to quickly have new art covering those often-blank beginning of the year walls.
- This activity will take around 5-6 days if you spend an hour or so each day. This gives you a considerable amount of time to move around the room and chat individually with every student. You can discuss a puzzle piece and its significance to the student, help with the cutting out of a puzzle piece, and generally and genuinely get to know your students.
- This activity encourages your students to talk to each other about themselves. Organically, your students will be asking questions and learning more about the people they are sitting around.
Watch this video to learn more about how you can use this activity in your classroom.
Our Getting to Know You Collaborative Puzzle Poster
I highly recommend our Getting To Know You Collaborative activity – great for the first few days of school. Students create a collaborative jigsaw puzzle that serves as a visual introduction of each child while also reinforcing the ideas of teamwork and classroom unity. Display the amazing puzzle to wow your school community. We even have a rocket ship and hot air balloon design available. Check them out here.
Digital Back to School Activities
Go paperless with our “Getting to know you” digital activities for Google Classroom. Start off the Back to School season in style with these dynamic, engaging and interactive activities – great for the first day of school activities. Get to know your elementary students and learn about their thoughts, feelings, and favorites with this great “All About Me” activity! The purpose of this resource is to capture who your students are right now and to get to know your students from day 1. Click here to get yours today.
Back to School Display Resources
We’ve made it easy for you to set up your classroom with some great Back to School Display packs.
Save With A Bundle
We put together a Back to School discounted bundle so that you can get our full range of Getting To Know You activities at a discounted price. This includes our puzzle poster, comic book, team building activities, and February writing prompts.
Did you say FREEBIE?
We have two great Getting to Know You freebies for you! Just sign up for our freebie library and you can download them today. When you sign up, you’ll also receive our regular email newsletter.
All the best for your Back to School Season! Please get in touch if I can help you out!
Onwards and upwards,