That Awkward Week: Tips to Break the Ice in the Classroom

Here you go.

20+ students all to yourself. The first week of school has begun. Between getting your classroom in order, and trying to survive on what is (most likely) a few hours of sleep, you now have a brand new set of kids to work with.

What is a teacher to do?

First of all, don’t panic. Just like the kids in front of you, this is a learning experience. You are all about to embark on a (roughly) 180-day journey together. It may seem a little nerve-wracking, but at the end of the day, you are all new to each other. Capitalize on that idea!

Not only are you meeting students for the first time, but they are meeting you for the first time. Also, they may be meeting new peers for the first time. Use that to your advantage and make it fun! This will be one of the few times per year where easing into something won’t be so jarring, as curriculum/testing/whatever-it-may-be-is going-to-be breathing down your neck at every turn. It is important to establish your classroom as an environment that budding minds will look forward to every day. Build that foundation from the start.

There’s a whole slew of ideas you can find online for enjoyable “First Week of School” activities. A simple search on Google or Pinterest will lead you to a variety of different options.  For example, if you are looking for an activity that doesn’t require more than a print-out (for free) and some crayons or markers, there is the digital twist on the popular “All About Me” activity.  In this version, called “All About My Selfie #,” students create a drawing of themselves and a description with their favorite hashtags.  This free download also comes with another print-out activity called, ” My Life in Apps” that involves students designing 9 apps that capture details about themselves with app artwork.  Two simple ways to start learning about each other found with one Pinterest search. It might be fun to complete one of these with the class, so they can learn about you, too. Printouts can be found Here.

You could also just save magazines from around your house, or collect them from family and friends, and have students make a collage of pictures that identify their loves in life, and have the students present as they finish them. This will definitely demonstrate what kind of kids you have in a visual form!

Just a note to think about — when administrators observe you during the year, it is important to take into account the elements of small groupings. For the younger ones, you can term this as “think-pair-share.” When doing an icebreaker game, work it into your week of learning about everyone. Have students “think pair share” or communicate traits to each other, and then have the students repeat back to the class and to you about what they learned about their buddy. Not only is this showcasing an element of the classroom that will be revisited over time, but it also helps students build comfort with the people they don’t know.

Of course, you’re going to get to a point where the socializing quietly ends and you have to introduce curriculum, and possibly start Developmental Reading Assessments (DRAs). However, think about it this way you, just learned a little something about each one of the students you have in your brand new class.  These moments won’t happen as much as you want, so it’s good to get them in while you can, and those first five days are crucial. What you take away from the first week of school is extremely important, as you start to tap into the interests of each child and begin a foundation that will lead to deeper learning and a great year together. With that being said, good luck and have a great year!

Logan J. Fowler is a Special Education Instructional Assistant at Manville School District. He also is a freelance writer for, The BingeCast, and Rush Order Tees.'

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