Get to Know You Games for Back to School

We are officially on the countdown here for school starting in the fall! However, since we start mid-August, that’s technically late summer… Needless to say, school prep is in full swing at our house with my daughter starting preschool in 6 short weeks and myself trying to decide (just like every year) if I want to substitute teach a few days here and there. 

With going back to school also comes “get to know you games” that I am certain each teacher starts googling as they get closer and closer to that first day of school. Well never fear, I have a list here of great get-to-know-you games that you can pull out for students to get to know each other, and for YOU to get to know them. 

Would You Rather

Materials: A list of “would you rather” questions. 

How to play: Come up with, or even google search, a list of “would you rather” questions. These are questions like “Would you rather eat only vegetables all day, or only fruits all day?” or “Would you rather have indoor or outdoor recess?” You can come up with your own questions that you’re genuinely curious about, or find silly ones online! 

For them to tell you their decision, they choose a side of the room. You determine which side is which for each question, and the students all move to that side of the room to choose their answer. You can determine if you want the middle of the room to be “neutral” or if they MUST choose a side and cannot remain neutral. 

Drop The Cloth

Materials: A big blanket or sheet, not see-through and fairly wide.

How to play: Split the class into two teams. Choose two students as your “helpers.” These students can be swapped out throughout the game to make sure everyone has a chance to play. Create a line in the middle of the floor either with the blanket or a long piece of tape, and have the two teams sit on either side of the line, on the floor. Your two helpers will lift up the blanket, creating a barrier between the two teams so that they cannot see each other. Choose one person from each team to move forward and sit right in front of the blanket. On the count of three, the helpers drop the blanket and the two chosen students have to race to say the other student’s name before the other person. Whichever student says the opposite student’s name first, wins a point. Bonus, you as the teacher jump in with one of the teams to see how many names you can remember! 

How to win: You can either say “first to _____ points wins” or play as long as the game naturally goes, or until every student has a turn, and see which team has the most points in the end.

Snowball Fight

Age range: 2nd grade- high school (or once your entire class can read fairly well.) 

Materials: Plenty of paper, a large open space (a classroom can work fine, but somewhere like the gym or field outside can be better). 

How to play: Write out one “get to know you” question for each sheet of paper. You’ll need at least one question per child, but having 10-15 more is also beneficial to have a good variety of questions. You can either write these out yourself or if your students are older, you can have them submit their own get to know you questions. 

A distinct divider will need to be in the middle of the space you are playing in, whether that be a line on the gym floor or a strip of tape on the classroom floor. Divide your class into two teams and dump the crumpled pieces of paper into the middle of the floor. Give the students 30 seconds to a minute to then throw the “snowballs” across the room to the other team. 

*A great rule to have in place for this game is to only throw one snowball at a time. Don’t learn this the hard way as I did! 

Their goal is to have the least amount of snowballs on their side of the room when the timer goes off. Once the timer goes off, every student takes a seat where they are standing and grabs the nearest snowball to them. Then they uncrumple a piece of paper and answer the question to the class. Bonus if they say their name before answering the question! Go around the room until each student has read a question. If time permits, reset the game and play again! 

How to win: Whichever team has the least amount of snowballs on their side when the game ends, wins! You can do one round, or the best one out of three, three out of five, etc. This is also a great game for students to practice their listening skills as you quickly go around having students answer the questions. 

Two Truths and a Lie

How to play: Each student must come up with two truths and one lie about themselves. They can be provided with a paper to write them down if you feel like they will forget by the time the game is around to them. They’ll say the two truths and one lie out loud to the class in whatever order they would like, and the rest of the class has to determine which one is the lie. Here is an example.

I love orange juice. (lie)

My favorite color is blue. (truth)

I traveled to the Oregon coast this summer. (truth)

Go around the room until every student has had an opportunity to say their own two truths and a lie. 

How to win: This can be a simple “get to know you” activity where it’s just all fun and games with no winner. Or you can play individually where each person tracks their own points. Another way is to break the class into groups and have each of them decide together what the lie is, to bring in a little teamwork! And then keep score to see how many each group gets correct. 

Roll the Ball

Materials: A small ball 

How to play: The whole class sits in a circle. The teacher starts by rolling the ball across the circle to a student and asks the student a get to know you question. 

*Tip- sample questions can be written upon the board for students if they need to reference them. 

The student catches the ball, states their name, and answers the question. Then this student rolls the ball across the circle to a different student, repeating the process. Go until each has had a turn to answer questions.

A Few Facts To Help You Decide If Homeschool Is For You

Let’s talk pros and cons of homeschool to help other parents out there make the best decision of whether or not homeschool is the right answer for them. For this list, I will not be writing them out in a pro/con list necessarily, but rather in just a list. Because some points may be a pro for one family, but a con for another. So here are the facts! 

  • Homeschool your kids are home and around you 24/7, whereas a school where they leave for the day, you aren’t around them as much. 
  • Traditional schools are a built-in social atmosphere where kids learn how to interact with peers. In a homeschool scene, it takes more deliberate effort to create those social interactions with your kids. 
  • True homeschool comes with more flexibility in the curriculum. Online homeschool will have their set curriculum, but if you are solely your child’s teacher, you get to teach when, how, and where you want! 
  • There is a lot of flexibility in your day and your life when you homeschool. Many families take advantage of this by traveling more often. Worldschooling is also something worth looking into. 
  • Homeschool can be 100% tailored around the student, which is nearly impossible in any school with more students than just a few. That means if they are falling behind in reading, but excelling in math, their whole day can be planned around their needs. 
  • If it’s online homeschool, it’s not necessary to do as much planning for curriculum/day-to-day learning because the program takes care of that. 
  • If you are 100% homeschooling without an online platform, you choose the curriculum, plan everything out, and execute it. 

There are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to homeschool, and some of these points can be a very big deciding factor on whether or not a family chooses to homeschool. If you homeschool, how did you decide that it was the best journey for you and your family? Share below to hopefully help someone else make this decision! 

The Pros And Cons of Public School

When sending your child to school, there are a lot of options out there, not just public schools. It can be overwhelming to make a decision with so many options, what are the differences between public schools and charter schools? What about private schools? Is homeschool an option for your family? 

Over the next few weeks I am going to break down facts about different types of schools, listing pros and cons and points that may help you better make a decision. For today- let’s talk about public schools. 

Public schools are scattered throughout the nation, typically with boundaries throughout neighborhoods saying which homes attend which schools. Because they are open to the public, they are inexpensive. Usually, only a small fee for registration, if that. 

However, with the boundaries public schools bring, oftentimes it can mean lower-income students are clumped together and higher-income students are clumped together, which can lead to lower diversity levels. This stems from redlining. 

Public schools can create a sense of community for kids because they go to school with the same kids in their neighborhood. They walk together, play together, and go to school together. Another great aspect of public schools is oftentimes they are located close enough to homes that your child can walk or bike to school. 

A downside to public school is the amount of time it takes for new innovation to be adopted into the curriculum. Typically charter or private schools are more likely to bring in these methods before public schools do. 

It can also be hard to obtain a more individualized education because of larger class sizes, many parents can find concerns in not enough time and attention on their student and the help they need. 

Public schools are government funded, therefore the government plays a big role in not only the funding, but the teaching, the policies, etc. 

Overall, public schools have multiple pros and cons. And while some of these points may be a positive aspect to one person, it could mean a negative point to another. The purpose of this article is not to sway you one way or another, but to simply inform. 

What else would you include about public schools that might help a parent make a decision about what type of school they would choose for their children? 

A Book For My Book Buddy

https://honorsgradu.com/10-read-alouds-for-upper-elementary-grades/

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, schools shut down and children started learning from home. Everyone was very focused on making sure kids had the proper technology for at-home learning, and rightfully so. Teachers also worked overtime to set up bags of additional resources such as pencils, notebooks, and more.

But in some homes, especially those of lower-income, there were additional missing resources. Books.

Reading, and the love of reading is so important for children! But one teacher in Nampa, Idaho was set out to change that. She teaches in a low-income school where her students don’t have as much access to literature and were learning from home. So she reached out to family and friends asking for them to become “book buddies” with the 25+ students in her class.

All she asked was for them to send one book a month to the student they were paired with. I had the wonderful opportunity to become one of the book sponsors for this program. I’ve been able to send one book a month to my little friend in second grade. He even drew me a little picture and thank you note back!

I was so impressed with Rachel because she had the books delivered to her house for these students and personally drives around town to deliver each one to their homes.

It’s incredible to see the ingenuity, sacrifice, time, and love these teachers have for their students. What other incredible things have you seen teachers do for their students during the pandemic?

Talking To Students About Current World Affairs

It’s no secret that the United States is going through some historical times right now. A historical election, storming the capital, Black lives matter movements, and all during a global pandemic. 

It’s vital for us as educators and parents to talk with our kids about these events as they happen so that they can understand what is going on in the world around them. But it can be daunting to bring these conversations up in a classroom setting, especially in classrooms with older kids where conversations can run deeper and you never know where they will end up. 

Here are a few tips to be able to bring these conversations up in a civilized way in your classrooms. 

  1. State facts only, no opinions. It’s not our job to sway our students in a political direction, it’s our job to foster a learning environment for them to decide their own political beliefs. 

“Some individuals that identify with the republican party made the decision to riot and storm the U.S. Capitol.” 

“People in the Black community felt like they have not been treated equally with those in the White community, so protests are happening around the nation.” 

Yes, there is a lot of emotion in both of those statements, and your students will likely dive deep into them. However, just remember that your job isn’t to sway their political stance, but foster their education on both sides. 

  1. Be clear about what happened. Especially in the younger grades, they don’t need a lengthy background on what is going on. They need clear, cut-to-the-chase points. 
  2. Validate emotions. Again, emotions will come up and be high in a conversation regarding these events. Their emotions are valid and a natural reaction to the situation, validate them! Even if you disagree! 
  3. Set expectations for discussion and stick to them. Give a gentle reminder if needed. 
  4. Don’t be afraid! It can be daunting, but you never know where the conversations may go! Your students may surprise you with their insight and ability to regulate a conversation. 

Do you discuss political happenings with your kids? What other tips would you include? 

Historical Teaching

When I was in school, my absolute least favorite subject was history. Ugh. Every year I received my school schedule (back when it was mailed to you, not just found online), and would roll my eyes when I saw my history class. It didn’t matter what type of history! U.S. history, World History, Ancient history. Nope. I just couldn’t stand any of them! 

Until one day… 

I walked into my American History class in 10th grade to a teacher that was new to the school. She sat at the front of the classroom like she meant business, and I respected that but also went in with the knowledge that I already hated her class and everything she taught. The first few weeks were just getting to know the classroom and procedures, but eventually, we got into the thick of American History. 

This time the history I was learning was different… I actually cared and enjoyed it. 

No, this couldn’t be right! I hated learning about history! But this time when we got into each different unit, I cared about the people and their background and what they had done for our country. What changed? Had I suddenly become a history guru?? 

Here’s what I noticed. I was caring about the Wild West and the California Gold Rush because my teacher cared about it. She had a light in her eyes when she taught that she genuinely loved what she was teaching, and passed that passion along to us. 

She cared about her students. 

She cared about the content she was teaching. 

She didn’t just recite historical facts to us, she told us stories about history. 

She made me realize that learning and teaching about history and social studies can be exciting and more than facts. It can be full of story telling and looking up to idols, not just memorizing dates and people. 

She also taught me a new way of teaching, that we aren’t there solely to cram information into student’s brains, but to build relationships and have them learn to love the material as much as we do. All because she cared. 

Check out this TedTalk about teaching history in the 21st century.

Let’s Get Behind This #ClearTheList Movement

If you’re an educator out there, please tell me you’ve heard of the #clearthelist campaign. If you haven’t please look into it! If you have, please make a wishlist!! Some background to the #clearthelist idea: one teacher in Texas named Courtney Jones used her social media as a powerful, powerful tool to share her Amazon wishlist with friends and family of different items she would need in her classroom. Which then spread to her sharing the idea as far and wide as she could. 

Teachers spend so much money out of pocket on supplies that are so beneficial to their students. And on top of that, there are so many generous donors out there willing to help how they can. Courtney’s goal was to connect the two, and she has very, very successfully! 

This campaign has gone so viral, even celebrities are posting about it. 

Sometimes, big companies choose one #clearthelist to actually…. Clear the list! Like how T-Mobile decided to help this teacher out. What warms my heart the most is that she turned around and tried to pay it forward to as many teachers as she could. 

What an amazing project started by this teacher! We love innovative thinkers who can use social media for good (for example, have you seen our yearly scholarship?)

Look how excited teachers get over these donations! 

For the past two school years, I have dedicated a small amount of money to donate to other’s #clearthelist Amazon wishlists. I typically donate to friends and family first, and then I choose a stranger from social media to donate to. 

Finding Amazon wishlists to donate to can be so easy for you as well! 

-Ask your friends and family that are educators if they have an Amazon wishlist they can share with you. 

– Do a quick social media search (on basically any social media site) with the hashtag #clearthelist. Read through other teacher’s stories and why they need the materials they do. Then choose one to donate to! 

There are Amazon lists with $3 items, and some with $500+ items. Even just sparing $3 for an educator can make the biggest difference in their classroom! 

Do you have any success stories with #clearthelist you want to share? Leave it in the comments! We would love to hear! 

Graphic by Kelsie Housley