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.

Back To School Fall 2020

I know I just wrote about my blog schedule and that Monday’s are dedicated to past teachers and the influence they had on me/ still have on me. However, I felt like this subject was important to write about and it has been on my mind for weeks and weeks. 

Schools going back in the fall. There are so many politics behind this that I will not get involved in, but I still have been thinking about so many other situations. 

I worry about teachers who are putting their health at risk by going back. 

I worry about teachers who financially rely on this income to support their families and do not have the flexibility to find a new job, especially in this economy. 

I worry about retired teachers and those who have chosen not to go back next year that feel guilty for not being on the front lines as a teacher, but shouldn’t feel this way. 

I worry about the students’ health. 

I worry about COVID outbreaks in schools. 

I worry about the parents’ mental health either with sending kids back to school and the stress that comes with that, or keeping them home and again, the stress that comes with that. 

I worry about the students that utilized school as their refuge from undesirable home life and will not have that in their life. 

There are worries left and right about going back to school, keeping kids home, and all of the inconsistency this Fall brings for us. 

But we do have one certainty we always know to be true- The teachers will show up. They will adapt to online learning, socially distant classrooms, and more. There may be anxiety and stress behind it, but they will show up. It has proven true time and time again, and with my own teacher friends I’ve followed on social media. Most of them have expressed their frustrations and concerns, but at the same time, I see them wearing masks and making their classrooms socially distant. They worry about their students too and how much they will miss if they are learning from home without the proper support. 

How is your school going back in the Fall? What are you worried about and what can you look forward to? 

Last-Minute Kindergarten: Distilling What Matters Most

Hi, there! Mary Wade back again for a quick post as promised on Twitter a few weeks back:

Jumping from teaching 5th grade to kindergarten certainly made for a steep learning curve in those first several weeks, intensified by the fact that everyone in my family has taken turns passing around various illnesses ever since school started.

But now that things have finally settled down and I’m feeling more like myself as a teacher again, I’d like to share some insights. When necessity forces us to keep things simple, what matters most? We already know the answer, of course: relationships, relationships, and more relationships.

That was not really a surprise. But what did surprise me was what does not matter as much. It turns out that contrary to what Pinterest or other pressures might have us thinking, being a kindergarten teacher does not require…

love of crafts (nope; hands-on exploration through centers is my jam)

Our Look Closer Center is probably my favorite.

Perfect handwriting (I really thought this would be so much more important for kindergarten as they are learning to form letters, but it’s just been a great chance for me to revisit my own letter formation!)

Haha, one of my favorite discussions on the year so far! We wanted to know the difference before practicing writing our letters and numbers in shaving cream. I definitely did not anticipate the conversation would go this direction, but that’s kindergarten for you!

Drawing skills for labeling everything (kids are more than willing to help with this, and it creates more shared ownership anyway).

I love our class calendar. Students draw pictures representing each day on halves of index cards and then staple them up. They are always so proud of their shared work.
A few students volunteered to draw pictures of the different emotions and problem-solving strategies we generated together.

Every manipulative or tool under the sun (I felt crushed at first under the weight of things advertised at LakeShore Learning; I since have learned that an exacto-knife + recycled cardboard can make letter tiles on the cheap in a much more environmentally-friendly manner, anyway). However, I would be remiss if I did not give a shout-out to my many incredible and generous family members and friends that donated all sorts of beautiful supplies and furniture to get my room assembled nearly overnight!

I didn’t have student whiteboards, but I did have dry-erase sentence strips, clipboards, and a basket. Viola! Student whiteboard for practice writing.
My classroom on the first day of school, thanks to the hard work of many family and friends.

Posters for everything under the sun, waiting and ready for kids (turns out, the kids pay more attention to things they help create anyway; and it really is OK to build things up slowly over time. I have had many moments where I felt the impulse to prepare something for students, but then realized that it would be a more meaningful learning experience to co-construct it).

This poster is full of “sneaky letters” students have found or made that I snap a photo of. It kind of makes me crazy that it skips around and is incomplete, but it’s been an excellent exercise for me to let go and let the students take the lead!
We talked about the different kinds of stories people make during writing workshop, and I drew pictures of students’ ideas; I ended up printing the photo of this discussion, and it is now posted by our writing workshop cart for students to remember possible picture stories.

Signing my contract to teach kindergarten 6 days before school started was one of the crazier things I’ve ever done in my life. But now, I’m grateful for the way that it forced me to let go of less-important extras, and to focus on co-construction, sustainability, and ultimately, better work-life balance for me and more ownership for students.

What are the most important elements that have distilled in your room over the years? What are you glad you’ve let go of? How have these decisions improved what matters most for you and your students?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Eat Pete! Book Tour & 5 Other Unlikely Friendship Reads

Given the choice between an overt moral story vs silly humor for teaching friendship, I’ll pick the latter every time. Michael Rex’s Eat Pete! certainly fit the bill there!

The monster faces a major dilemma. While he does think playing with cars and blocks looks fun, he would also really like to just go ahead and eat Pete. Which he actually does, only to find that those games just aren’t the same.

Young readers will appreciate how much story is told in the pictures, especially the hilarious illustrations of the monster daydreaming about just going ahead and eating Pete already. I felt like Rex nailed the pacing of this story, maximizing the anticipation that readers will experience.

Eat Pete’s book birthday is tomorrow, and I’m pleased to have been invited on its book tour! To celebrate, I’d like to share a few more funny reads featuring friendships that get off to a bit of a rocky start.

#1: Sophie’s Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller & Anne Wilsdorf

#2: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

#3: My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown

#4: A Visitor for Bear by Bonnie Becker & Kady MacDonald Denton

#5School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

As you’ve probably noticed, these books also make for great read-alouds at the start of the school year! What are others you enjoy with your students?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Questions When You Join a PTA Board #TeacherMom

I decided to sign up to help with our local school’s PTA this year as secretary. Especially because I only have a few years left before I return to the classroom, I am excited to dig deeper into the parent side of school.

I’m hoping that because it’s an entirely new board, my continual question-asking will be seen as constructive rather than just annoying. But even as I have started to consider my role, I felt that writing a post might help me synthesize my thinking, as well as to share ideas for others.

  • What makes your school unique? What challenges does the community face, and what are some advantages it possesses? How can you find out more first-hand?
  • What are ways the school already fosters relationships between teachers, parents, and students? What are ways the PTA can facilitate even stronger connections?
  • How might inventorying past and potential events/programs benefit your school?
  • What are the ways parents prefer communication? How might you find out?
  • In what ways can you convey to parents that all their voices matter, even if they can’t attend meetings?
  • In what ways might you be responsive to the needs of parents, teachers, admin, and students as a PTA?
  • How might the PTA collaborate with the administration?

I am hopeful that we can find opportunities to strengthen connections among parents, teachers, and students!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into Friendship

Real learning — the kind that students carry with them and treasure in the longterm — is a vulnerable process. If we are to help our students get to a place where they are truly willing to put themselves out there, take risks, make mistakes, and try again, we need to take an active role in cultivating a classroom of trust.

It’s with that in mind that I share this week’s provocation on friendship.

Resource #1: Gymnastics student’s repeated efforts, via harleykyan

Resource #2: “Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton

Resource #3: The Wonderment online children’s platform

Meet Us In The Wonderment from The Wonderment on Vimeo.

Provocation Questions:

  • How are trust and the growth mindset connected?
  • How does friendship work?
  • Why does feeling a sense of belonging matter?
  • What is our responsibility to be a friend to others?
  • How has technology changed the way we can support each other?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto