Having community building activities for the first week of school is a great way to bring the students in your classroom together and involve everyone. Make your new class of students feel welcome and empowered by trying some of these ideas!
Activities for the First Week of School
Community Building Ice Breakers
- Classroom Meetings: The classroom meeting routine is essential for breaking the ice – daily! It will bring your students together in a collaborative discussion where everyone feels equal and their thoughts are valued.
- Sorting into Groups: Have students sort themselves into groups based on things they may have in common. For instance, ask students to find students whose names start with the same letter as theirs, whose birthdays are in the same month, whose eye color is the same as theirs, or what color shirt they’re wearing. Ask questions that are non-threatening and not discriminating, and that are fast and easy for students to answer and find similar companions.
- This or That: Similar to the activity above, students move from one side of the room to the other. Give them two choices, such as “Pizza, or Macaroni and Cheese?” and let them sort themselves into the designated side based on their preferences.
Community Building Lessons and Printables
One way to build community is to actually teach the necessary social emotional development skills. By trying some of these lessons and printables, you will easily be able to guide the students to adopt attitudes and behaviors that will foster a positive learning community in your classroom.
- Friend Wanted: This idea for teaching students about friendship and to give them the opportunity to learn more about each other is brilliant. With “Friend Wanted Ads,” students are encouraged to open up their minds to friendship possibilities with other students in the room, and important life skills are taught about how to be a good friend.
- THINK: Teach children this handy acronym for remembering how to speak kindly to each other by “thinking” before they speak. T= Is it true? H = Is it helpful? I = Is it inspiring? N = Is it necessary? K = Is it kind?
- Warm Fuzzy Jar: After a class meeting discussing the character traits necessary to have a positive community in the classroom, try this technique. Pass out fuzzy balls to children who show kindness, cooperativeness, or acceptance. They can place the fuzzy balls into a jar and when the jar is full, the whole class can celebrate!
- Expressing Emotions: Help children learn to identify and express their emotions appropriately through engaging hands-on activities. Try the Express Yourself board game as a fun alternative!
Community Building Games
- Puzzles: Sometimes a simple puzzle is all it takes. Puzzles are an easy group task that you can use as a team effort. Sort students into small groups, and give each group a puzzle to complete. The first team to complete their puzzle gets a prize, or just bragging rights. Either way, it’s a simple and easy activity that will get them working together.
- Ball Toss Name Game: Students sit in a circle and take turns tossing a large, soft ball. As they toss the ball, they say the name of the person who is to catch it. Play proceeds until the names of the children are well-known.
- More Ideas!: If this isn’t enough, here are many more ideas and activities to build community.
Community Building STEM Activities
Add in a little Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math with these fun activities. They’ll encourage students to use their skills in those subjects to solve a problem together.
- Building a Tower or Bridge: There are so many variations of this activity, and all of them are fun. Provide students with materials to build a tower or bridge, set the rules for how the design must be constructed, and watch them collaborate to meet a goal. Inexpensive materials, such as popsicle sticks, toothpicks, straws, gumdrops, marshmallows, rubber bands, spaghetti noodles, are popular items to provide.
- Making Friends with Math: This rock, paper, scissors style game and printable activity is perfect for children to practice Math skills as well as get to know each other.
Books that Encourage Community
Here are a few favorite books that help teachers build community in their classroom. By reading these books aloud to your class, you can point out themes of friendship, cooperation, inclusion, and positive attitudes.
- Read How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids by Tom Rath, to help students discover how to recognize when their friends’ “buckets” are empty.
- Roxaboxen is a timeless tale that celebrates community. It is written by Alice McLerran and illustrated by Barbara Cooney.
- Students will enjoy the story of inclusion, respect, and individuality in The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig.
Try any of these community building activities for the first days or weeks back to school, and watch the students in your classroom grow and learn in a positive and encouraging environment.
More Community Building Activities
Social Emotional Learning Lessons & Activities
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