Engaging kids with these community building activities for the first week of school. Help children learn and practice social skills and develop friendships.
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!
Community Building Activities You NEED for the First Week of School
To be successful in school, it’s important that students have the opportunity to get to know each other, work together and learn how to depend on each other. You will want to provide them ample opportunity to learn these skills through community-building activities.
Ice Breakers as Community Building Activities
Ice breaker games are sometimes ineffective in really helping students learn about each other in a genuine and non-threatening way. But these ideas are fun and easy for anyone, even the shyest student, to participate without anxiety. Let students get to know about each other with one or more of these ice-breaker activities.
- 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.
Lessons and Printables that Make Good Community Building Activities
One way to build community is to actually teach the necessary social-emotional development skills. Try some of these lessons and printables. You will easily be able to guide the students. They will 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 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. 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. “Think” before you speak. T= Is it true? H = Is it helpful? I = Is it inspiring? N = Is it necessary? K = Is it kind?
- Warm Fuzzy Jar: Have a class meeting discussing character traits needed to have a positive community in the classroom. Then, try this technique. Pass out fuzzy balls to children who show kindness, cooperativeness, or acceptance. They can place the fuzzy balls into a jar. 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!
Games as Community Building Activities
Try out some of these fun games with your students! They will not even realize they are learning how to cooperate, communicate, and socialize.
- 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 Activities: STEM
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.
Community Building Activities: Books
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.
Community Building SEL Resource for Back to School
This back to school social emotional learning resource is the perfect companion to your start of school lesson plans. It includes mini-lesson ideas and engaging activities that build connections in the classroom and teach important social and emotional skills to children during the most important time of year!
The mind+heart SEL back to school resource and activities will support kids as they learn to be positive members of the classroom community, develop self-awareness, build new relationships, and act with kindness and empathy.
More Back to School Ideas
Free Week of Morning Meeting
Try social-emotional morning meetings in your classroom with this FREE week-long resource! It includes editable PowerPoint and PDF slides, printable cards, and instructions on how to use. Click the image below to grab a copy.
Community Building in the Classroom
Classroom Essentials that Teachers MUST Have for Back to School
Back to School Ideas for a Stellar First Week
Community Building Resources
Strengthen your classroom community and help build students that are socially aware, confident, and capable with the mind+heart comprehensive Social Emotional Learning curriculum for K-2.
FREE Social Emotional Learning Email Series
Sign up for the social emotional learning email course filled with tips to get you started, lesson and activity ideas, PLUS tons of FREE resources you can access right away. Everything you need to teach social skills and emotional literacy in the classroom!
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