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Sunday, August 2, 2015

The First Day - Building A Community

The smell of freshly sharpened pencils and anxiety....yup, it's the first day of school!  The first day can be so exciting, but feel so rushed.  School procedures, paperwork, and numerous questions can make you feel like you are drowning!

However, the focus of this time should be building a community within your classroom.  Set the tone that you are a family and are going to be on a journey together for the next 9-10 months (or more if you're year round!).  Everyone in your classroom is going to be spending a lot of time together.  Many of them will be working together at some point, and all of them will be working with you.  It is crucial to have them share things about themselves to help them make connections.  Here are some activities I have done on the first day (or throughout the first week if you feel crunched for time) that have really worked for me!

Student Scavenger Hunt: (My version is free here in my store!)
Getting the kids up and out of their seats to mingle is a great idea.  It helps get them a little more comfortable moving in their new space, and gives them a chance to really put names and faces together if they aren't familiar with their new classmates.  The best thing about the scavenger hunt is the teamwork I see happen as the activity progresses.

Now before we begin, I should mention that this has worked well with even my shy students.  They usually start by just handing the grid to another student (since everyone knows what is going on) and not saying anything, but usually by the end they are at least using phrases like, "Can you sign one, please?"  I was painfully shy when I was little, so I always try to find a way for even my wallflowers to really participate!

Okay, so each student gets a grid with statements like "has a little brother," or "loves sushi."  The students must put their name on the paper, then go around and have other students sign one statement that they relate to.  I tell them at first that their classmates can only sign one block and that I will sign one block as well.  The kids start directing each other to people who can sign blocks, which gets them talking to many different classmates.

It is great seeing the quick discussions of "Oh, I never knew you liked sushi!", or "You lived in another state?  Which one?"  The kids also get a HUGE kick out of having things in common with YOU.  This will most likely be the topic of conversation as they get in the car that afternoon.  "Dad, can you believe that Mr. Wilson plays the piano just like me?"

Now, as kids sit down with their completed grids, I start to ask people to try and sign something for the people standing so we can review.  After everyone takes a seat, we go through each statement and have everyone that fits that statement raise their hand.  Sometimes I'll ask questions like "Oh, what team sport do you play?"  Then, I'll say "Oh really, so how many of you play soccer?"  This helps the students really look around and see how much we all have in common.  We're all woven together by common threads, and this is a great visual for them and for you!  Not only will your kiddos know each other better, you will have a better picture of your class for the year.


Be sure to check out the other "First Day Tried and True" blog posts here:


  1. Love your student scavenger hunt!!! Building a community is so important! Great share!
    Tricia from "Tricia's Terrific Teaching Trinkets"

  2. Building a community during that first week is so important! I like how you help your shy students. It's so important for everyone to feel like they belong. Thanks for sharing! Great post!

    Education Electrification

  3. Aw, thanks Tricia and Sarah! Those first days sure set the tone! ;)

  4. Hi Carrie,
    I have a very similar scavenger hunt and could totally relate to what you said about watching the kids interact with each other. It is so fun to sit back and observe the conversations that unfold. Thanks for linking up!
    Undercover Classroom

  5. Aw, thanks Chrissie! I had a blast with it and the kids loved seeing what I would sign too! Thanks for the opportunity!