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Back-to-School - Fun First Day Activities

By Jennifer Dobson

Sometimes it seems just as hard for teachers to head back to school at the end of the summer as it is for students. Ease into the school year by taking time to get to know each other before the work begins. Here are a few games and activities that will help everyone get acquainted -- and might even start friendships that will last a lifetime.

Break the ice. Start by introducing yourself to your students. Of course, they will need to know your name, but then what? Tell them a story about how you felt when you were their age. Make sure to poke fun at yourself and the mistakes you made when you were in their grade at school. It will break the ice and give anxious students a boost of confidence when they realize you know exactly how nervous they feel and won't expect them to be "perfect." Then quiz them about what you talked about and offer small treats for those who get correct answers.

Turn the tables. Give children a homework assignment they actually won't mind doing. Have them create a quiz about themselves that you will take. Tell them the quiz needs to have five questions and must be turned in the following day. They could ask you what kind of pet they have, how many siblings they live with or where their family went on summer vacation. Over the next few days, find short periods of time where you can "take" each child's test during class. Read each student's quiz out loud and try to correctly answer all five questions. Children will think it's hilarious when the teacher gets a question wrong. The exercise will give the entire class a way to quickly get to know each other, and will be a great practice run for other assignments you will give them throughout the year. Children who do not turn the quiz in on time will quickly learn the consequences of lost or late homework.

Show and tell. Another great way to help children learn about themselves and each other is with a "me bag." Start the activity by showing your students five small items that represent who you are or how you feel. Hide items inside a paper lunch bag and bring them out one by one, explaining what each means. The bag could contain pictures of your family or something you use when you participate in your favorite hobby, such as crochet hooks or paint brushes. Include something that is made with your favorite color or has your favorite scent, then pass the items around the classroom. After you've shown students everything in your bag, pass out an empty bag to each of them and ask them to fill it with five of their own items, which can be shared with the class the following day.

Team building. It's important to establish class camaraderie, even on the first day of school. One way to help children understand how much they have in common with others is to play the "Just Like Me" game. You can start the activity by reading a statement about yourself. You might say, "My favorite food is pizza." Tell children when they hear anyone say something that they also like, stand up and say, "Just like me." Have students take turns revealing things they like - or even dislike, such as baths or Brussels sprouts!

Jen Dobson is a freelance writer and preschool teacher who invites you to take a look at one of her favorite online teacher school supply stores, MPM School Supplies. The site offers a huge selection of great products including everything from learning carpets and other school furnishings to craft materials and classroom decorations. Shop today and save up to 70% off retail!

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