Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to School / First Week Activities

Cheat Cheat Never Beat...

or so they say.

But, I am beat.  Exhausted really. 

Armed with my Cricut, I'm channeling my inner craft goddess and going all Martha Stewart on this 1st Birthday Party.

And because we are shifting around rooms in the house, I am currently displaced from my little studio and working in the kitchen.

You know...because it is safe to work with paper on top of the stove.  Luckily for me, I haven't cooked since half past forever so I had no worries that said stove would be on.
There is nothing wrong with child labor.  I'm a big fan of it at home and at school.

So today I'm going to cheat.

And by cheat I mean republish last year's back to school post(s).  In my defense, the playdough is SO worth mentioning again.  Plus, last summer I think I had about 2 readers and so I'm sure some of you missed it.  ;)  

I always start the year by making playdough the day before school starts.  It's really easy and cheap to make  and kids LOVE it regardless of how old they are.  I leave it white when I make it.  

I roll it into balls (one for each student), poke a small hole in each with my finger, add a few drops of food color and then cover the hole. I then place each ball into a ziploc bag and put a bag at each child's seat for their arrival.  

After they arrive I instruct them to squish up the bag to see what happens.  They oooh and ahhh over the "magic" (even in 3rd grade).  Having them mush it in the bag prevents them from getting the food coloring all over their hands.  After the color is well-blended I have them take it out of the bag.  I give them about 5 minutes of "free play" with it and then instruct them to make certain things:
  • their initials
  • their favorite animal
  • their favorite food
  • something to represent their favorite subject in school
After they create each we share them.  It's a great get to know you activity, but also gives them something to do to release any nervous energy they have.  Also if something unexpected occurs (student added to roster, parent that stops by, crying child who won't come in) it gives the class something quiet to do at their seats until you can focus your attention on them.  This is key since you will not have any guidelines, rules or expectations in place at that point.

You could also have large sheets of paper and crayons available to have the children illustrate a self-portrait.  Not only do these make an easy, colorful and appropriate display, but I love having them repeat this activity at the end of the year.  They always grow so much as artists.

Another favorite activity of mine is to create a "Who's in Our Class" word search.  There are some great free online sources for generating them.  All you need to do is type in the first names, print and copy.  Just be sure to check the word search and make sure everyone is included.

I've also done crossword puzzles with their names, but find that some children need help.  The goal is to have some fun, independent activities available so that you are free to tend to unexpected first day issues that may arise.
I've compiled some of my favorite activities for the 1st week of school to create a collection of "Back To School Printables" for grades 2-5.  There are elements that could be used for grades K-1 as well (illustrating, self-portraits, handwriting samples, handprints) and you could scribe for the little ones if you wanted, but these are designed for 2-5 to do independently.  

The unit includes:

1. Teacher Guide

2. All About Me 
This is a 2 page set. It includes a lined paper titled, “All About Me” and a drawing page titled, “This is Me.” Students use these pages to write about themselves and/or illustrate a self-portrait. These activities are great to do at the beginning, middle and end of each school year as they really show the progress the child has made as a writer and artist. They also make a quick and easy bulletin board display.

3. Bio Poem 
The students complete the cloze activity to create a bio poem about themselves. The pages can be kept as is or they can be used as a rough draft. These are beautiful keepsakes when they are typed and illustrated by the children.

4. Classmate Bingo
Each student begins by completing the sentences at the bottom to tell about themself. The student then cuts that part of the page off and gives it to the teacher. The teacher provides the class with a list of student names (either reproduced individually or written on the board to be copied) and the children write one name in each box. If there are more boxes than names you may consider asking specialists, the nurse, the custodian, or the principal to fill out a paper as well. To play: pick one info page from the collection and read the sentences out loud. See if anyone can guess who it is before reading the name at the end. Students then mark that space on their bingo board (pasta makes a cheap and easy marker if you do not have bingo markers). 

5. Getting to Know Me Gazette
Students use words and/or pictures to complete this personal newspaper about themselves. You can use the completed pages to make a bulletin board display or bind them into a class book that is sure to be a favorite throughout the year.

6. How I Spent My Summer Vacation
This is a 2 page set. It includes a lined paper and a drawing page that are both titled, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” Students use these pages to write about and/or illustrate the highlights of their summer. ou can use the completed pages to make a bulletin board display or bind them into a class book that is sure to be a favorite throughout the year.

7. I Am Poem 
This is a 2 page set. It includes a graphic organizer for branstorming ideas and a cloze activity to create the poem. The cloze activity can be the finished product or it can be edited for spelling and then published as a final draft. These look beautiful when you add a photo of the child and create a display. They are also cherished keepsakes and make wonderful holiday gifts for the families.

8. K-W-L About My New Grade
This is a 2 page set. It includes two KWL charts. The first is formatted in narrow columns and the second has been created with wider columns. This is a great way to introduce or review what a K-W-L chart is. Start by having the students brainstorm a list of things they already know about their new grade level (or classroom or teachers). Then have them generate a list of questions about their new grade level. Bring the class together to share their lists. You may want to compile them into a master list on poster paper or using an overhead projector. At the end of the 1st week of school have the sudents complete the last column by recording some things they have learned about their new grade. 

9. Math About Me
The students begin by completing the sentences using the numbers that apply to them personally. Next, they create a collage of those numbers. To create the collage you can either have them write the numbers using markers, crayons or colored pencils or you could have them cut those numbers out of magazines and newspapers and glue them to the page.

10 My Picture is Worth Many Words
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. To complete this activity attach a photo of each child to the center of the page (or have each student draw a 
self-portrait). Next, have each child brainstorm a list of words that tell about themself. This is a nice opportunity to discuss nouns and adjectives or even introduce a thesaurus. Have the children count the number of words they wrote and write that number on the line in the title. Cut out the box, mount onto colored paper and either display the finished products individually or create a class book.

11. New Classroom Scavenger Hunt
This activity can be done individually or in pairs. The students explore their new classroom and record something that fits into each category onto the chart. They can either use words, pictures or labeled illustrations to document their findings.

12. Squiggle Art
This activity shows that everyone is unique and that people often see things differently. The black squiggle is the start of a picture. Encourage the children to use their imaginations and incorporate that black squiggle into their own drawing. There are lines below the drawing box to write about what they drew. This makes a fun display or a class book. It is also a nice activity to do at the start and end of a school year to show personal growth in each student.

13. Time Capsule
This is a 5 page set. You may elect to do any or all of the activities. The idea is for the students to complete the activities at the start of the year and then revisit them at the end of the year. This set includes:
-a self-portrait
-a handprint (either painted and stamped or simply t
-a handwriting sample (perhaps the alphabet or a 
dictated sentence)
-a list of things the student hopes to learn about that 
-a collection of favorite things

After the students complete the pages you may want to seal them all into one box or else create individual time capsules using Pringles can. If you keep portfolios for your students then you could also use these as the first pages.

14. Who Am I?
Have the students complete each sentence starter to tell about themselves. Staple the top of the finished paper to construction paper so that the page can be lifted from the bottom. Attach a photo of the student underneath so that people can guess who it is and lift the page to check. These are especially fun for open house nights as parents love “finding” their litle darling.


Ashley said...

Do you ever publish (on your blog) your first 3 days' lesson plans? I am making mine right now and they are practically a script. I want to make sure I do everything I need to do (as far as classroom expectations, rules, building community, etc.), but I also want my students to have fun and look forward to being in my class this year!

I love the play-doh thing by the way! :)

Becky said...

I was planning on doing this activity this year. Is this recipe enough for the entire class, or do you need to double or triple it?

cdr2009 said...

I love the play-doh idea, but don't they end up with food coloring all over their hands when they're sculpting?

Ginger Snaps said...

I love the playdough idea! I will definitely try that out!

Mrs. Robinson said...

I may try the playdough this year. About how many servings does the recipe make?

Sass Class said...

How much play dough does your recipe make? Will it be enough for several kids?

Kel said...

I teach third grade also. I tried this on the first day. Boy was I dramatic about it! "This is not just ANY playdough......it's MAGIC playdough. Now.....squoosh it!" Then I took photos of their reactions. It was......magical!
What a big hit. I plan to do this again next year.