The first day back to school can be difficult for teachers, especially those teaching junior high and middle school students. It is important to lead the first day off with some enjoyable activities. The first one is a game that helps the students to loosen up. The next few help the students get to know each other as people. Finally, the last one begins to integrate classroom material in an engaging way.
Catch the Killer
This is a game that loosens up the students and puts them in a positive mood. You need several playing cards, including an ace and a jack (all of the other cards should be numbers). Hand out one card to each student: Whoever gets the ace is the cop, and whoever gets the jack is the killer. The students wander around the room, and the killer must wink at the other students without being spotted by the cop. Students who are winked at must wait a few seconds, then die in the most dramatic fashion they can think of. The game is over when the cop catches the killer.
The name game is a way to help students (and the teacher) learn each other's names. The first student says his name, then the next student says the first name plus her own. The next student must say the first two names plus his own. For example: John: "John." Susan: "John, Susan." Brian: "John, Susan, Brian." This continues to the last student, who must remember all of the names. For the sake of fairness, you should have the first few students go again, also having to recite the names of the entire class.
Getting to Know You Venn Diagram
Gather students into groups of three and hand them a blank Venn diagram (three intersecting circles). Each student is represented by one of the circles. Have the students talk about themselves within the groups. The goal is to find things that they all have in common (these are written in the center where all three circles intersect), things that only two of them have in common (written in the segments shared by only two circles) and things that make them unique (written in the separated portions of the circles). Once all of the students have completed their Venn diagrams, have them report their findings to the rest of the class.
Create 5-by-5 bingo cards. Fill the squares of these cards with phrases such as "Born in another state," "Summer Birthday" and "Oldest child in the family." Make many variations of these cards to avoid duplicates. Hand the cards out to the students, who must have their classmates initial boxes that are true for them. It's a good idea to have a rule that any student can only initial one or two boxes on someone's bingo card. Whoever fills the card first wins.
Crossword Puzzle and Word Search
Assemble a crossword puzzle or word search based on the topics that the students will be learning that year. For more technical classes such as science, word searches work better because the students probably will not know many of the terms that they will learn. There are many online crossword and word search generators that do the work for you: All you do is supply the answers. There are also many pre-made puzzles available that can be used. Have a small prize for the student who finishes first.
- school room image by Alfonso d'Agostino from Fotolia.com