With a year’s worth of standards and lessons ahead of you, it can be tempting to get started with that first book or math concept on Day One. This year, try holding off for a few days. The time you spend building a strong classroom culture in the first few weeks of school will pay returns every day of the year. To help you build a compassionate and invested group of students, we present to you 6 engaging activities that you can use on the first day of school (or first few weeks). Each includes at least one Flocabulary song and video, to provide a musical starting point for discussions on talents, bullying, goal-setting and more.
1. Share Unique Talents
Help students get to know their new classmates by sharing hidden talents, large and small. When students learn about each other’s unique skills, they develop a greater sense of community and acceptance.
Activity: Play “We’ve Got Talent,” a vocabulary video about students strange and fantastic abilities. Then provide time for students to either display their talents, or write a few lines of rhymes about their skills.
2. Dispel Rumors
Especially in the younger grades, the first day of school can be a nerve-wracking day. And it doesn’t help that kids always hear rumors about what the next year has in store. In our vocabulary song, “Just a Rumor,” kids share the craziest rumors they heard about the next grade. (“When I was in kindergarten, I heard / That in the first grade, the teacher was a bird.”)
Activity: Play “Just a Rumor” and then invite students to write down rumors they heard about their new grade anonymously on a piece of a paper. Choose some to read out and clarify what’s real and what’s not.
3. Set Ambitious & Realistic Goals
The beginning of the school year is a time to think big. This activity will encourage students to think about their big goals–both inside and outside the classroom.
Activity: Watch our vocabulary song “I Want Fame.” It’s all about a kid name Nate who wants nothing more than to be famous. Ask students to consider whether they think this is a good goal or not. Then have students state their ambitions and goals, and have write down the steps they can take in class this year to help them reach the goal.
4. Create a Compassionate & Safe Space
When students feel safe and respected, it is easy to learn. But bullying can create a toxic environment for students. Having a frank discussion about compassion and bullying up front will set expectations for a positive classroom, while also making it easier to handle difficult situations that may arise later.
Activity: Watch two vocabulary videos: “Have Compassion“, a story about what happens when a kid does the right thing on the bus, and “Scarface“, a story about the perils of bullying. Use the stories as an opportunity to open up conversation about bullying. Students may want to talk about times that they or someone they knew was bullied, and how they felt. Then, make the class policies on bullying clear.
5. Introduce the Concept of Code Switching
The language that kids use in the lunchroom is different than the language they use in the classroom. But it doesn’t mean that one is right and the other is wrong. It just means that certain types of English are appropriate for different situations. This is called “code-switching,” and it is a crucial skill to get ahead in the classroom, and outside of it, too.
Activity: Choose your favorite Flocabulary song that has slang in it. Or ask students to bring in one of their favorite songs. Then read the first paragraph of a sample essay for the class. Ask students to describe the differences, and then have a discussion about why both forms of language are necessary and have their place. You could even ask students to “translate” a texting conversation they recently had into “Standard English.” Set clear expectations about the types of language that will be required in your classroom.
6. Create Global Citizens
Students always want to know “How can I use this in real life?” What better way to answer that than to bring “real life” into the classroom with Flocabulary’s weekly current events video, The Week in Rap.
Activity: Explain to students that when they have a good idea of major news stories, they will frequently see how their studies relate. Review the top news of the summer by reviewing Flocabulary’s Week in Rap Archives. Discuss the stories that are most interesting to your class. Explain to students that you’ll be watching it each Friday, and that you’ll be asking students each week to make connections between classroom subjects and real-world topics.
What first day of school activities have worked well for you?
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