The beginning of the school year is a crazy time. You’re headed back to school, after a break that felt like a three day weekend, hoping that the year will be a productive one. You know you want to use more technology and 21st-century teaching and learning in your classes, but isn’t getting ready for your new class overwhelming enough? Who has time to revamp those getting to know you activities?
Thankfully, adding the 21st-century skills does not require a lot of extra planning or time in your already packed schedule. You only need to tweak things you already do!
You should always look first at the curriculum and lessons you already use. What do you want to achieve? What do you want the kids to learn? Answer these questions for yourself, and then kick those activities up a notch. You can add technology along with communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills to almost anything!
For example, during the first days of school, you want to get to know your kids as they get to know you and your classroom procedures. Here are three different tools you can use to incorporate those skills in your getting to know you activities.
To create a “Getting to Know You” game using cubes, make sure your students have access to a QR scanner on their devices. Create a QR code cube with questions for the kids to answer. You can do this with a site like www.qrstuff.com. Use the text option and type in your questions. Then add the QR codes to a six-sided cube pattern.
Put the kids into groups using a group maker. Give each student a getting to know you cube to cut out and put together. (If you teach younger kids, you will probably want to do it for them). If you use two or three different dice, then every student in the group will have a different die. One of the kids rolls the die and scans the code using their device. He asks the question, and the other students have to answer it. Then have them introduce each other to the class.
If your students have a little more experience with the devices, you may want them to type some facts about themselves on a Google Doc, copy the address, and make a QR code.
Want a how-to sheet? Sign up for the email list and get the password to the member’s area to download one that is suitable for students and teachers.
Hang the QR codes around the room and let the kids wander around and scan the Codes. You could have them write anonymously and make the kids guess who wrote each one, or you could have the kids put their names with their QR codes and make each child write down something important about each of their classmates.
Both of these activities will get your kids communicating with each other and the class from the first day of school.
Create an Avatar
Kids love avatars. As another “getting to know you” idea, have the kids create an avatar that they can use for other programs you may use this year such as Google Classroom or Kid Blog. These sites offer two different avatar makers the kids may enjoy.
This avatar creator builds Lego avatars. There are so many cool options that the kids may have trouble deciding!
This site creates avatars that are a mix of people and animal parts. You can get some pretty funky creatures from the choices given on this site.
When the kids have made their avatars, you can have them create a story about their character. If you do the animal one, you can add a critical thinking aspect and have them look at the parts that they put on their character and the environment they chose to put them in. Write about how they use those parts to survive in the wild. Communicate by sharing the avatars with the class or on the internet for a global audience. Have the kids collaborate and create by working in pairs to tell or write a story about what happened when their characters met. Put any of these stories on a class or student blog or web page to add a global audience to their work.
Getting to know you with Kahoot!
Have you ever played “Would You Rather?” The basic premise of the game is the players are given two equally attractive options (or equally unattractive), and they have to pick between them the one that they would rather do. Kahoot is a fun, easy to use online quiz tool. You can use this game to get to know some of the attitudes of the kids in your class.
To use Kahoot, you need devices for your students. It works with computers, tablets, and smartphones. You also need a way to project the questions and answers for the kids.
Create a list of questions such as, “Would you rather read or do math?” Students choose between the two choices on their devices and, when everyone has answered (or after a set time), the results will appear on the main display.
The kids can play individually, or you can add an extra dimension of communication and collaboration by creating groups and presenting the choices to them. Each group has to work together to select just one answer.
I’ve made a “Would You Rather?” game for back to school, so you don’t have to! There are two versions, one for individuals to use and one to use with teams. The team version gives them one minute to come to a consensus and make a choice. The individual one only gives the kids ten seconds.
Sign up for my newsletter now, and you’ll have access to both of these games in just a few minutes. You’ll be ready to use technology to help get the school year started.
Here are some other back to school articles you may find useful!