I enjoy getting to know my students. But I also feel pressure to make sure all activities are learning something. My time is limited– and in the alternative classroom, there was little or no homework: assigning it was pointless because it never came back. My students had other priorities than school. Unfortunate, sure, but I have to work with what I have. And with what time I have.
So, I found ways to make sure each activity had some value, such as reviewing or reinforcing concepts. Including those quintessential get-to-know you activities the first day of class. I snuck in descriptive writing, symbolism, even theme and genre into different get-to-know you activities.
Here are my five favorite get-to-know you activities that include ELA concepts in them. Each of these is also available in my TPT store a pre-made activity, ready to print and use.
- Animal Mash-Up: Students use animal traits to share who they are. Then they design an animal mash-up with parts of those animals. ELA tie in: analogies, comparisons. Fast as a cheetah (and might draw cheetah legs or spots on their mash-up.)
- Move of My Life: Students imagine a movie version of their life (or a part of their life). The pick actors/ actresses to play the roles, summarize main events in the movie, identify theme and genre of their movie. ELA tie in: Theme and Genre. Also summary.
- Wanted Poster: Students introduce themselves with a drawing of themselves and what they are wanted for. Can be wanted for Good or Bad reasons. Also includes bonus printable for use with any person or character from any text. ELA tie in: Wanted poster for a character or person in a text and description of a person.
- Welcome to My Island: Students design their own private island and tell what’s on it using descriptions and location words. ELA tie in: descriptive writing and location words (around, next, nearby etc.)
- Coat of Arms Project: students create a coat of arms with symbols and colors that identify them and their values. Also ties in with “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe– which is an engaging short text that makes a good, flexible start to the year. ELA tie in: Symbolism.
How I use these:
While these can be put on the board, I like to have students take a printable since it means they can work on it immediately upon arriving while I greet others and get the class rolling that chaotic first day. Then they can share with the class. Some classes I let students choose from two or more of the activities, while other classes get assigned.
Given that adult coloring is a thing, it also reinforces what I saw with my students and how much they would enjoy drawing and coloring. Good relaxing task for the first day for students, different than the common get-to-know-you activities, and can avoid any issues with Ice Breakers.
Once we have gotten to know each other, then it’s time to figure how to deal with my roster still being in flux the first week(s)! But at least the first day is generally a solid start with these activities.