It's Back to School Time

It’s “back to school time” and many educators are looking for activities to help them start the school year off on the right foot. Over the upcoming weeks we will be offering a series of posts focused on building a positive foundation for a productive classroom learning environment.

Along with the upcoming activity posts, readers might find it helpful to refer back to some of our older Friday Lessons on the subject of facilitating community building including: Laurie Frank’s Creating Conditions for Community and Jen Stanchfield’s Designing the Group Experience and Increasing Involvement, Buy In, and Building Trust. These articles share practical facilitation tips and insights into why,  how and when educators might choose to implement community building strategies in their classrooms.

This weeks lesson is taken from Springboards by Micah Jacobson, Mary Beth Campbell and Carolyn Hill and adapted from Karl Rohnke’s Funn ‘N’ Games. It is a great activity for actively engaging students, learning and reinforcing names and practicing pro-social communication and positive interactions.

Handshake

Possible Themes: Greeting others, mixing it up, taking risks
Supplies: None
Physical Set-Up: Large standing circle

Have the entire class stand in a circle with no furniture in the middle. Stand with the group as part of the circle, and actually go through the motions as you talk.

Give the following instructions: I am going to walk across the circle, approach someone, shake this person’s hand, and say “Hi I’m ___insert name___.” And this person will respond, “Hi ___insert name___, I’m ___insert name___. Nice to meet you.”
Once I introduce myself to this person, we will switch places. That person will take my place in the circle, walk across the circle, and greet someone new. We will keep this going by continuing the process of approaching, shaking hands, introducing, and trading places with others in the circle.

Watch the students begin this activity, and then start a second string of introductions. There will be 2 people greeting at the same time. With a large group, you can continue this process, placing as many people in the center as you want. Some students may even continue to move and greet on their own.
When you’ve given this enough time, ask all the students to step back into the circle formation to stop movement.

Activity Notes: This is a great activity to get students mixing early in the year. It’s also a good tool for mixing up a circle of students for whatever reason. If the students already know each other, just change the greeting/interaction. It will still mix them up.

Source: Funn ‘N Games by Karl Rohnke. We first saw this activity at the Association for Experiential Education International Conference.

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