Starting the first day in a new grade can wear on the nerves of middle-schoolers. Help break the ice to alleviate fears and nervousness by incorporating activities that the whole classroom can enjoy. Focus group activities around a theme or particular subject to introduce topics for the school year. Kids working with their hands and minds will forget about being self-conscious or worried and can focus on learning and making new friends.
Create a Favorite Things List
Give each student colorful markers and pencils with a sheet of paper. Instruct each of them to list ten of their favorite things. Write a list of your favorite things on a chalk or dry erase board that students can see to jump-start ideas. Once every child has listed his items, let one child read his list. Ask the rest of the class to raise their hands when a similar item is named on their own list. Let children learn about their classmates by talking about why they enjoy their favorite things.
Make a Web
Grab a big ball of yarn and arrange your middle-school students in a circle. Help children get to know the differences in each other by saying a unique or extraordinary fact about themselves. After each student tells a fact, she must toss the ball across the circle to another classmate while holding on to the string of yarn. After each child has spoken, explain to the students how each unique quality shows how special every classmate is. These qualities make a dynamic group that can solve problems both collectively and individually, and the yarn web helps to provide a visual demonstration of their connectivity.
Sing the Rules
Set your expectations and rules that you expect your middle-school class to follow by creating a song. Get a recording of the instrumental version of a popular age-appropriate song. Write down how you expect each student to behave during the school year on a chalkboard. Instead of just reading your rules, turn them into lyrics and sing them along to the instrumental pop song. Sing through them a couple of times and then invite the students to join in. The catchy tune will help students memorize your rules and help them remember them throughout the school year.
Make Some Food
Get to know your students by involving them in a cooking project. Gather together the supplies to make a simple treat such as cookies, granola bars or muffins. Obtain permission from the school's kitchen and take a little field trip to turn your students into a classroom of chefs. Pair off groups of students to accomplish a portion of the measuring, mixing or baking. Take your treats back to the classroom and enjoy together as a group. Remember to check for allergies before your students work with or consume food.
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