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First Week Back

If I could bottle the energy needed to fuel the first day of school, I would sell it in bulk at Costco and make millions.

By the time you read this, you are either knocking on the door of the new year or you’ve been through the whirlwind of the first days. Either way, you are a rockstar and deserve to hear it. 

Starting the year is hard. After 11 years of first days, I think I have tried every possible combination of activities. Here is what I have learned: 

Keep it simple. Keep it happy.

While most kids are excited to start back to school, it is still an extreme shock to their systems. Their sleep schedules are off. They are in classes full of people they might now know. Summer was a hard time in their personal lives. It’s just tough.

I love that as an electives educator that my curriculum timeline has flexibility to accommodate these situations. I am not tied to a test of any sort. I take full advantage of this. The first week is full of team building exercises, community agreements and building relationships. 

Team building exercises

I am always mindful of trying to find an activity that exists in a happy medium of student comfort. I don’t want something too energetic because that leaves my introverts behind. Anything too personal is hard for some students. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Memory maker
    Have students sit in a circle. Fill a bowl full of sentence starters like “my first pet was” or “the last time I was scared.” Have the student with the next upcoming birthday start by drawing a sentence starter and telling a story. Then the rest of the group will take opportunities to say “that reminds me of a time.” This activity gets kids talking and is great for brainstorming story ideas!
  • Photo scavenger hunt
    Break your group up into teams and send them on a mission to get great photos of things happening the first week. Pair up veteran staffers with newbies. Then have a prize for the best photos!
  • Burst your bubble
    Take a large black trash bag and fill it with balloons – does not need to be helium. Have the group “keep the blob afloat” – it’s very easy. They will laugh at the ease. Then take it, step out of the room and place a water-filled balloon in the blob. Come back in and give them the same challenge – it will fall after the first hit. Explain how that water balloon represents one bad attitude and how quickly that will bring down the whole group. 

Community agreements

Community agreements are great for veteran staffers to begin talking about all the layers of a publication class.

Give each student the Personal Agreement sheet.

Students sit in a circle and go through a list of topics.

  • Checking in and out equipment
  • Behavior at events
  • Punctuality
  • Talking to friends
  • Dress code
  • Deadlines
  • Dealing with difficult situations
  • Work nights
  • How to enter the classroom
  • How to exit the classroom
  • How to use the group chat
  • Cancelling events
  • Attendance
  • Interviewing
  • Social Media
  • Creativity

Students can share personal experiences and talk through issues together. As a group, they make decisions about how to handle issues. The students will write behavior and expectations they want inside the circle and things they don’t want on the outside. 

Building relationships

Students can take the driver’s seat in how they want others to know them through this creative project. Encourage them to take personality tests like 16 Personalities, Adobe Creative Types, or the Enneagram and include that information on their slide. This will help students get to know each other and also give you an idea of where they are at creatively. Be sure to create one for yourself, too!

Don’t feel pressured to achieve all the things that first week or teach all the things. Do whatever you can to make sure the kids laugh and laugh often. You got this!