The first week of school is different from all others. During this week, teachers and students alike spend time getting to know each other, become comfortable in the classroom where they’ll spend countless hours for the next nine months, and take time to reach a comfort level with leaving summer behind. Below are suggestions around project-based learning rather than the application of pedagogy. Also included are a few general back-to-school classroom activities with a digital spin to get you back into school quickly and agilely.
- Authentically use forms.
- Build a puzzle to decorate class walls for Back-to-School Night.
- Let students prepare how-tos to share with classmates.
- Prepare English Language Learners to participate fully in class.
- Review class tech tools so students are comfortable with them and not surprised when they pop up.
- Review the class LMS.
- Set individual goals.
- Share back-to-school thoughts with a #hashtag.
- Take class selfies.
- Write a back-to-school story.
Authentically Use Forms
Digital forms have become a go-to activity for polls, class warmup, exit tickets, quizzes, and much more. When used early in the school year, they become an easy way to show students how technology can update classroom activities. Using forms the first week of school to collect student background information is not only useful for you as the teacher but helps students get to know each other.
Back to School Story
Back-to-school stories are a tried-and-true favorite among both students and teachers. Students get to talk about their memories from summer, and teachers get to catch up on what the rest of the world did while they were in summer training, webinars, and virtual meetings. You may simply use pencil and paper for this, but tech-infused options allow students to express themselves with not just text but colors, audio, video, or whatever is their communication method of choice.
Prepare English Language Learners
Eric Curts has become one of my go-to educational technology professionals for quick activities that accomplish an abundance of tasks. In this post on Google tools for English Language Learners, you’ll find EdTech resources not just for ELL students, but for everyone who wants better ways to communicate their knowledge. At this link, Eric discusses Google’s translation tools, speech-to-text (and vice versa), dictionary, summarization, screencasting, and more. Each of these could be critical to students for whom the school’s language is not their primary but also provides an excellent checklist for all students. Introduce these the first week of school so they become habits that help students thrive throughout the school year and beyond.
Create a Student-Designed Puzzle
Puzzle pieces have long been a favorite of mine because they illustrate connectedness in so many different subjects, ideas, and attitudes. Book Widget shares a great first-week-of-school project that uses these to introduce students to everyone in the school community. Using a puzzle template, students add text and images, print, trim, and then connect the pieces to build a picture on the classroom wall or ceiling.
Review Class Tech Tools
No better time to do a thorough review of class tech tools than the first week of school when students are eager to get started and excited about the new technology they get to use now that they’re older. These tech tools may include:
- the school’s LMS
- the gradebook
- the class website or blog
- the digital annotation tool for PDFs and websites
- the class reader (like Kindle)
- an avatar creator
- the class calendar
- the digital notetaking tool
Take time to review those that will immediately be used, and introduce others that will become important at a later time.
Set Individual Goals
Arguably the most important activity to complete as early as possible is to set individual and classroom goals. If students don’t know expectations and how they will benefit from them, they are much less likely to enthusiastically join classroom activities.
One of the most challenging pieces of returning to school is teaching students all the bits and pieces of knowledge that make school move smoothly. This could include how the class bells work, where to eat lunch, how to find your way around, the best way to buy lunch, what happens during a fire drill, or where to find the afterschool homework club. Rather than you answering these questions (probably many times), let students pick one and answer it using a screencast, podcast, audio file, or whatever their favorite communication tool is. Then post this collection to the school or class webpage where everyone can access them.
When answers are in the language of students, you’ll be surprised how much simpler it is to get acquainted with the school.