I firmly believe that nothing is as powerful or serves better to foster strong bonds within a classroom as building a sense of community. This takes precedence for me over delving right into the textbooks during the first days of school.
I really hit Community Building experiences hard during the first two weeks of school. I also incorporate community building strategies into the curriculum after winter holiday/spring breaks, or when a new student(s) joins the class later on.
Community Building exercises can help make the ‘new kid’ feel welcome and the ‘old kids’ feel the strength to be found in a close-knit community.
Resources for Community Building are available through parent-teacher stores and teacher magazines. I would like to share a few of these with you that have proven successful in my classes.
ACTIVITY: Ice Breaker Introduction Game
To ‘break the ice,’ one such activity that I use is a “Name Game.” It works like this: I will have the students form a circle. I hold a squish ball, and model first by saying my name, and one very exciting thing I did over the summer.
When I have finished, I gently toss the ball underhand to a student for him/her to follow suit. We do this until every student has had an opportunity to share! Kids love this!