I love the first few days of school. The nervousness, the sleepless nights leading up to it, the not knowing if people will like me, the picking out outfits and setting them out the night before, the packing lunches and leaving post-it notes so I don’t leave it behind me in the fridge on the rush to get out the door…
Wait a minute! Now that I think about it, the first few days of school are just as difficult and nerve-wracking now as when I was in high school! But they’re also really exciting. I get to meet the students I’ll be interacting with for the rest of the year and start off on the right foot. When you think about it, as a teacher, the first few days of school are crucial. You need to make the right impression, and part of that is learning about your students right off the bat. Savvy students know immediately which teachers are the ones who are going to care about them and welcome opinions and open discussion. There are many ways to set the tone for the year. Personally, I prefer to get to know the students right away through a human scavenger hunt.
A human scavenger hunt is just like a regular scavenger hunt, but the students are looking for others with various traits, all the while learning a bit about their classmates and getting out of their comfort zones a little.
I begin this activity by handing out a worksheet with various traits listed on it. The sheet looks something like this:
Human Scavenger Hunt
You will have TEN MINUTES to find someone in this class who fits the following categories. Each person can only sign your paper ONCE! Good luck!
Find someone who…….
- Likes broccoli ______________________________________________________
- Ate breakfast before school this morning ________________________________
- Likes to work out ___________________________________________________
- Can recite the alphabet backwards (prove it!) ____________________________
- Is a Sox fan _______________________________________________________
- Is the oldest child ___________________________________________________
- Is the youngest child ________________________________________________
- Is a middle child ____________________________________________________
- Is an only child _____________________________________________________
- Has a pet (what kind?) ______________________________________________
- Can speak another language other than English __________________________
- Has been out of the country (where?) __________________________________
- Has been out of the state (where?) ____________________________________
- Is wearing socks that aren’t white _____________________________________
- Eats Hawaiian pizza _________________________________________________
- Read more than one book over the summer _____________________________
- Watches or reads the news every day __________________________________
- Reads his/her horoscope every day ____________________________________
- Plays a musical instrument (which one?) ________________________________
- Plays a sport (which one?) ___________________________________________
I tell them they have ten minutes to find people who have these traits, and the people they find must sign the line next to the trait they have. There are a few catches: They cannot sign their own paper, people cannot sign a paper more than one time (so if Johnny finds Sally who is an only child, she can sign #9 on the sheet, but cannot sign any other number; however, she can sign other people’s sheets once), and everyone must be out of their seats and moving around.
Of course, I participate, as well, signing sheets and getting students to sign mine, and I use this time to learn students’ names. Once they all go back to their seats, I go through each number and ask students to raise their hands if the characteristic I call out applies to them. Then I go through and call on each one by name, asking them for specifics (Oh, you’ve been out of the country, Jake? Where have you been?). After I go through the whole sheet, I go up and down the rows, reciting each student’s name from memory.
Inevitably, a student challenges me, and says I just memorized them in order. So I take the challenge and turn around toward the wall and tell them to switch seats. Then I turn around and recite the names again. They are amazed and impressed every time, and at the end of the year, they’re still talking about that first day when I knew all of their names and made them feel at home in my classroom.
What do you do to get to know your students during those first few days of school?