My favorite story to read at the beginning of the school year is First Day Jitters! I think sometimes the kiddos feel like they are the only ones who are nervous, and the kids that have never heard the story before have their mouths hanging open when they find out its a teacher in the end!
We also made some All About Me posters. This was a really great way for me to assess my students on their idea recall and their drawing. Some were definitely surprising :) It was very simple: what I did this summer, favorite foods, what I like to do, and my family! It allowed me and all of the other students to learn about each second grader. They are hung on the wall in my classroom and periodically I catch the kids checking them out still!
We also did a quite a few teamwork activities (which are my favorite!).
We made a class puzzle. I took a posterboard and cut it up into 20 pieces (I have 18 kids, I made one, and we made one as a class together). Make sure you make a bunch of black lines/black dots on one side so the kids know which side to color, because if they color the wrong side, the puzzle won't fit together! It turned out really cute, and I made this little poster to go with it from a cute saying my teammate found!
Another activity that my teammates introduced me to that is so cool is what I'll call the "Elephant activity." You start by reading the story Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young, and you discuss with your students how the mice are working together to try to figure out that they are actually seeing parts of an elephant, and without all the mice seeing the parts, they would not know it was an elephant in the end.
So you group your students in teams (I use my table teams) and give them all the same gray size piece of paper.
Each team is in charge of making one part of the elephant, without seeing what the other teams are making: head, body, tusks and trunk, legs, tail, etc. (depending on your # of teams). In addition, each member of their team has to play a part in making their elephant part: drawing, coloring, cutting, gluing, etc. Some friends need more help deciding on jobs than others :)
After they are finished, I hid the parts and quickly put the elephant together. These elephants look so goofy, but that's part of the fun! I then talk to my students about how we all worked as a team to create this elephant, and that we all played a part in making it. Our team worked together, and if one person chose not to, our elephant wouldn't be complete! Here are my kiddos finished product for this year (check out that trunk!)
Once again another wonderful idea from my teammates (can you tell how thrilled and lucky I am to be at this school with this fabulous team!!!) is an activity called tear-down. This is am example for the students of what happens when you do not work as a team, and start putting each other down.
Each child gets a body shape (mine looked like a gingerbread cookie) and color it to look like them, and then cut it out. My kiddos were VERY proud of them and showed them off to their friends. Then, they brought them to the carpet and we read Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon which is a phenomenal book about a little girl who gets picked on and how she responds to the put-downs.
We talk about how Molly Lou Melon knew that none of the things that those mean kids said was true, and she loved herself for who she was. However, she will never forget what those kids said about her. You will always remember how you felt when someone made fun of you or made you feel self-conscious. So the students take their dolls, and tear off arms and legs, once for a time they can remember feeling that way.
Then we tape them back on by telling ourselves things about how wonderful we are! But we see by looking at our paper person, that we are not the same as we were before. We have tape on us and tear marks. I ask the kids to remember this before they made someone feel "torn-down" in my classroom. These are a few of the paper people my kiddos made!
Another activity to teach about how put-downs are always with students is the toothpaste to teach respect activity. Gather the students in a circle with a small tube of toothpaste. I read Oliver Button is a Sissy, to show students how you can be better than bullying and if you are doing what you love, it doesn't matter what others say.
Give each of your teams a small tube of toothpaste. Tell them to squeeze it out on a paper plate, and then try to put it back into the tube iwth toothpicks.
Well, it won't work. I talked to my students about how the toothpaste is like the words we speak to others. Once we say an unkind thing, we cannot put it back into our mouth or un-say it. We need to always be respectful towards one another and only say kind words to our friends.
My kiddos (even the boys!) also really like our friendship bracelet making. I randomly (or not so randomly unbeknowst to the kids!) paired them up with a new friend, and they made friendship bracelets for each other. While they were making each other bracelets, they were to talk to each other and find 3 things they had in common and 1 interesting thing about the other person they didn't know. If they were having trouble, I gave them some question prompts (also on the Crazy for First Grade link above!)
Then, I had them each lunch together that day to celebrate their new friendship!
Lastly, another really cute (any easy) idea is the Friendship dance. I am actually planning on using this throughout the year for some especially wiggly times!
Play any kind of moderately intensive music, and tell the kids they are going to play freeze dance, except when the music stops they must find the amount of friends I say! So it might stop and I say "2 friends," and then they get in groups of 2. In the beginning, I try to make it so no one is left out. Then as it progresses and they start to get sillier, I start having people get "out" if they cannot get into a group fast enough. You could just leave the kids in the whole time though!
I have also been using two wonderful TPT products that I bought during the Back to School sale and they are both AWESOME!
I bought Amy Lemon's Classroom Promise pack and My School Rules pack. I have used both and they are wonderful :)
In My School Rules pack, it has an awesome activity that you can personalize for your own classroom rules. I have read in numerous places that if you want rules to be effective in your classroom, you shouldn't have more than 5 and they should be worded simply.
My rules are:
1. Be respectful.
2. Be responsible.
3. Follow directions.
4. Listen carefully.
5. Always do your best.
Amy's pack has an awesome book the kids can make of your classroom rules. I really like it because it's an awesome assessment of whether or not your kids really understand your rules, because they have to give an example. Here are a few of my kids pages:
We are going to make them into books for the kids to keep in their book boxes the first few weeks. I am trying to build REALLY strong routines at the beginning of the year! We are going to write our classroom promise tomorrow and I can post a picture of that after we've done it!
TGI(almost)F! Woo :)