Sunday, August 19, 2018

First Day of School Activities: From Low Risk to High Risk

    Many years ago I went to an in-service presentation about Lions Quest, the character education program funded by the Lions Clubs. Although many parts of the presentation have faded from my memory with time, the presenter had a piece of advice that I still consider every August:

"When planning group-building activities, always remember to start with low risk activities. Don't ask participants to share too much at once."

   The idea is simple, but deeply meaningful. We must be careful to structure our group building so that students aren't asked to share too much before they are comfortable doing so. 
     Over the course of our two-day session, the presenter practiced what she preached. The very first grouping activity was based on something that we had for breakfast that morning, with prescribed choices offered. Pretty low risk, right? Revealing that I had eaten cereal for breakfast did not give away too much of myself in an awkward new group. It wasn't until the very last activity of the last day that we did an activity called "Rare Birds", in which we shared something about ourselves that made us stand out from the crowd.

First day = low risk activities

    Keeping this principle in mind, I make sure that my first day activities are low risk. This is not the time for sharing important truths or deep ideas. While we are coming together as a class, I make sure that our first activities do not put students on the spot.

    I am a pretty reserved and quiet person myself. In new groups, I much prefer to sit back and watch what's going on before I contribute. Many students feel the same way....and my first day activities need to reflect this.

     There will be plenty of opportunities for students to get to know each other on a deeper level. Right now, I want to help everyone to feel comfortable. And this means not asking questions that will make students feel distressed. We keep our conversations rather light and superficial on the first morning of the first day. 

  • What is your favorite color?
  • What books in the classroom look interesting to you?
  • Which classroom plant is your favorite?
  • What part of the classroom do you like to sit in?

    I also like quick and easy games, such as:


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