1. Play Back to School Games
Back to School games are a fun way to get students engaged, break through the nerves, and get students to smile and laugh at the beginning of the year. And let’s be honest, they’re way more fun than an All About Me worksheet!
They’re also a great way to build your classroom community while squeezing in some important lessons like taking turns, being a kind classmate, and good sportsmanship.
Here are some of my favorite games to play with students when the year starts.
Two Truths and a Lie
This is one of my students’ favorites. It’s a great way to learn about each student while also seeing their creative side when they come up with their fib.
This activity gives students an opportunity to share about themselves without having to speak in front of the class, which many students will appreciate during those first few days of school.
Find a Friend Bingo
What’s better than a Friend a Friend Bingo worksheet? Find a Friend digital edition!
This game gets students moving around the room and meeting their new classmates. It’s great for students that are confident on the first day of school and also those a little more timid being in the new classroom.
Students pull up their own copy of their gameboard on their computer and go around asking students in the class if they fit one of the clues. If they do, students cover their space with that friend’s selfie, a shape, or a sticky note (if you use it in Jamboard).
I made this editable so I can switch up the clues each year depending on who’s in my class or what the new trends are in the world.
Students love it so much, they usually go for black-out.
Guess Who is played by giving each student a slide or frame of the Jamboard to customize. They write three clues about themselves. This could be about their family, things they like, their hobbies, anything.
Then, they’ll take a photo of themselves with their computer’s camera and cover it up with a sticky note or a shape so no one else knows it’s their slide.
When everyone’s finished creating their clues, mix up the slides a bit (click and drag them around) and then project the presentation from the beginning.
Have students take turns reading the clues and give the class three guesses to see if they know who made the slide.
All of the slides don’t need to be presented at once. You can play this game throughout the day.
Figure Me Out Math Game
Figure Me Out is a really fun Back to School activity where students write math problems to describe their age, shoe size, number of pets, and more. They create equations for their classmates to solve that lead to the answers.
How it works: Students all get one frame in the Jamboard to customize with their clues. During your math warm-up, project 2-3 of these and have students solve them on a separate sheet of paper or white board. Students love when their frame comes up!
You can also project them throughout the day or during your transitions. Instead of full-group, try pairing up students to work together to solve.
2. Spice Up Classroom Introductions
Every year I start with this digital “All About Me Book” alternative. I love this one. It’s engaging and helps me really learn about my new students. Favorite colors and favorite foods are fun, but I want to know what makes my students happy, what makes them smile, what they feel their strengths are, and help them think about what they want to improve on.
My students are always instantly engaged with this activity. They love taking their photos and finding images to insert using the built-in Google Search. It’s always a great way to teach my students those basic Google Slides skills at the beginning of the year.
This activity encourages students to share and learn about their classmates. They’re not just creating an All About Me Book for themselves.
What do you do after students customize their slide? After students have finished their slide, we take time for each student to present their slide to the class. The beginning of the year is such an important time to build our class community and learn each about other. Students love sharing about themselves and listening to their new friends, finding out what they have in common, hearing that other students have things they want to improve, too.
3. How I Spent My Summer Activity
Something we all like to share about is what we did over the summer. Students are no different.
If you read How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague, this is a perfect activity to do after. If not, no problem! This activity is just as good on its own.
I give each student a slide to customize and they insert images from Google Image Search to share about what they did or what they learned over the summer.
This is a fun way for students to share with the class and it’s more fun than having students sit in a circle and sharing one by one.
If you don’t want to take the time to have students each share their slide, you can have students comment on their classmates’ slides instead. (See Tip #8 for how to do this)
4. Acknowledge a Student of the Day or Week
What student doesn’t like to be highlighted as the Student of the Day or Student of the Week?
Each day I choose a new Student of the Day to highlight. On my computer, I pull up the Google Slides presentation while my Student of the Day shares about themselves. (Each student will get their own slide.) I have them share their favorite animal, food, movie, game, place, and more, but you can change the categories to whatever you want.
I take a photo of them and lastly ask for the other students in the class to share what they know about this friend. Compliments start flying in and my Student of the Day is soon smiling ear to ear.
When the slide is finished, I put it in “Present” mode, and we go through each part of the poster, highlighting the friend again together.
Each day a new friend is chosen. It’s a great routine to start the day for the first month and a half of school, but you can use it during any part of the year.
When everyone has had a turn, I print the slides and put them into a class book. You could also print the slide each day and display it in your classroom if you’re in-person teaching. If you’re virtual, you could post the link to the “digital book” in your Google Classroom for students to look at throughout the year.
5. Partner Students Up to Meet a New Friend
This Back to School activity is one my favorites! I used to have my students do it in Google Slides, but my students love the stickies in Jamboard so much that I decided to do it in Jamboard.
To play, I pair my students up with someone they don’t know very well. They sit next to each other and are assigned a Jamboard frame to work on together.
This activity forces new classmates to talk to each other and ask each other questions about things they like.
It works just like a Venn Diagram. The things they have in common are put in the middle. If something only applies to one of the partners, they put it on their side.
Students can take their selfie (and a selfie together!) or just put their names at the top of the sections.
If you want to print out the Jamboard or slides at the end and create a bulletin board, students love looking at them.
6. Incorporate Selfies and Emojis
Students LOVE taking selfies – here, there, and everywhere! They also still really like emojis. Why not incorporate these two things into a few Back to School activities?
An awesome way to get students to feel a part of the class is to let them see their photos on things.
A really fun way to make a poster of the class is to use a Selfies Jamboard. Each student takes their photo to create a collage. Print the Jamboard when you’re finished and display it on your classroom door or in the room. It’s also an easy thing to email parents on the first day of school, acknowledging your classroom family.
I’ve found that really any activity that has a spot for a selfie gets students’ attention right away. They also love to see their photo projected when sharing their slide.
Emojis are a fun way for students to describe themselves as well. You can have students all work in one Google Slides presentation to do a Get to Know Me Emoji activity.
Create a table on each Google Slide (I usually do 4-5 rows in the table) and number each row. Then give students a row to work in. They’ll write their name and then use the emoji special characters to fill up their row.
To get the emojis to appear, students click where they want the emoji to appear, then click Insert-Special Characters. Click on Symbol and change it to say Emoji. Then click on all the emojis they’d like. I usually say no more than 15, otherwise the table will get distorted.
Afterwards, I project the slides and click through them for students to see. Talk about what students have in common or something interesting that they like.
7. Show Students How to Use the Google Image Search
Students love images, maybe even more than they love taking their selfies.
The Google Image Search built into students’ Google accounts is ideal for having students find real images of the things they like and share them with the class.
Of all the Get to Know Me activities I do at the beginning of the year, the All About Me Collage is usually their most favorite. It requires little typing and all images.
Real images are fun for students because they don’t have to spend time drawing and coloring and they love how realistic they are. (Tip: This is also a great time to tell students that if they put the word “clipart” after their search, they’ll get more of a cartoon looking picture, not a photo.)
Inserting images is also a great skill to have throughout the year and these activities are a good way to practice or learn the skill if they haven’t yet.
8. Use the Comment Feature to Give Feedback to Each Other Digitally
If you don’t have time to present each slide in front of the class or you want to give students a fun add-on activity, you can also have them use the Comment button in Google Slides to give their classmates feedback. They can leave a message on their classmates’ slides and even reply to each other, having a little conversation in Google Slides.
Here are some things they can talk about in their comments:
I have my students comment on the slide above and below theirs. That way, everyone gets comments. Once they’ve commented on those 2 slides, I let them comment on others, being mindful if a classmate has tons of comments or only a couple.
Before having students comment, it also a good idea to talk about how to appropriately comment, touching on digital citizenship.
How Students Comment:
Click on another person’s slide in the left sidebar.
Click the comment button in the toolbar.
A comment box will appear on the right. Type in the comment and click “Comment.”
Repeat for as many slides as you want them to comment on.
9. Allow Students to Share About Themselves Privately
It’s important to realize that not all of your students are going to have fun playing games and sharing about themselves. This might not be their idea of fun, so it’s important to have some other activities planned that are fun for those students.
They might want to share something privately with you about how they learn, something that makes them anxious, why they don’t like a certain subject, or something that’s going on at home that they want you to know.
Most students might not even share these things unless you ask them, so it’s important to create activities that allow them this opportunity.
Here are a few fun activities to assign your students. You can customize the directions for students if you have something specific that you want them to share or you can leave it more general.
10. Have Discussions in Google Jamboard or Google Slides
Have your students used Jamboard or a collaborative Google Slide to have a class discussion yet? If you haven’t, I HIGHLY recommend it.
I use discussion slides a lot during morning meeting throughout the entire year. It’s a great way to get maximum participation. Students who are usually more timid will feel more comfortable sharing this way rather than talking in front of the class. It also makes for a very quick way to share or have a discussion.
Ideas for discussion Slides or discussion Jamboard
- What can you help your classmates with?
- What are you goals for this year?
- What questions do you have?
- If you had a superpower, what would it be?
- What’s your favorite ice cream?
- What was your favorite/least favorite part of the day?