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5 Activities to Bring Your Students (Closer) Together

We asked DonorsChoose.org teachers for activities that make students feel welcome in the classroom. They shared enough ideas for a whole school year’s worth of warm fuzzies. Here are five of our favorites:
The icebreaker that keeps on giving.
In the first week of school, Jill Weaver’s students make birthday cards for the person sitting next to them. Using teamwork, the kids then line themselves up by age.  Throughout the year, the activity continues to reward. Jill explains: “When someone has a birthday, we get out their handmade card and the whole class signs it. It makes everyone feel accepted.”
Find someone who…Bingo!
Jessica Dell’Era fills Bingo board worksheet squares with creative get-to-know-you challenges. Students have to find a peer who, among other things, “has a pet that is not a cat or dog” or “was born in the same month as you.”  Writing their names on each other’s boards, she says, “gets the kids up and out of their seats, meeting both familiar and new classmates.” (Bonus! The activity also helps English language learners with question formation.)
No prep needed. Giggles guaranteed.
Dena Haselwander gets her students laughing on the first day of school with a round of tongue twisters. Throughout the year she keeps the verbal acrobatics going as a five-minute brain “reboot” that helps create a positive classroom atmosphere. “The fact that I really stink at all of them is an added bonus for the class,” she says. “And the variations of ‘unique New York’ get even the toughest kids to smile.” Dena’s all time favorite twister? “Irish wrist watch.”
Classroom family photos.
Mrs. Dopkin fosters community with a simple yet meaningful gesture. Each student brings to school a photo of themselves with family or friends. The pictures are then put in donated frames and placed about the room, creating a cozy, family-like atmosphere.
What’s in the sack?
Also known as “Surprise in a Bag”, this popular activity is an opportunity for students to get better acquainted and do some sleuthing. In Veronica Serna’s version, each student fills a paper bag with a trinket or photo from home. The student shares three clues about the mystery object and their classmates guess what it might be. “Students really love bringing in a piece of their home life,” Veronica says. “One year a girl brought in an old-fashioned pressing brush for straightening people’s hair!”
Check out more fantastic ideas on our Pinterest board. Do you have an activity you’d like to share? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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