"Getting to Know Each Other" Activities, Part 1
By Leah Davies, M.Ed.
The following activities are noncompetitive, entertaining, and foster
friendships among students. They help children to feel bonded to each
other and to their teachers or group leaders. When students feel accepted
and that they belong, they are more ready to learn. These activities
may be adapted to various age levels and group sizes.
- At the beginning of the year, place objects in a white paper lunch
bag that you have decorated with markers and your name. Place five
or more objects that represent your interests in the bag. For example,
a picture of your family, pet, favorite candy bar, needlework, picture
of hiking boots, travel pamphlet, etc. As you take out each item
have the students guess why you chose it, or tell a story about each
one. Then give each child an "About Me" bag to decorate and fill
with items representing their preferences and interests. After they
are returned, provide an opportunity for the students to talk about
their items. These bags provide the teacher or leader with valuable
insight into each child's life. A variation is to show cut-out magazine
pictures or to draw pictures on an overhead transparency that describe
you. For example, a book, swimsuit, baby, etc. Pass out paper and
have the children draw pictures or cut out pictures from magazines
that represent themselves. Have them discuss their pictures.
- Share your expectations, rules, and plans for the year with your
students. Tell them that you are interested in their ideas, thoughts,
and interests. Have them discuss or write about:
- Their favorite teacher and what made him
or her special
- Their interests, hobbies or activities
- What they like best about school
- What was my favorite story?
If the children are too young to write, ask
them the questions and write all of their comments
on a board.
- Ask the children to line themselves up by height, in alphabetical
order by first name, or by birth date. When they have succeeded tell
them how capable they are. Stress that by asking questions and working
together they will be successful in your class.
- For a bulletin board entitled, "We Are All Different, Yet All The
Same," have the children draw themselves on paper or their head on
a paper plate. Provide a variety of markers, felt, yarn, construction
paper and other materials for use on their self-portrait. You may
have older students fill out a questionnaire or list two goals for
their school year to be displayed with their picture.
- Divide a sheet of paper into 8, 12, 16 or 24 sections.
On each write something like: has a big brother,
has a little sister, was born in another state/country,
likes mushrooms on pizza, likes to read, has a
relative named John, has a pet bird, loves horses,
(name of show) on TV, does not have a TV, broke
leg or arm, likes to ice skate, plays basketball,
to fish, wears glasses, has a summer birthday,
plays the piano, first name begins with "M," etc.
Pick phrases with your students in mind. Some children
would relish the extra attention they would receive,
i.e. born in a foreign country, or a shy child
name begins with the chosen letter.
For children who do not read, draw a picture in each space and discuss what
each means. For example, a dog would mean that the child has a dog or likes
dogs, a cat, a baby, a big brother, a fish, an arm with a cast, glasses,
roller skates, baseball, etc. If the children cannot write their names small
enough to fit in the section, have them print their initial in the space.
Pass out the sheets and have the children walk around the room and get
a signature from someone who fits each description. An individual may only
sign a child's sheet once.
- Have the students draw and/or write on a sheet
of paper entitled, "The most important thing about
me is..." or "Something I am proud of is..." Then
have each child talk about his or her picture in
front of the class or in small groups. A variation
is to have the children write down and/or illustrate
three or four statements about themselves on a sheet
of paper entitled, "Who Am I?" It may be necessary
to brainstorm a variety of statements children may
use -- for example:
- I was born in Alaska
- I have two brothers
- I love to sing
You could also read each child's statements
and have the other children guess the author.
Older students may enjoy adding more statements,
one of which is untrue -- for example, "My
dog had ten puppies." The children then guess
which of the statements is false.
Afterwards, combine the children's pages to make a class book.
- Have the children sit in a circle. Ask each child to introduce
himself or herself by saying his or her first name
and a descriptive adjective or phase that begins with the same letter
of their name,
i.e. Friendly Fran, Very Happy Van, Strong Sam,
or have them name a food they enjoy eating that begins like their
name, i.e. Pizza
Paul or Apple Anne. Younger children may need help
thinking up a adjective or food to go with their name. The teacher
or group leader
begins and sets the tone of acceptance and fun.
Have the children repeat the name of the child sitting next to them,
before they say
their special name, i.e. "This is Friendly Fran and I am..." If you
have a small group, some of the children may be
able to memorize all the names and then repeat them around the circle.
- Have the children stand in a circle. Using a large
ball of yarn, begin by holding the end of the yarn
and naming someone across the circle along with saying
something kind about a child like, "Tom plays fair." Then
toss the ball to the student who says another child's
name and makes a positive comment about him or her
before tossing the ball of yarn. The ball is tossed
around the circle weaving a "web" until the yarn
is totally unrolled. The teacher or leader comments
that everyone in the group is important and belongs.
This activity contributes to group cohesiveness and
a feeling of acceptance and self-worth.
Also see article, Enrichment
Activities of Children.
Then, find more of these activities
to Know Each Other Activities For Children - Part 2 and Part 3.
Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies,
and selected from the Kelly Bear website [www.kellybear.com].
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