Harry Wong, in his book titled The First Days of School, reminds teachers that there are 7 questions students usually have on the first day. One of those questions is "Will I be treated like a human being?" An activity that I do to address this question is a Ring Around the Room allowing students an opportunity to share their thoughts on six different questions & statements and to start the process of team building.
I write each item across the top of a piece of Post-It Presentation paper (like the one shown here). The pages are placed on the walls, spread out all around the room. The students are then numbered off into 6 groups that rotate around the room discussing each statement, then leaving written feedback for me. Each group has an assigned SCRIBE to write as the other group members feed them ideas. I only give students 2 minutes with each statement, which seems to be plenty of time for my quick-thinking high school kiddos. Any longer than that and their conversations get wildly off topic.
This activity serves a variety of purposes. First, it lets me see how well they work together in groups right from the very beginning, which is crucial information for me as a music ensemble leader. By the end of the rotation, I can see the class leaders, the quiet ones, and the "do I HAVE to do this?" ones. Second, it gives me essential feedback. By this point in class, I have shared my expectations for them. Now, they can share what they expect from me, from their classmates, and from themselves. I especially like asking them why they think music is important. As a music educator, I can clearly tell my "What Music Means to Me" story. It does my heart good to hear my students share their own personal thoughts about music and its importance.
For the students, this activity gives them a great Brain Break away from the typical lectures about procedures and class requirements. Students like to know - and need to know - that they will be treated fairly and their voice will be heard. I cannot promise I will bring them food everyday (this class seems to REALLY like food!), but I can promise that their request has been heard and noted for future reference.
What types of activities do you use with your big kids in the first few days of school? Share in the comments! I would LOVE to hear your ideas!!
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