Back to School Activities 2021

This an interesting and exciting back to school for me because this year my school, PGA, is hosting a hybrid AND virtual track for students. Meaning I am teaching in-person classes a few days per week and virtual classes a few days per week.


It also means the need for both in-person and virtual back to school activities that I would love to share with anyone looking for some fun, new ways to get to know your students.


Virtual


Classmate Bingo on Kumo Space


In the traditional version of Classmate Bingo students are given a paper cards with different prompts like, "has a sibling" or "dislikes tomatoes," and students are tasked with walking around the room finding classmates who fit each criteria and getting their signature to fill that square.



In the virtual version, students use a Google Slide Bingo card to type in their classmates' names (feel free to make a copy and edit the template I used). The key here is figuring out a way for student to move around and talk more naturally in a virtual environment. For this, I use Kumo Space, a virtual meeting room that allows participants to navigate through virtual environments with their mouse or keypad and talk only to who are close in proximity.





Just be sure to get district IT approval to use Kumo Space with your students!


This or That? with Jamboard


This or That? or Would you Rather? is a game I love to play with students in the classroom, having them move to one side of the room or the other to discuss their answers.


To do this virtually, you could use Kumo Space (as mentioned above), but I like to use this activity as a way to introduce students to Jamboard and practice using it in a causal environment.


For this, I create a template slide with a sticky note for each student with their name already on it, then I draw a line down the center and designate each side of the screen for a "this" or "that" response. I duplicate that slide as many times as questions I have.





Then, when I am playing with students, I direct them to the Jamboard and tell them to drag their sticky note to the appropriate side of the slide and double click their sticky note to elaborate on why they chose the answer they did.


In-Person


Hexagonal Thinking (Get to Know You Edition)


Hexagonal Thinking is a really fantastic activity to help students think critically and make connections, it can be used in all subject areas for almost any topic. If you've not been introduced to Hexagonal Thinking, you can learn more about it on Cult of Pedagogy.


I saw a version of this activity being used as an ice breaker from Amanda Guffey on Tik Tok, and was delighted with the results in my classroom.


To do this, I printed out (I admit it was an octagon not a hexagon) template for each student and posted a list of questions for them to answer (one answer per side of the octagon), then placed students in groups and explained that they would need to connect each of their shapes to each others, creatively inventing explanations to connect their sides.




For example, some students connected the color "black" with "learning" and explained that sometimes when you are learning online your computer crashes and the screen goes black.


After the small groups had successfully connected their sides, I put groups together to continue connecting their shapes in bigger and bigger groups until the whole class had connected.


The students had a ton of fun with this activity and it was a great way to introduce the importance of being able to explain your reasoning. Click here to make a copy of a printable octagon template and the question slide to edit and reuse.


M&M Questionnaire


If your students are allowed to eat in class (and you have some classroom budget for snacks) this activity is fun because it involves M&Ms.


Give each student a pack of M&Ms, then post a list of questions on the board, each question corresponding with a different color M&M. Ring a bell and students have to find a classmate to talk to. They will pick one M&M from the bag and ask that question to their classmate. Once they have both answered they can eat that M&M, you ring the bell, and continue for several rounds.





I like this activity, yes for the chocolate, but also because I think asking and answering questions of each other is genuinely one of the best ways to get to know people. Click here to make a copy of this template and edit for you own use.