The first days in a new school or class can be daunting for many children. Surrounded by people you don’t know, in an environment you’re not familiar with. Imagine how this experience can be magnified by many children with SEND. As a teacher or member of school support staff, you will want to establish a friendly, supportive classroom environment on your first day back, and here are some lovely activities for doing just that!
1 – Sticker Match-Up
As each child comes into your class, give them a sticker each. Don’t tell them why or what it’s for, just that they need to keep it where others can see it. Then, ask the class to walk around and find other children with the same sticker as them (this works well in pairs, so ensuring that there are two of each sticker is good). Once they find their partner, they have to show each other their silliest face and then find out 3 things about each other to report back to the class.
2 – What’s in a name?
Put your class into pairs and ask them to design a name badge which they will wear for the rest of the day. The twist on this is that they will make the name badge for their partners – not for themselves. Encourage children to decorate the badges with things that interest their new friend. For example, if Sarah has a pet dog, you might encourage her partner to make her badge doggy themed. This helps to ensure that the children are focusing some of their energy on another person and asking questions/making a new friend rather than their own solo activity.
3 – Get to know you interviews
For older children who might find making name badges to be a little bit beneath them (and let’s admit it – that includes most secondary aged students), you could try using the concept of speed dating and adapting it for your class. Make two lines of chairs, ensuring that all chairs face another one. split the class in half (not boy/girl as this makes it feel a little TOO much like speed dating!) Then tell the group that they need to find out 3 things about each other (these could be put on the board as a prompt – something like 1 – name, 2 – a favourite food/item/hobby and 3 – Something surprising about themselves). You could even add a twist to the activity by giving 5 false facts for the class to try and discover. You’ll need 5 students on board with helping to plant these facts, but it can add a fun twist to the activity and provide a good way to keep the students engaged. Give each “interview” a time of 1 or 2 minutes and then get one side of the line to move on one chair until everyone has interviewed each person in the opposite line. At the end of the game, you can ask the class to suggest what the 5 fake facts were.
4 – Fact-finding mission
Put your group into pairs or small teams. Give each team the same list of questions and start a timer – whichever team is standing at the front of the class with the right answers first will win, so there is incentive to stay on task and find the answers quickly! Questions might include things like:
- How many students in the class have blue eyes?
- How many students in the class have a name that starts with the letter S?
- What is the weirdest thing anyone in the class has eaten?
- Who went the furthest for their summer holiday this year?
- How many people in the class have a pet dog?
5 – Desert Island
This is a classic game which is a fantastic ice breaker and needs no additional resources. Simply put your class into pairs or small teams and tell them they need to come up with 3 things they would take to a desert island. This could be favourite food items, books or practical things. Once each team has come up with their list, get them to feed back to the group. Very simple, but an effective way of encouraging students to get to know each other a bit better.
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