If you are looking for a back-to-school activity for your social studies class that is not cheesy or boring, I've got you covered. Set your classroom norms and establish a safe and collaborative class with this ready-to-go, low prep first week of school activity.
At the beginning of the school year, I like to set classroom norms. We start with a discussion of:
What does our classroom look like?
What does our classroom sound like?
What does our classroom feel like?
Collaborative Poster for Social Studies Norms
I've put together a classroom wall display that you can use to establish your classroom norms. This collaborative poster is a way for students to work together to create a wall display. I like to showcase student work on the wall whenever possible, and this is an easy and low prep option to get a bulletin board created.
Each student completes one piece of the poster. There are varying amounts of detail within the different pieces so you can give each student just the right amount of detail to color. Because there are many different class sizes, I've included three poster options (18 pieces, 24 pieces, and 36 pieces).
Identity & Diversity Activity
I'm not one for cheesy ice-breaker games, so I've created a lesson that will help your students get to know one another in a meaningful way. Included with the poster is a detailed lesson aligned to the Social Justice Standards about identity and diversity.
Let's be honest, these terms are kinda hot topics right now. If we can establish at the beginning of the year what these terms mean, we are going to see less pushback and it will be helpful as we enter different class discussions. Ultimately we want all our students to feel safe and welcome, and this lesson can be a great get-to-know-you activity.
In the first half of the lesson, your students will learn that identity is a set of characteristics by which a person is recognized or known, and these can be visible or invisible characteristics. Your students will have an opportunity to fill out a chart based on whether a trait is visible (for example skin color) or invisible (for example education). It is important for students to understand how identities are formed so that those identities can be celebrated in our classroom and our students can gain greater confidence in their own identities.
From here, your students will learn about diversity. We all have lived experiences and identities that overlap or are different from those around us. Diversity is what makes our classroom beautiful. Your students will have an opportunity to create an Identity Box that is filled with words, phrases, or pictures that represent their culture and community. They could use words like, "first-generation American," or "family of musicians." You could have your students illustrate their Identity Box or print images from the computer.
Next, have your students break into small groups to share their Identity Box with their peers. You could also do this whole group with a small class, but with the first week of school, some students may not feel quite ready to stand before the entire class to present.
I've included a reflection sheet in which your students will analyze what they learned about their classmates that they didn't know before they started the activity. Your students will also identify commonalities and differences with their peers, and think deeply about how what they learned may affect how they interact or treat their classmates.
You could post the identity boxes on your bulletin board, and this could again serve as a great way to highlight your class identities and diversity.
I hope this back-to-school activity will get your students excited about social studies class, and will serve as a means to foster a safe and collaborative classroom.
You can grab this lesson here:
Looking for more back-to-school tips? You might find these blog posts helpful.