by Rachel Wells
The first few days of school are filled with excitement, anticipation, building new relationships, and a little bit of nerves. As teachers it’s our job to help students meet new friends and get settled into their new environment, and cooperative learning activities can be a big help in accomplishing both while setting a good foundation for the school year.
Cooperative learning activities:
- Give students a chance to practice getting along with one another.
- Show students that school is a safe place where we care about each individual person.
- Show students that their teacher cares about getting to know them as individuals.
Check out some of our favorite cooperative learning activities that are perfect for the first days of school.
Hang up at least 5 large pieces of chart paper around your classroom with one statement on each. Put students into 5 groups and give everyone a marker. The groups will rotate around the classroom taking turns to stop at each paper, where they will respond to the statement written on it. Each student has to write something on each paper.
Some suggestions for statements you can write on the posters include:
- What do you want to be when you grow up and why?
- What is something that scares you
- I feel happy when…
- What is your favorite memory?
- Where was a really cool place you visited?
- What is something you like about school?
- What is something you dislike about school?
- Things people do that annoy you
- Things people do that you like
- I feel sad when..
- My dream vacation would be to…
Give each student a large puzzle piece cut out of a piece of paper. Have students decorate and design their puzzle pieces with images that describe them (likes, talents, favorite things, etc.) You can hang this up to create a classroom display, let students present their pieces to the class, or lay them out and see if the class can match the pieces to the person.
Paper Bridge STEM
Get kids working together from the start with a simple STEM challenge. Put students in groups of 2-4 and give each group a sheet of paper that is about 12 inches long by 4 inches wide. Their goal is to build a bridge that can support a small toy car and can stand without any additional supports.
For this activity you will place a colored dot sticker (the red, yellow, blue, and green ones you use for BINGO) on each student’s forehead without them knowing what color it is. When the game begins students must group themselves by color without speaking! Only non-verbal communication and cooperation allowed.
All you need for this fun team building activity is some medium sized balls. Put students into groups of 6 or 7, and have them stand in a circle. The challenge is that students need to pass the ball around the circle using only their elbows without dropping it.
Put students into groups of 4 or 5 and have them sit together. Give students 5 minutes to talk to each other and find something they all have in common (maybe they all play soccer, like strawberry ice cream, or have a pet dog) After 5 minutes is up make sure every group found a ‘common thread’ before having them work together to create a group flag that represents it.