As the summer winds down and back-to-school sales pop up in stores, teachers everywhere are preparing for the beginning of a new year. This is an exciting time for both students and teachers—the excitement of a new year, new classes, new possibilities. It’s like starting a new adventure—or edventure. So how can you focus that excitement on the first day of school to set the stage for a positive and innovative new year? Here are five ideas for starting off the year right—as an edventure!
Get to Know the Room and Class with a Selfie Scavenger Hunt
Start the year off with two things students love: games + selfies! Many classrooms spend some time on the first day of school orienting students with their new space and classmates. Whether this is a primary classroom going over their cubbies and centers or the incoming freshman class getting a tour of the building’s library. Spice this up with a selfie scavenger hunt. Group your students into teams and give a list of important places or things around your classroom or school. Then give them a set amount of time to work together and identify the items on their list. Once they find something, the entire team needs to fit into a selfie with it. This ensures everyone is participating and keeps the team together. They can upload their photos to a shared Google Drive folder or simply share them on a screen when the game is over.
Build Your Community with BreakoutEdu
Have you ever gone to an escape room? These recreational spaces are becoming more and more popular in cities across the globe. The concept is simple: a team of 4-12 people enter a space, and are “locked” in it for an hour. They must work together to locate clues that form bigger puzzles. Solving a sequence of these found puzzles will unlock the secret to “escape the room.” This structure was modularized by James Sanders, the founder of BreakoutEdu. His company offers a box filled with all the items you need to create an escape room experience right in your own classroom or library. Moreover the accompanying website has dozens of free game options to remix these items into a myriad of experiences for students of all ages. Many of the games are even themed to specific grade level standards and concepts. Starting off the year with a BreakoutEdu game is an incredible way to set the stage for teamwork, communication, critical thinking and risk taking—wonderful lessons to kick off a year of positive classroom culture!
Begin a Year of Reflection with a Daily Edventure Blog
The beginning of the year is a great time for students to look back and consider where they’ve come from. Start the year off by giving each student their own blog. This will be a space for them to start and/or end each day reflecting on their learning, choices and growth. The first day could be as simple as trying to remember their first day from the previous year and reflecting on how that went—and how they hope this day will be similar or different. For those students who are pre-readers, they could draw a picture to compare the two days, and then take a photo to upload to their blog. There are many blog options that allow students to create this online journal, but maintain safety and security for minors. One option that I love is KidBlog, which was created by a teacher!
Set Goals with a Video Message to the Future
Just as students have reflected on their past, it’s also a good time to look to the future. As an addition to their blog, or perhaps in place of it, consider having them record a video message to their future self. Set up a table with a laptop or camera and 60-second kitchen timer. Give each student a chance to first brainstorm what they want to say to their future self. If you were able to talk to “the you at the end of the year,” what would you say to them? Ask them to talk about their goals for the year, the advice they hope to follow, and questions they’d want to ask themselves. Then let them record these 60-second messages and save them for the end of the school year. It’s amazing to see not only how much they physically grow, but also how their goals and mindsets grow as well. If your colleagues in other grades do this each year, it’s even more fun to see a timelapse of their growth throughout their time in your building!
Gamify with Classcraft
If you’re looking for an even bigger challenge to kick off the year, consider taking your existing curriculum and overlaying a gamified layer on it. Gamification is a concept of introducing the ideas and structures of games to other areas of life. For example, if you’ve always taught a unit on fractions, and always had the same learning activities, quizzes, homework and tests, imagine adding XP (experience points) to each of these. For each challenge (i.e., those same learning activities, quizzes, homework and tests) a student collects XP. This XP can be used to get other “powers” (i.e., extra time in a quiz, or a homework pass, or the chance to get an extra book from the library, etc). Classcraft is an amazing (and mostly free) website that creates this structure for you – in a very student-friendly package! It also boasts powerful integration with Google Classroom and Google Drive – so for those already working in these platforms, the move towards gamified fun is even easier!
I hope some of these ideas help you have a fresh start to your school year. As teachers, with a little creativity, we can invite our students to a great edventure every day. For more ideas like this, check out my new book, Courageous Edventures, on pre-sale now!