Tomorrow I head back to my schools after a wonderful winter break with my family. As much as my kids say they wish winter break can continue, I can hear and see through many clues that they are excited to return to the consistencies of school. Perhaps the idea they are most excited about is re-connecting with their classmates, friends and, yes, even their teachers. As a school counsellor, I know that this social excitement does not exist with every student. Many students are anxious about having to return to school. Perhaps their anxieties are related to leaving the comfort of their home and family, having to re-engage in a very socially confusing environment, or being away from video-games and social media for extended periods of time. Regardless of age or grade, I find the best way to engage students, from those who are excited to those who are reluctant to return to school, is through organized play. Here are three of my favourite play based activities to have students do upon returning to school.
Use an icebreaker type thumball. Purchase or make your own thumball. A thumball is a soft soccer like ball that has questions written on each hexagon. Throw or pass the ball around, where a student's thumb lands, they respond to the content. An example of an icebreaker type question would be "Favourite Snack".
2) uLead Cards / Find a Picture
Find a collection of random pictures (uLead cards, pick-a-post card, pictures from magazines, etc..), more than enough for one for each student. Have students choose a picture that best represents their break (summer, winter, spring).Then using a pre-determined method of grouping (uLead Cards have animal categories for groupings) have students get into groups of 3 or 4. In their groups they would take turns sharing why they chose their picture. The picture could then also be used as a motivation tool for any journal type writing that you may ask students to complete about their recent break.
3) That's Exactly What It Is
Take a random object. Pass the object around the circle. As each person has the object they are responsible for make up an abstract use for the object. The person then announces the name of the object and dramatically uses the object for its assigned purpose. Once this is complete and before the object is passed on, the entire group simultaneously announces out loud, “that’s exactly what is”! For example, using a rope a person could say, “This is my pet snake” and have it wrapped over their shoulders. They rest of the group would then say, “That’s exactly what is”! This is a great game to inspire creativity and bring laughter into the classroom.
I hope these games are useful in your practices.
~ Sheldon Franken