Introductions: Getting the year off to a good start

September 4, 2012

This activity aims to help your class get the school year off to a good start. Students share their names and a high point of their summer; learn a little about their similarities and differences; and begin considering what kind of community they want to create in their classroom.


Students will:

  • share their names and a high point of their summer
  • stand up to learn about similarities and differences in the classroom community
  • begin considering what kind of community they want to create in their classroom

Social and emotional skills:

  • group communication
  • relationship building (and maintenance)
  • empathy

Materials needed:

  • chairs set up in a circle for all to sit
  • a talking piece (any small item that can be passed around the circle)


Before the class begins, arrange the chairs in your classroom into a circle. Sitting in a circle allows for all participants to see each other in an unobstructed way (no tables or other furniture in between).  Sitting in a circle encourages equal participation in the process for all.



(10 minutes)

Welcome students to the circle, and explain that in this activity, we'll be getting to know each other a bit. As part of the activity, students will be using a "talking piece." The talking piece is sent around the circle in order, from one person to the next. The person holding it is invited to speak or pass, while everyone else practices active listening.  With every go-round, people have the opportunity to share without interruption what is on their mind and listen to what’s going on for others in the group. 

Ask students to think about a highlight of their summer that they can share in a go-round. Pass the talking piece around the circle, asking each person to first say his or her name, and then share a high point of their summer.  Start the process by sharing yourself, then pass the talking piece to the student next to you.


Stand up and applaud

(20-30 minutes)

In this next activity, the group can learn about some of their similarities and differences. Participants also explore what it feels like to be part of a group and/or to stand alone; and what it feels like to be welcomed and affirmed by the group. 

Instruct the participants to stand up if:

  • they are the oldest sibling
  • they are the youngest sibling
  • they are a middle child
  • they are a twin
  • they are an only child
  • they grew up in a city
  • they grew up in the suburbs, a small town or the country
  • they are into sports
    • ask those to remain standing if they are into sports as a fan (what sport?)
    • ask those to stand up/remain standing if they are into sports as an athlete (what sport?)
  • they like pizza (what toppings?)

For the next part ask participants to applaud for those who stand up if:

  • they speak more than one language (what languages?)
  • they play a musical instrument (what kind?)
  • they had their birthday over the summer, etc.

Choose what stand up prompts are relevant for your group.  Keep them relatively light, as this is your first gathering for the year, but interesting enough for students to learn about each other, whether it’s a group coming together for the first time or a group of students who already know things about each other.  

With a show of hands ask who preferred standing as a group and who preferred standing alone.

Next, send the talking piece around, asking students: What did they prefer about standing alone or as a group?  Why do they think that is?

Send the talking piece around once again, asking students:  What did they think of the applause?  How did it make them feel?

After students have shared their experience with the activity, summarize their answers. 

Talk about how we’ll be learning about each other over the course of the school year, learning about what we have in common as well as what makes us different.   Touch on the idea of being able to stand up for who you are and what you believe in, whether that’s something you share with others (standing as part of a group) or something that makes you unique and different (standing alone).  Ask students to imagine the kind of classroom community where people feel welcome, comfortable and safe sharing who they are, what they believe and how they feel about things.   What does it take to create such a classroom community? 

In a subsequent lesson, you may want to follow up on this discussion by having students develop a set of community practices - ways that they want to relate to each other in the classroom. (See our Getting to Know You booklet for one approach to doing this.)


(5 minutes)

Send the talking piece around one more time, asking students to share in one word what they thought or felt about today’s activity.