Back To School Fun With Sticky Notes

The new school year is an exciting but also slightly nerve-wracking time of the year for both students and teachers.  I know I always have the dreaded "Nightmare Before School Starts" that usually involves me standing in front of a classroom full of chaos!

I like to start off my first class with students by introducing myself as more than "just a teacher".  I want students to know that I have a life beyond the classroom - I'm a mountain biker, a snowboarder, a hiker, a wife, a dog owner, a traveller, a reader... it's amazing how many kids I can connect with over the activities I participate in!  Finding a connection with kids is so important to me and it's done wonders over the years to build great rapport with my students.  I have a fun "Back to School Survey" I give students to get to know them a little bit better and I encourage them to share their answers with each other.  Download a FREE copy of the survey from my TpT Store!

Sticky Notes can also be a powerful tool for getting to know students and creating an open and sharing classroom.  I have piles on my desk and I want students to get used to the idea of sharing ideas on the board so I do a few activities in the first few days with sticky notes.  When students are asked questions and then told they can post their answers anonymously on the board they are more likely to be very forthcoming with their answers.

  • ask students to write down two things they're excited about and one thing they're nervous about in regards to your class - post them on the board and then discuss with the class
  • ask a fun question - "If you could perform with any band in world who would it be?" or "If you were a car, what would you be?" and share their answers they've posted on the board
  • ask students for advice as you start off the year - "Write down two things that would make this class work really well for you."  OR "Great teachers __________________"
  • One of the subjects I teach is Geography so to get kids thinking about my subject area I'll ask them to write down their favorite city, their dream vacation destination, the closest volcano to our school, list two environmental concerns...
  • When I teach English, I ask students to write down their favorite book, their favorite character, what fictional city they'd love to visit, the book character they're most like....
  • The students love the see what everyone else has come up with, but they also love the fact that it's anonymous so they're not self-conscious about writing down an answer.

Hope you have a smooth transition into your classroom this  
new school year!


Fun Back to School Student Survey

I have a love-hate relationship with the first week BACK TO SCHOOL - it's great to see my fabulous co-workers, catch up with friends, and see students back in my classes. However, it's also a frenzy of paperwork and "administrivia" that can bog us all down as we try to start off a new school year. 
It is so important that I get to know my students at the start of the year and I try to establish a connection with them quickly.  Instead of the usual survey questions for Back to School, I've made things a little quirky and different. For example, I've asked students to list the song that got stuck in their heads the most this summer (for me it was "Greenlight" by Lorde... just goes 'round and 'round my head sometimes!!) Or to list their favorite flavor of ice-cream (Ben & Jerry's Phish Phood - chocolate caramel goodness!).

1.  Be sure to do the survey yourself.  For real. And be willing to share your answers with your students.  Students love to learn the little details about you and it can be a fun way to find a connection with a quiet or shy student.  Plus... once my students figure out I love Skittles... it's amazing how often they bring me some.

2.  Don't try to do the whole survey all at once.  I usually ask the students to work up to a certain point and then stop.  I take a few minutes to see if anyone wants to share an answer and then I share one of mine.  This gives students who may feel "stuck" a chance to hear what others have said and it shows my students that I'm willing to share too.

3.  After about 10-15 minutes of doing the survey I ask my students to stop again.  I ask them to put a star or circle their favorite question on the survey that they've answered so far.  I ask them to share with a partner.  I give the students 2-3 minutes to do this.  I ask for volunteers to share their answers... BUT I ask them to share someone else's answer.  For example - "Juan's favorite movie this summer was ____________". Or... "Kira went to New York City for her vacation."  And of course,  I'll volunteer another answer.  OR ask the students to pick a question for me to answer.

4.  One of the questions I ask on my Student Survey is to name "the song that got stuck in your head this summer".  Yup... you guessed it... I'll ask my students to write their answers on a sticky note and put it on the board so that I can play the songs during the first few weeks.  Note - MY STUDENTS LOVE THIS!

5.  I like to give my students lots of time to answer the survey - sometimes I'll leave it for a day and go back to it.  The first few days of school can be overwhelming for some kids and often on their second opportunity to answer the questions they're more willing to expand on ideas.

6. Use the survey answers to do a "Speed Dating" activity - I'll split my students into two even groups (I'll jump in to make it "even" if I have to.) and partner them up using a system of your choice.  Switch partners frequently asking them to: find a common answer, find an opposite answer, share their favorite answer, come up with a new question...  

7.  Using sticky notes have students share their answer to a specific question using sticky notes on my board, (I don't ask them to put their names on their sticky notes.) and then I look for patterns or commonalities within the classroom.  For example - "Wow... it looks like many of you saw 'Wonder Woman' this summer!"  It's a great springboard to a class discussion!

8. As an extension idea I ask students to write a paragraph to justify one of their answers to a question of their choice.  They pick the question and then they must write a correctly formatted paragraph to explain their answer - I get to know them a little more, but more importantly I can quickly identify what the strengths and weaknesses are in my classroom in terms of paragraph writing.

Download a FREE copy of my Back to School Survey from my TpT Store!  Download includes teacher activity suggestions, survey and writing paper.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!
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