Knitting a group of individual students into a classroom is always a challenge at the start of a new school year. Here are fun activities that will help students build a literacy community and encourage camaraderie—even when they evolve into small groups of skill-based instruction.
Take the Name Game to the Next Level— Names are words and grist for the language arts mill, and what’s more interesting to kids than themselves? Depending on grade and skill level, younger students can count the number of letters in their classmates’ first names, name their initial letters, identify known sounds or syllabicate first and last names.
For middle grade students, the meanings of names can be studied (Jayden means thankful), language cognates and gender markers identified (Jose/ Joseph/Yosef/Giuseppe/; Charles/Charlene), popular name lists can be examined and original names celebrated. Try MeaningofNames.com and the Social Security’s Baby Names site for more information.
We’re in This Together— Polling kids to find out what they would most like to happen in the new school year encourages group thinking and frivolity! And you can take the opportunity to give them a taste of what’s in this year’s curriculum. To separate the possible from the not, try the read aloud “This School Year Will Be the Best!” by Kay Winters.
You can also help students establish classroom routines and rules. Job charts serve as practice for writing and reading names, chore words, locations, dates and days of the week. Creating rules together for classroom conduct allows for lively discussion before finally writing them down and posting a Class Code.
Become a Cartographer—Have students map their classroom and school building, labeling places and objects. This will help kids orient to their environment and practice literacy skills. A terrific read aloud to motivate the mapping is “Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes” by Eric Litwin. In the book, Pete learns all about his school while singing. Which brings me to the next topic…
Songs and Read Alongs—Chants and songs are great for building group identity, lifting spirits and learning to read. There are many terrific picture books kids can easily read along with because they know the songs. Try these:
- “Hokey Pokey: Another Prickly Love Story” by Lisa Wheeler
- “If You’re Happy and You Know It” by James Warhola
- “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” by Laura G. Gates and Dan Brown
- “Knick Knack Paddy Whack” by Barefoot Books
- “On Top of Spaghetti” by Paul Brett Johnson and Tom Glazer
- “Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus” by James Dean
- “This Little Light of Mine” by Raffi
- “Who Took the Cookie from the Cookies Jar?” by Bonnie Lass and Philomen Sturges
Have a wonderfully literate school year!