Sunday, 16 October 2011

September- Building Community

We spent a few weeks in September getting to know each other, establishing expectations and building community.

A few activities and the resources we used are listed below:

Getting to know each other and beginning of the year self-portraits:

We love the author Todd Parr and find that his books lend themselves well to the beginning of the year.  While some years, we begin with a full Parr author study, this year we used some of his books to do an art project.  It's Okay to be Different is a great book to begin with.
Image taken from

After reading several of his books, we did a directed drawing activity, where children were led through the process of drawing themselves on 11x18 drawing paper.  This part was a whole group activity.  Over the next several days, the children painted first the background and then themselves in the style of Todd Parr.  Think bright and bold colours with a black felt outline to finish. We made this part a centre activity, that way we had an opportunity to teach and model some beginning painting skills such as how to hold a paint brush. After a two week stint as our welcome bulletin board, the portraits line our classroom for the rest of the year, accompanied by this quote:

"It's Okay to be different.
You are special and
important just because of
being who you are."
-Todd Parr

Using No David books by David Shannon to establish expectations and classroom promises:

This idea was first spotted on the blog, First Grade Parade.  We decided to use it in our own classroom to have the kids come up with classroom expectations.  It seems all kids love the No David books, especially the part where David runs naked down the street.  After reading the books we establish the two lists.  What is a peacebreaker and what is a peacemaker: 

We decided as a class, that we wanted to be peacemakers.  Each child created a coloured cut out of themselves.  Again, we did this as a directed drawing activity.  Students were given three pieces of 8.5 x 11 paper.  One piece for the head, one piece for the top and one piece for the bottom.  This is a great beginning of the year activity to see how the students are at using scissors.  Once completed, each child was given a peacemaker badge to put on themselves.

How Full is Your Bucket and building a sense community in our classroom:
We came across this book and started using it in our classroom last school year.  The kids loved the book and really understood the concept.

Image taken from

The idea that what we say and do can have a big impact on the feelings of others is the message of this book. We all have invisible  buckets over our heads that are full when we are happy and empty when we are feeling sad, angry or alone.  We use this book to talk and write about things that fill our buckets because not only can people fill our buckets, but we can fill our own buckets when we do an activity we enjoy or when we help someone else.  We often end our school day by talking about our buckets.  At the beginning of the year, we ask, "Who filled your bucket today?"  As the year progresses and we have introduced the idea of criteria, we may ask, "How full is your bucket today and why?"  In this case we are asking students to give their bucket a rating out of five and reasons for their rating.  Five being full and one being empty.

What are some tried and true beginning of the year activities that you like to use in your classroom? Please share.

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