building community, new year, Student-centered, students

Building Community Activities Just for You


Every year I try to have various community building activities for the kids to do on those first few days of school.  And while I detest ice breakers, in 5th grade, we do like the occasional get to know me activity.  Though the years I have used various scavenger hunts, time capsules, and bingo games to get to know them a bit better, to get them to know each other, and also for me to keep until the end of the year.  Then when summer beckons and we cannot believe that the year is over, I pull out the forgotten letters, the time capsules, the about me’s, and we reminisce and we laugh and we shake our heads at the answers we gave so long ago.

As I shared some of this with my teammates yesterday, I realized I should share it here as well.  Some of this is me created, some of it is adapted from others a long time ago.  Either way, I hope you have a phenomenal back to school and that some of these may be useful to you.

  • Around the Room Scavenger Hunt – customize to fit your room, helps the kids notice the things they need to find or know.
  • Human Treasure Hunt – great for when you have a lot of new kids so they can discover things about each other
  • A Letter to Me – I use this to peek into the kids’ thoughts and then save it until the end of the year to see how they have changed
  • Me Collage – a secret collage where the kids have to guess who made it
  • 3 minute time test – there are so many variations of this one but it is used to discuss the importance of following directions
  • Group Bingo – Instead of numbers they have to find kids that match the description
  • Time Capsule – Students fill in the blanks (this one always cracks me up)
  • How We Started – All of their favorites are listed here

Other Ideas for Community Building:

Other Ideas for Community Building:

  1. The Bloxes Challenge
    – a favorite of mine the past few years and this year the whole grade level will do it.
  2. Create a flag pennant:  Cut a white piece of 12”X18” construction paper diagonally to create two pennants.  Students write their name in large letters with color and then fill in the pennant with things about them.  Laminate and display above their lockers.

  3. Writing sample to see how they grow, a great prompt is; “What color is (blank) grade?”

  4. Every year I have the outgoing class write “Dear Future Student” letters so we read these in the first couple of days.

  5.  Using the students create a classroom vision video.  Educators can get a free account and then use that for student work.  We use the stock pictures and add out own sentences to show what we want to get out of the year.

  6.  Random pictures of you slideshow.  Create a slideshow with pictures that are meaningful to you and have students guess what they mean – this can be a lot of fun as students guess their meaning.

  7.  The firs test of the year!  Surprise them with a pop quiz that is all about their teacher, true/false questions work best.

  8.  Connect the students – this is a great activity that only requires a large sheet of paper and sharpies.  Students all write their name on the border of the paper and then one person makes a statement about something they like or do such as, “I play soccer.“  Anyone else that plays soccer gets to draw a line from his or her name to the name of the person who made the statement.  Then the next person states something and so on until everyone has had a turn.  Great way to visualize all the things we have in common.

  9. Name your table and create a banner for it.

  10.  Toilet paper introduction.  Pass a roll of toilet paper around and instruct students to take as many squares as they want.  Once everyone has taken their squares, tell them they need to share as many things about themselves as they haven taken squares.

  11.  Guess the like.  Every student writes down something they do or like on a piece of paper (no name on it!) then crumble it up.  Have a paper toss battle for a few minutes and then everyone grabs one “ball.  Try to guess whose paper it is.”

Some of these I use, some I don’t but either way, feel free to use.

I am a passionate 5th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.


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5 thoughts on “Building Community Activities Just for You”

  1. Wonderful ideas! Bloxes are sold out on Amazon and! I love the idea and know it would be a great time any day of the school year.

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