If you try this activity with your students, we’d love to see what you do. Share your journey via the #Inspired2Learn hashtag on your preferred social platform.
Discipline: These activities can be applied in any class or subject area though they do not have direct ties to content. With some creative thinking, you can make those connections by choosing prompts or actions related to what you are teaching that day.
Age level: All
Time: 3–5 minutes (or longer if you build out some of the in-class writing possibilities)
A simple “Good morning it’s good to see you,” can be received in lots of different ways depending on how the message is delivered and how it is received. If you’re in a bad mood, “Good morning, it’s good to see you” can convey that, those same words can sound quite different when you’re genuinely excited to begin the day. But there are lots of other ways to greet our students and at the core, being seen and heard first thing in the morning or right as you enter class feels good. These activities help make that possible.
As students enter, have them pick between two different things with a simple invitation like, “Which would you rather…” or “What do you like more…” This is a super fast way to learn a little something about your students and you can make the choices more complex as the year goes on and you get to know them better.
- Cats / Dogs
- Hot / Cold
- Soccer / Football
- Summer / Winter
- Day / Night
- Bare Feet / Shoes
- Coffee / Tea (for older students!)
- Cake / Ice Cream
More advanced examples:
- Talking / Listening
- Comforting / Being Comforted
- Argue / Ruminate
- Take a walk / Take a nap
- Watch a game / Play a game
As students enter class greet them with a hello using different body parts, for example:
- Fist bump
- Touch elbows
- Pinky waves
- Shoulder shrugs
- Toe taps
- Eyebrow waves
Puppets can be fun for any age but might be more joyfully received in the younger grades. For a curricular connection, you could use a puppet that has something to do with what you are teaching (i.e. a sea creature if you’re studying water or the ocean, a character tied to a book you are reading). The puppet can simply say hello or you might try a question that the students have to answer like: “What do you think my name is?” or “What do you think my laugh sounds like?” If this feels a bit outlandish, check out this Edutopia article about the many benefits of using puppets in class!
Word (or Number or Color) of the Day
Many people use interesting tools to help them set intentions for the day or to guide their thinking as they set out on a particular task. Fortune cookies, Tarot cards, and pieces of religious texts are just a few examples. What if your students start class with a word that gets them in a particular mindset? Here are a few ways to try something like this with your students:
- Create a deck of cards with various thought-provoking words on them and as students enter class give them a card that they go to their seat and write a few sentences about as the term relates to them. Words on these cards might include things like brave, curious, active, listening, and bold. Or, if you wanted to tie into the content you’re teaching the words could come from the vocabulary you’re teaching in the subject. So a unit on the weather might include terms like sunny, forecast, cloudy, stormy, pressure, and precipitation. Sentences students write might look something like this:
- Today I am going to focus on my listening and see if I can do a better job of hearing what other people have to say. I like to talk a lot but I wonder if my words will be more thoughtful if I also spend time trying to hear more.
- Today I am feeling a lot of pressure to get my assignments done. My teachers are asking a lot of me and so is my family but I think I am doing my best.
- Hand students playing cards (remove the K,Q,J,A) as they enter and have them create a math problem using that number as the solution. For an added level of challenge keep the K,Q,J,A in the deck and have them figure out how to create math problems with those cards as the answer!
- Get a collection of paint samples from the hardware store (the kind with several gradations of the color on one strip that each have a different name) and give each student one as they enter the classroom. Have them write a poem in which each line incorporates the name of the color. They can even write these poems ON the paint strips and then you can hang them on the classroom walls!
Standards Addressed by these Activities
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Competencies
Self-Awareness: The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose.
Self-management: The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations. This includes the capacities to delay gratification, manage stress, and feel motivation and agency to accomplish personal and collective goals.
Social awareness: The abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts. This includes the capacities to feel compassion for others, understand broader historical and social norms for behavior in different settings, and recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
Responsible decision-making: The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations. This includes the capacities to consider ethical standards and safety concerns, and to evaluate the benefits and consequences of various actions for personal, social, and collective well-being.
Relationship skills: The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups. This includes the capacities to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to problem solve and negotiate conflict constructively, navigate settings with differing social and cultural demands and opportunities, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed.