When I think back to school I think relationships. My number one priority every year in the classroom when heading back to school is to build relationships with my students and work to have them build relationships and community with one another.
The BEST way I have found to accomplish this is through cooperative learning. Back to school time is the perfect time to introduce cooperative learning to our students and get the year started on the right foot.
Cooperative learning strategies come in many forms from high prep to no prep. For the beginning of the year, I prefer to stick to low or no prep strategies with high student buy-in. This way both my students and I are in for some quick wins that will foster the classroom community and immediately endear us to one another as well as cooperative learning.
Today I want to share three of my favorite first day of school cooperative learning activities that only require blank white paper. I mean, how much lower prep could you get?
Back to School Cooperative Learning Strategies
Team Name Placemats
This is a great activity for the first day of school. I always liked to have my students name their own teams. You might want to give students a theme or category to narrow down the names, or you might want to let them go wild! Totally your choice!
Giving students the opportunity to name their own teams gives them instant ownership and allows them to get to know one another a bit.
- Each team of students gets one piece of blank white paper.
- Each student uses a writing utensil of a different color.
- Students are given one minute to brainstorm and write down as many possible team names as they can.
- Students take a moment to read all the brainstormed names and share their favorites with the group.
- As a team, students select their team name and record it on the back of the paper in large writing.
- Teams share out their team names.
I like to repeat this activity throughout the year each time I switch table groups. I might choose a different theme each time or stick with one theme.
One year I chose alliteration as the theme and students came up with names like the Absolutely Amazing Aardvards and Totally Terrifying Tarantulas. It was so much fun!
This activity is another relationship building quick win! It builds up student self-esteem from the moment you do it, and students treasure their capes for time to come.
- Every student gets a blank piece of paper taped to their back.
- Each student needs a marker.
- Explain to students they will be traveling around the room and writing compliments on one another’s capes.
- Demonstrate for students how to carefully write a meaningful message on the cape without writing on one another’s shirts.
- Brainstorm with your students a few meaningful messages they can rely on, but allow students to build upon these messages to personalize for each person.
- Challenge students to write a meaningful message on every person’s cape.
Alternately, if you do not want students attempting to write on one another’s back you can lay out the blank papers along with the students’ names around the room and have students write on them that way.
This is a great activity to repeat throughout the year as students get to know one another and have more personalized compliments to share.
Who doesn’t like to find out that others have something in common with them?
This activity is the perfect way to help students build relationships based on common interests.
- Each student needs a piece of blank white paper and a writing utensil.
- Show students how to fold their paper into eighths. (You may choose to do more or fewer spots.)
- Call out questions for students to answer, one in each spot on their paper.
- Example questions might include:
- What is your favorite book?
- What is your favorite game?
- Which movie could you watch over and over again without getting tired of it?
- How old are you?
- What is your favorite school subject?
- Example questions might include:
- After each of the spots on their paper have been filled in, students travel around the room (you might want to use a strategy such as stand up, hand up, pair up) to find students they have answers in common with. When they find someone they sign the section on their paper.
- Students do not have to have written down the same answer to sign another student’s paper.
- More than one student can sign each spot.
Back to school is all about relationships, and you can build community through simple, no-prep cooperative learning activities. Let me know in the comments how else you build community during the first days of school!
For more back to school cooperative learning ideas click here.
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