Additionally, we’ve added a goal-setting activity to orient students towards a new school year. Research demonstrates that when students are provided with instructional time to set personal goals, they demonstrate higher academic achievement and engagement in the classroom.
In Create a Goal and Discover Your “Why”, students create a personal goal and uncover their intrinsic motivation, a source of motivation that research has found to be more durable than extrinsic factors. By the end of the activity, they will have a strong understanding about why their goal matters to them as well as actionable steps they can take toward accomplishing their goal.
Finally, we’ve updated our activity on classroom contracting with a new protocol designed with the beginning of the school year in mind. Contracting is the process of openly discussing with your students’ expectations for how classroom members will treat each other to foster an inclusive class culture. Contracting for Back to School asks students to reflect on their experiences learning in classrooms where they felt welcome and classrooms where they didn’t feel welcome. Students use these reflections to brainstorm community norms that prioritize mutual respect. By the end of this activity, your class will have a contract that lays the foundation for a learning environment where all students are more likely to feel seen and heard.
Plus, Activities for Getting to Know Each Other
While the first days of school can be fun, they can also raise cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for stress and anxiety. This is especially true for students transitioning to a new school or starting school in a new country.
For Ka’Isis Lee, a secondary school student whose essay Is it Kay? is featured in our updated Back to School Toolkit, the most anxiety-inducing part of the first day of school was the roll call. Lee writes:
I’ve always dreaded the first day of school simply because I knew that in every classroom I entered, the teacher inside would reach a certain point on the student list where the last names that begin with K and L met. I would know exactly when they got to that point because of their hesitation and the resulting dead silence in the room… No, it doesn’t help that I have social anxiety…no it doesn’t help that I’m a person of color…and it definitely doesn’t help that I have a naturally quiet voice.
Lee’s experience demonstrates the importance of learning and pronouncing names correctly at the beginning of the school year. As Henry David Thoreau once observed: