first day of school

Back-to-School: Building Community

It’s time to bid adieu to the summer and welcome in the new school year!

Create a positive and inclusive learning environment by building community in your after school program

New and returning students will file into your after school center buzzing with excitement and eager to take on new challenges.  More than likely, your after school program serves students from different grade levels, with diverse personalities, backgrounds and learning needs. The best way to establish a positive and inclusive learning environment is to build community at the beginning of each school year.

During the first week of your program, try an icebreaker to help students get to know each other and your staff! It’s also a fun way to calm first-week jitters and kick off the new year.

Here are 2 icebreakers to try with your students:

“Getting To Know You” Beanbag Toss

What You Will Need:

space, beanbag or ball

How To Play:

  • Have everyone stand in a circle
  • Start the game off by throwing the beanbag or ball to someone in the circle, simultaneously asking a question such as “What’s your name?”, “What’s your favorite food?”, “What’s your favorite cartoon?”, etc.
  • The person who catches the beanbag/ball must answer the question and then throw it to someone else and ask their own question

**The game works best when it moves quickly so young students may need help asking their questions.

(source: Activity Village)

Build community among students with an icebreaker activity

“Meet Your Classmates” BINGO

What You Will Need:

paper, markers, pens/pencils, bowl or box container, copier

How To Play:

  • Prepare a BINGO sheet that contains the same number of squares as there are students in your program (15 students = 15 squares)
  • Have each student write his/her name on a small piece of paper and place it in a bowl or box container
  • Give each student a prepared BINGO sheet
  • Let students walk around and gather signatures from other students (one signature per square)
  • When all sheets are filled, begin playing BINGO
  • Reach into the bowl/box and pull out a student’s name
  • Call out the names and let students mark off that name on their BINGO sheets
  • The first person to get a full row of names calls out BINGO and wins the game
  • The winner can call out the name in the second round of BINGO and so on

(source: EducationWorld)

An icebreaker is a surefire way to build community in your after school program. The activities are great to do in the beginning but are also effective throughout the year. What are ways that you build community in the beginning of the school year?