It’s finally here! A brand-new, shiny school year! Instead of kicking it off with the tired old standby the “What I did over summer vacation” essay, why not try an activity that is a little more original? We found five fun projects that incorporate writing and art and are great introductions and icebreakers that will help you get to know your sweet new cast of characters.
1. Summer in a Jar
Lesson Credit: Erin Koenig, Boulder Community School of Integrated Studies
Based on original art by: Jennifer Judd-McGee
Hearing a story from your students’ lives gives you a glimpse of who they are, where they come from and what is important to them.
If you could capture one moment from your summer vacation and put it in a jar to keep forever, what would it be? Focus on one story and include rich details and descriptive language so that your readers will feel like they were there with you.
Draw an outline the shape of a mason jar. Divide your jar into sections and fill in each section with beautiful details from your essay.
2. Friend-Wanted Classified Ad
Check out the lesson from I Teach Third.
This activity will help you build community in your classroom by giving your students the opportunity to think about the qualities of a good friend. By defining these characteristics, you set the stage for kids to build healthy new relationships at the beginning of the year.
What qualities do you look for in a friend? Think about the most important characteristics. On the flip side, what do you think you have to offer in a friendship? Write an advertisement like one you would see in the Classified section of the newspaper searching for a new friend.
Draw a picture of your ideal friend. Draw labels to identify all of the important characteristics and qualities you will look for.
3. The Best Part of Me
Check out the lesson from Lessons With Laughter.
Each of us has unique, adorable features that distinguish and endear us to the people in our lives. Maybe it’s your curly hair or strong hands. Maybe it’s the cluster of freckles across your nose or your pointy elbows. This activity helps build our students up to see themselves (and their classmates) in a positive light by highlighting their favorite physical characteristic.
What makes you you? What do you think is the best part of your physical appearance? Why is it your favorite, and what does it say to the world about you?
Mount your handwritten paragraph on a solid background with a close-up photograph of your unique feature.
4. Heart Map
Check out the lesson from Scholastic Teachers.
A heart map is a visual reminder of all a student loves and cares about. It expands students’ minds and helps them think broadly about what really matters to them as individuals.
Travel to a place deep inside you and think about what it is that you love and value most in your life. Make a list or an outline of these things and add details for each thing.
Draw a large outline of a heart. Partition the inside of the heart into sections and label each section with one thing that truly matters to you. Add color and pictures to as many sections as you like.
5. My Past and Future Hands
Check out the lesson from Emerlye Arts.
It is important for students to identify their strengths and challenges and set goals. The beginning of a new school year is a great time for students to think about who they’ve been up to this point in their lives, and who they want to be going forward in the new year.
Think about what defines you. Are you an excellent reader? A hardworking student? A good friend? Now think about some of the challenges you’ve had. Are you too shy to speak up? Do you wish you were better at math? Do you want to grow as a writer? Write your thoughts down in two lists—one labeled “Who I’ve been” and the other “Who I want to be.”
Draw an outline of your two hands next to each other. (Students will most likely need to help one another.) Inside the hand on the left, draw pictures of who you’ve been up to this point in your life. Inside the hand on the right, draw pictures of who you hope to be this year.