MAT Blog

Begin with a Bang: 6 Ways to Make Students Go “Huh?”

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 15, 2014 1:55:10 PM

teachersTeachers can learn a lot from a well-written headline. Let me give you an example: When I logged onto Facebook this morning, the first post I saw was a link to a Buzzfeed article entitled, “20 Adorable Animal Couples…the Last One Astounded Me!” Did I click on it? You bet I did.

Regardless of what you teach, try beginning each lesson like Buzzfeed would—with some sort of provocative, attention-getting statement or activity that will make your students scratch their heads and go, “huh?”  Here are a few ways to do just that.

Begin with a Bang: 6 Ways to Make Students Go “Huh?”

  • Use a prop from a story you are going to read and discus. In my high school literature class, we were assigned John Steinbeck’s short story, “The Chrysanthemums.” On the day of our discussion, the teacher didn’t greet us at the door like usual. Instead, she sat cross-legged on top of her desk, staring at a plant (which, of course, turned out to be a chrysanthemum).

    This was strange behavior and certainly uncharacteristic of our teacher, but it did grab our attention. Rather than beginning our discussion with the text, we spent the first fifteen minutes of class talking about the plant on her desk, which ultimately led to a deeper discussion about Steinbeck’s story.

  • Go on a gallery walk. Set up several stations around the room and place a different image or object on each one. To give students a clear sense of purpose, provide them with a series of questions or tasks that they must complete at each station. When they are done, gather as a class and have each group share its conclusions.
  • Hand out a survey: Survey your students by asking questions and having them step to a side or corner of the room that represents their response. This gets students up and moving and out of their seats!
  • Begin with a relevant YouTube clip. Every semester, I ask my students to choose an advertisement and write a rhetorical analysis of it. I want them to not only describe their advertisement in detail, but analyze it and explain how the advertisement works, and how it delivers its message to consumers.

    Before beginning our unit on advertising, I always begin with Lucky Strike Ad Pitch,a clip from the popular AMC drama, Madmen. It goes perfectly with the unit and always sparks an interesting discussion that we might not have had otherwise.
  • Showcase a student’s work. This is another trick I picked up from a former teacher. Before my teacher would return our essays, he would select a couple from the stack and read a short section to the class. After he finished, he would talk briefly about what he liked in the essay and why he selected it. Every week, he selected essays by different students, read them aloud, and highlighted something that the student did exceptionally well. This was empowering for both the strong and weaker writers.
  • Pretend to be confused: Start class by describing a conundrum you’re experiencing and don’t know how to get out of. The only way you can get out of it is with your students’ help.

 Pedagogy with a Personality

Tags: icebreakers for teachers, student engagement

Opening Day: 5 Ways to Rock the First Day of School

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 5, 2014 9:34:18 AM


There’s only one opening day, so like most teachers, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to welcome my students and start building a positive classroom culture right away. While my checklist is by no means exhaustive, it will ensure that I walk into the classroom fresh, organized, and ready to kick start a brand new school year with enthusiasm.

No more last-minute preparations
This year, I’m making it a point to have everything prepared for the first day of school a week in advance. I’ve been guilty of making final tweaks to the syllabus or my introductory lesson the night before the first class—which meant that I had to get to school early to print and make photocopies for my students. It always got done, but it was an unneeded distraction, another to-do that kept me from being relaxed and fully present.

This year, I am making a vow to skip all last-minute preparations.

Introduce the course syllabus in a new way
The syllabus is a critical document, but let’s be honest, reading it is about as exciting as reading the dictionary. While I need to know that students are familiar with my classroom policies and procedures, I’ve also seen how it zaps students’ enthusiasm.

There are all kinds of creative ways to introduce the syllabus, but here’s one I like:

Set up two rows of chairs that face each other. Students will sit across from each other, each with a copy of the syllabus that they’ve briefly reviewed. Now ask your students two questions: one about something in the syllabus and one that’s personal and just for fun. The pair has a short period of time to answer both questions. Once the allotted time is up, check to make sure the syllabus question has been answered correctly.

Now the students in one row move down one seat, sort of like you might do in “speed dating.” Repeat the process until you have covered the essentials of the syllabus. Not only will students learn about the classroom policies and procedures, they’ll also learn a lot about each other.

Set the tone; start the conversation
This year, I want to start a conversation that will continue throughout the rest of the school year. In addition to a few other activities, I plan on reading Dr. Suess’s book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go. This book is perfect for younger students, but the message is ageless. In typical Dr. Suess fashion, students will rhyme their way through a series of playful, yet empowering pages reminding them that they are the masters of their ship; they have the “brains, the shoes and the feet” to take them where they want to go this year. This book is not only a great conversation starter, it’s also a way to set the tone for the rest of the school year.

Never be sabotaged by faulty equipment
Nothing stresses me out like having to fix a piece of cranky technology in front of a group. You know what I’m talking about: the video plays, but there’s no sound; the sound plays, but there’s no video. This is the worst, especially when the success of my lesson is contingent upon working technology.

If you are using technology on the first day of class, save yourself a headache: Get there at least an hour early to make sure it works!

Learn students’ names immediately
I’ve tried everything in the book to learn my students’ names as quickly as possible: sticker name tags, index cards that students fold in half and write their names on, name games, and so on. Eventually, I get them all, but I like to know every student’s name by the second class meeting.

How do I do it? I use a little app called Attendance2. This app was originally intended for teachers as a way to streamline the attendance-keeping process. But I use it for the built-in flashcard function, which allows me to snap a photo of my students, add their name and any other necessary details and file it away so I can quiz myself later on.

Please feel to share your favorite activities for the first day of school!

15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School

Tags: first day of school, icebreakers for teachers

Kick-Start the School Year With These Icebreakers for Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 13, 2014 9:09:07 AM


The first day of school is still a ways off, but many teachers—especially those of us who just received our fall assignments—are already beginning to think about it. The day usually begins the same way: Our new students trickle in and find a desk where they can carefully guard their tongues for the next week. We feel for our students not only because we’ve been there before, but also because we always have some nervous energy ourselves. To ease the first-day jitters, we’ve started using a few icebreakers from LouAnne Johnson’s book,
Kick-Start Your Class.

The Adjective Game (10-30 minutes)
Create a list of adjectives that might be used to describe students (happy, energetic, worried, musical, lovable, and so on). Post your list on the board or project it onto a screen so students can see it.

Place chairs or desks in a circle, semicircle, or some other arrangement where everybody will be able to see each other.

Instructions for students:

  • Take a few seconds to think of an adjective that describes you today; take a look at the board if you need help thinking of a word. This isn’t a test and you aren’t stuck with this adjective forever. It’s just for the purpose of getting acquainted.
  • I’ll start by introducing myself and giving an adjective that describes me. Then we’ll go around the room. When it’s your turn, your mission is to repeat all the names and adjectives of the people who went ahead of you. If you get stuck, we’ll all pitch in and help.
  • Just for fun, feel free to choose an alliterative adjective—one that begins with the same letter or sound as your first name—such as “Musical Malik” or “Jumpy George.”
  • After we complete a full circuit, I’ll ask for volunteers to see if anybody can remember every name and adjective.

Collecting Autographs (10 minutes)
Create a template with 20 to 25 boxes. Inside each box, type a different statement. For example, “I have been to the Grand Canyon”; “I have eaten calamari”; “I have lived in another state,” and so on.

Make copies of your template, one for each student. Students now have 10 minutes to walk around the room and find a student who has experienced each statement and write down his or her name in the appropriate box.

I Have To & I Can’t (10-20 minutes)
This activity is especially effective for reluctant learners and at-risk groups, because it reminds them that they have the power to choose their own school experience. In a nonthreatening way, it places responsibility for their learning and behavior on their own shoulders.

Create a handout that includes the following two complete sentences:

I have to____________________________________________.
I can’t______________________________________________.

Place one copy of the handout on each desk.

Instructions for Students
Today we’re going to do a short exercise to help you take control of your experience in this classroom. This exercise is for you. It isn’t graded and you don’t have to put your name on it, hand it in, or share it with anyone else.

On your handout, you will see two incomplete sentences. Fill in the blanks with the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar.

When you are done, go back to your first sentence. Cross off the word, “have.” Replace it with, “choose.” Now go to your second sentence. Replace “can’t” with “don’t want.” Now read your two sentences and see if they are true.

We often tell ourselves that we can’t do things, but there are actually very few things in life that we can’t accomplish if we are willing to commit ourselves to the goal. And most of the things we think we have to do are really choices—because we don’t want to face the consequences of not doing them. There are only five things we truly have to do to stay alive: breathe, drink water, eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. Everything else is optional.

Me In A Bag (5-10 minutes for first session; 10-20 for the second)
Collect enough paper bags to offer one bag to each student. Write your own name on the outside of your bag and draw a simple design. Inside the bag, place three small objects that have meaning for you. When students are seated, show them your bag. Then show each item and tell them why you placed it in your bag: “I brought this photo of my dog because he’s my best friend. I brought this blossom because it comes from an apple tree in my backyard; every year, I use the apples to make apple butter and homemade pie,” and so on. Distribute the paper bags to students.

Instructions for Students
After I pass out the markers, I’d like you to print your first and last names on the outside of your bag in large letters. You have 10 minutes to decorate your bags.

Tomorrow, I’d like for you to bring your bag back with three items in it that mean something to you. We will share our bags with the class so we can learn a little about each other.

Following up
On the second day, students take turns showing their bags and the items they choose. This can be done as a class, or in small groups.

Photo credit: stevendepolo / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School

Tags: first day of school, icebreakers for teachers, Classroom Community

First Day of School Jitters and 4 Ways to Conquer Them

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 23, 2013 3:53:00 PM

first day of schoolIt’s hard to believe, but summer is coming to a close. Some of you have already started a new school year, but we anticipate that most of you will begin this Monday. If you’ve got the first-day jitters, we promise that you’re not alone. Students have them and so do your colleagues—even the battle-scarred veterans who have been in the classroom for years. There’s only one first day of school and we want you to walk into your classroom with confidence.

First Day of School Jitters and 4 Ways to Conquer Them

No last minute preparations
We have a habit of scolding students who procrastinate. Truth be told, we’re some of the finest (and most covert) procrastinators in the nation—and our peace of mind has paid for it. Putting things off, even the small stuff just isn’t worth it.

Before you go to bed on Sunday evening, everything—I mean everything!—should be ready for the first day of class. No last-minute photo copies before first hour. No last-minute tweaks to the syllabus and seating charts. Set the timer on your coffee maker, make your lunch, and iron your outfit the night before. When you wake up, the only thing you should concern yourself with is getting both legs inside your pants.

Do you really want to improvise your introductory speech?
First impressions are important, so is the way teachers introduce themselves. Some teachers are brilliant orators and can deliver on the fly, but we always feel better when we know exactly what we want to say. Write down your opening remarks; even practice them if you think it would ease your mind.

If you’re using technology, make sure it works
Nothing stresses us out like having to fix a piece of cranky technology in front of a group. You know what we’re talking about: the video plays, but there’s no sound; the sound plays, but there’s no video. In that moment, it feels as if a spotlight parted the heavens just to illuminate our embarrassment and frustration.

If you are using technology on the first day of class, get there at least an hour early to make sure it works. If you’re using YouTube videos, make sure they’re still there. If you have a slow network, get these videos loaded up so that they play instantly.

Take a moment…then begin
Most of us have a set routine when we get to school. Routine is good, but do these activities have a clear beginning and end? In other words, do you end up typing three or four concluding sentences or reading one final paragraph while your students trickle in?

It’s tempting to squeeze the marrow out of every moment before “it” really begins, but there’s a costly tradeoff. Sure, you may have gotten through one more email, but did you notice the energy, demeanor, attitude, vibe of your students as they trickled in? Did you greet each student and say hello?

15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School

Tags: first day of school, icebreakers for teachers, classroom management, mindfulness exercises, Classroom Strategies

If a student's life was a Penguin Classic, what would the cover be?

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jul 23, 2013 9:29:00 AM

Penguin Classic BookIf you’re sitting near your bookshelf, take a glance at it and find a book published by Penguin. It didn’t take long, did it? Readers know a Penguin classic when they see it: the orange zing of the book spine; the distinguishing minimalism of the cover design; that adorable, bow-tie wearing penguin.

Our love of this publisher got us thinking about your students. What if they designed their own Penguin book covers? If their lives were Penguin classics, what would the covers look like? Designing their own book cover could be a creative way for students to introduce themselves at the beginning of the year—or you might even use this as an alternative to the tried-and-true book-report assignment.

To download a PDF version of the templates, simply click on the images below or stop by the Penguin website.

Penguin Classic Book
penguin classic book

penguin classic book

penguin classic book

If your students need a little inspiration as they design their own book covers, refer them to A Penguin a Week.


15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School

Tags: icebreakers for teachers, writing strategies, Writing, writing fluency, writing skills, back-to-school

Breaking the Ice: 15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jul 12, 2013 6:00:00 AM

icebreakers for teachersThe first day of school is always filled with a clamor of activity. The day begins with the customary getting-to-know-you session, but once that wraps, we’re on to serious business: textbooks, rules, expectations, and syllabus review.

Suddenly it’s three-o’clock, the bell is chiming us out of the classroom, and our students are gone. We don’t know them any better than they know us.

Of course, we have nine months to connect with our students, but we’ve always believed that first impressions have a way of setting the tone and giving shape to our classroom culture. Because of that, we like to begin the first day of school with introductory activities or icebreakers.

In our guide you will find 15 of our favorite getting-to-know-you games, projects and icebreakers. Some of them simply aim to amuse and diffuse the first-day jitters; others—like the Blackout Art project and The Time Capsule—give students the opportunity to create something and document their first experience in your classroom. We wish you and your students the best in the forthcoming school year!

You can download our new guide by clicking here.


Tags: first day of school, icebreakers for teachers, classroom management, Classroom Climate, student engagement

3 Ways to Nurture a Positive Classroom Culture Right Away

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jul 11, 2013 9:21:00 AM

first day of schoolEvery year we anticipate the first day of school with a healthy mix of nerves and excitement. Our students’ first impressions of us give shape to our classroom culture—and that is never far from our minds. We want to help you start the new academic year off on the right foot, so we’re offering three steps you can take to help create a positive classroom culture right away.

Learn your students’ names immediately
We all learn our students’ names—eventually. But the sooner you learn them the better. You may have your own trick to remembering, but we’re going to share two of our own:

If you want something tangible to help you learn names, snap a quick photo of each student with a Polaroid camera. Now hand out the developing picture (and a Sharpie) and ask each student to write his/her name at the bottom. When you get home that night, flip through the photos like flashcards. You’ll have their names down in no time.

If you’d rather skip the Polaroid, try an app called Attendance2 and you’ll receive similar results. For $4.99 you get not only a digital attendance log, but a built-in flashcard function that allows you to photograph each student and quiz yourself.

Start studying pop-culture now
Our students are pop-culture connoisseurs. They know the latest celebrity gossip; they know which hip hop artists are passé and which aren’t; they’ll have an opinion about the name of Kim and Kanye’s baby; they know the hottest video games and fashion trends. Do you though?

You’ll have plenty of time to expose students to your own collection of music, books and films, but allow yourself to learn from them too. Surprise your students by incorporating elements of pop culture into your lessons. Use YouTube videos and pop-culture analogies to help you illustrate ideas. Your students will love it.

Make your introduction memorable
You have all kinds of free technology resources at your fingertips. Why not use them to shake up that run-of-the-mill introduction you give every year? Here’s one idea:

Introduce yourself with Voki, a free service that allows users to create animated audio avatars that speak. First you’ll need to create your own personalized, speaking avatar. Choose from a variety of characters (some human, some not) and customize the mouth, eyes, make-up, skin color and hair. After that, you’ll need to give your avatar a voice: upload a text document, call via phone or use a microphone and then publish it to any site that accepts html. Now you’re ready to share it with your new students.

If you’re looking for more ways to engage your students on the first day of school, check out three of our recent blogs or download our newest guide, Breaking the Ice: 15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School.

15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School

Tags: first day of school, icebreakers for teachers, classroom management, student engagement, Classroom Strategies

Newspaper Blackout: a creative way for students to introduce themselves

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 22, 2013 6:00:00 AM

blackout artExperimental artists have been creating blackout art long before Austin Kleon, but it was his bestselling collections—Newspaper Blackout (2010) and Steal Like an Artist (2012)—that gave us an idea: What if students used blackout art to introduce themselves on the first day of school?

First, what is blackout art?
All you need is a newspaper article (or any form of print media) and a Sharpie. Once you hand out the supplies, explain to your students that you want them to tell you one thing about themselves by blacking out all of the words on the page that they don’t intend to use in their sentence.

So instead of starting with a blank page and worrying about what in the world they should write, your students are simply eliminating words they don’t need.

Once your students are done, have them share their sentences with the class. And just think, it’s only the first day of class and already you have cool new artwork to hang on the walls!

If you’re interested in a few more creative writing strategies, check out three of our blogs:


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Tags: icebreakers for teachers, writing strategies, Writing, writing fluency, writing skills, back-to-school

5 first day of school activities you can swear by

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 20, 2013 2:48:00 PM

There’s still plenty of time before the new school year begins, but we know that many of you have already started preparing! As you start to prep your minds, classrooms and curriculum for the fall, we thought we’d share 5 first day of school activities to get you started off on the right foot.

5 first day of school activities you can swear by

first day of school activitiesWrite a letter of introduction and send it before school begins
This is something you should do before the first day of school, but we're throwing it on the list anyway.

Imagine opening your mailbox sometime in early August and finding a letter from your son or daughter’s prospective teacher. In the letter—addressed to both you and your child—the teacher tells you all about herself, who she is, what she likes to do, how long she has been teaching, what she wants for your child and how you can contact her if you have any questions. You’d feel pretty good about this new teacher, wouldn’t you?

Parents want to believe that their child is being left in capable and compassionate hands. Students want to believe that their teachers care about them and are happy to have them in class. A brief (and thoroughly unexpected) letter to each student is one of the easiest ways to welcome and reassure parents and students.

first day of school activities 2Make a big deal out of greeting students on the first day—and every day thereafter
Call us vain, but whenever we fly, we always appreciate the fact that the pilot and flight attendants stand in a row at the entrance, smile and say hello in a tone that suggests we are all long-lost friends. When we exit, we also appreciate the fact that they thank us for flying with them and wait to exit until the passengers have made their exit first. Sure, it’s their job to do this, but we appreciate the gesture: it shows class and makes us feel like we’re in good hands and appreciated.

Think of yourselves as pilots. It’s your job to help students reach their destination and keep them safe through the turbulence. But it’s also your job to make them feel appreciated. Greet your students every day—show them that you’re ready to and eager to explore a day of learning with them. Help them to feel that they are in a safe, fun environment.

For example, say “hello, how are you?” to every student. If someone was absent the day before, say, “Hi, Johnny. I’m glad to have you back. We missed having you yesterday. I like that tie, I like that new haircut…” It won’t take long for you to notice how this simple gesture impacts your relationship with students.

first day of school activities 3Ask your students to write a letter of introduction
One of our favorite first assignments is to have students submit a letter of introduction. We don’t evaluate the letter for spelling or punctuation and we make that clear when we assign it. If you teach a specific course, English for example, you might want your students to tell you about their experience with writing. Do they like it, loathe it? Why? Who was their favorite writing teacher and why? Where would they like to improve this year? How can you (the teacher) help them accomplish their goals?

Not only is this a useful way for students to assess their own goals for the year, it’s also an easy way to earn their first A+ of the year.

first day of school activities 4Dare to ask your students what they expect of you
On the first day of class, we spend a lot of time telling students what we expect of them and very little asking them what they expect of us. What if that changed this year?

Instead of creating a set of rules on your own, why not make it a collaborative activity between you and your students? We’ve done this using a poster board which we divide down the middle with a line. The left column is where we list our expectations of the students; the right is where the students list their expectations of us. Before writing anything down, make sure that there is dialogue and consensus between students. Of course, you have the right to intervene or refocus students when their expectations won’t do.

first day of school activities 5Join in on the fun
When it's your turn for recess duty, consider participating in a game rather than standing on the sidelines. If you're teaching at the secondary level, try running to grab a ball that has been thrown out of bounds on the lunchtime basketball courts, or visit a colleague's P.E. class during your prep. Playing with students is a great way to honor them and nurture relationships with them.

The playground is also a perfect location to have a conversation with students you’re worried about. Don’t take recess away from students who have misbehaved; use the change of scenery to your advantage. It’s much easier to talk to a student about what was going on inside the classroom when you are outside of it.  

If you’re looking for a few more first day of school activities, check out one of our recent blogs, Preparing for Opening Day: 5 of the best icebreakers for teachers.


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Tags: first day of school, icebreakers for teachers, classroom management, mindfulness exercises, Classroom Strategies

Preparing for Opening Day: 5 of the best icebreakers for teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 18, 2013 2:37:00 PM

icebreakers for teachersThe first day of school is still a ways off, but many teachers—especially those of us who just received our fall assignments—are already beginning to think about it. The day usually begins the same way: Our new students trickle in and find a desk where they can carefully guard their tongues for the next week. We feel for our students not only because we’ve been there before, but also because we always have some nervous energy ourselves. To ease the first-day jitters, we started using icebreakers. Below you will find five of our favorites.

Preparing for Opening Day: 5 of the best icebreakers for teachers

Strings Attached
The only thing you’ll need for this activity is a big ball of string. Here’s how it works: The teacher stands at the door with two handfuls of string ends. As you welcome your new students give each student an end. Alternate hands as you pass them out: The first student gets a string-end from your right hand; the second from your left; the third from your right and so on.

Once everyone has arrived and has a string-end, they must start to follow the course of the string they hold (you got to class early and created a trail for each piece of string). Some pieces wrap around chairs, run through the coat closet, under and over desks and around your podium, or become tangled with other pieces of string. Your students will have to follow this trail—wherever it may lead them.

Eventually your students will be startled to discover that they are face-to-face with another student who is holding the other end of the same piece of string! Once each student has found his or her partner, it’s time for them to make their introductions. 

Put on a new jacket
The covers of our most-popular books often become torn and dirty. Direct your students to the classroom library and have them select books with damaged jackets or book covers. If you don’t have enough damaged books, allow them to choose a book with their favorite cover they’d like to protect.

Offer a variety of craft materials (paint, pens, random ephemera and fabric) so that students can create their own covers and book jackets. If you’d like instruction books or kits for slipcases, stop by Hollanders.

This idea comes courtesy of Bonnie Kunzel’s and Constance Hardesty’s book, The Teen-Centered Book Club: Readers into Leaders.

Start a time capsule
Type up a handout that includes questions like:

  • What is your favorite TV show?
  • What is your favorite song?
  • What are you thinking right now?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your least favorite thing to eat?
  • How tall are you?

Feel free to get as crazy and creative as you like with these questions. Once your students are finished, collect the handouts and put them in a secure place.

When I was in third grade, my teacher received permission from the principal to dig a hole and bury our class time capsule (which also included an item belonging to each student) in the playground! At the end of the year, we dug up our time capsule and discussed how much our interest, tastes and height had changed over the course of a year. 

Know your orange
We got this idea from Christopher Willard’s book, Child’s Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Help Our Children Be More Focused, Calm and Relaxed.

  • At the front of the classroom or in the center of a circle, place a bowl of clementine oranges on a desk. Ask your students if they can tell the oranges apart.
  • Now pick up the bowl and walk by each student and allow the student to select a clementine.
  • Once everyone has an orange, write these questions on the board: Look closely at your orange; how many colors does it have? What shape is it? Where did it come from? How many hands have touched this orange before you selected it? What does it feel like when you squeeze it? What does it smell like? Are there any distinct aromas? How does it look when you hold it at arm’s length? How about when it is a couple of inches from your eye?
  • Have your students write down their answers—tell them not to worry about spelling/punctuation/complete sentences.
  • Now pick up the empty bowl, walk around the room and have each student drop his or her orange into the bowl.
  • Now put it back on the table and have your students come up one at a time to find their orange.
  • Have your students share how they found their orange.
  • Eat and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

If you’d like to take this activity a few steps further, you might have your students journal about mindful tasting. Try giving them the following prompts:

  1. List 5 of your favorite things to eat and use vivid, colorful language to describe how each tastes, looks and smells.
  2. Pretend that you had your friend over for dinner and she refused to eat your favorite dish. How might you persuade her to eat it?

Spill the Skittles, not the beans
Pass out five or ten Skittles (M&Ms work too) to each student and explain that for each piece of candy the student has, s/he must tell the class something about him/herself. Here’s the tricky part: each color corresponds to a category. An orange Skittle represents a scary memory; green ones represent a favorite outdoor place; blue ones represent their favorite place to swim and so on. This is an easy way to get students talking—and when was the last time kids turned down free sweets?

There are a number of variations on this activity. For a slightly different spin, check out Katie’s idea on her blog,


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Tags: first day of school, icebreakers for teachers, classroom management, mindfulness exercises, Classroom Strategies

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