Leah Davies
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"Getting to Know Each Other"Activities, part 2

When children feel a sense of belonging, they are more ready to learn. Here's Part 2 of a list of noncompetitive, entertaining activities that foster children's friendships.
by Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Regular contributor to the Gazette
September 1, 2008

This is the second part of a list of noncompetitive, entertaining activities that foster children's friendships. These activities help students feel bonded to each other and to their teacher or group leader. If children feel a sense of belonging, they are more ready to learn. These activities may be adapted to various grade levels and group sizes.

  1. Give the students a drawing of a personal shield divided into four or six sections with a place in the middle for their name or picture. You may want to give them a choice as to what to label each space before they illustrate it. Examples are family, interests, favorite book, hobby, future career, strength, favorite place, pet, etc. Laminating the shields adds to their durability.
  2. Count off by twos and have the students form two circles, one inside the other. Have the children in the inner circle walk around and shake the other children's hands while music is playing. When the teacher stops the music, each child should have a partner. The teacher asks a question and each child introduces him or herself to their partner and answers the question. For example, the child in the outer circle says, "Hi, my name is___________ and my favorite food is_____________." Then the other child states his or her name and favorite food. Other examples of things to talk about could include a favorite color, subject in school, television show, book, sport, hobby, interest, animal, place to visit, etc. Resume playing the music and ask the children to find a different partner each time the music stops.
  3. Divide a bulletin board into as many sections as you have students. Ask several children each day to bring in two objects or pictures that represent what they did during the summer. Have them take turns explaining their objects and attaching them in their named space. Objects like rocks or shells may be mounted in plastic.
  4. Have the students write down what they think would be the answer to the following questions about their teacher or group leader:
    • Where was she or he born?
    • How many brothers does she or he have?
    • How many sisters doesshe or he have?
    • How many different states or countries has she or he lived in or visited?
    • Where did she or he go to college?
    • What interests or hobbies does she or he have?

      Discuss the answers and then have the students answer the questions themselves. For the question concerning college, ask them to write down where they would like to attend college. (This may be a new concept for some of the students, but the thought of going to college is a constructive idea.) Then as a class or in small groups have the students share their answers.

  5. Have the children stand or sit in a circle. Pass a soft ball to a child who states his or her name. Then the child throws or rolls the ball to someone on the other side of the circle who states his/her name and repeats the thrower's name. Emily threw to Tom, who catches the ball and says, "Emily, Tom" as he throws it to someone else, and the game continues. Remind the children to throw to someone who has not had a turn. Later when the children know each other, they can call out the name of the person to whom they are throwing the ball. A variation is to have the teacher ask a question like, "How old are you?" "Where were you born?" or "What is your favorite food, color, flower, tree, state?" Ask each child to answer the question when he or she catches the ball.
  6. Tell the students to follow the direction if a statement is true for them and to stop when another instruction begins. Ask them to watch and listen carefully as they play the game because at the end, the students will be asked to tell one new thing they learned about another child.

    Say something like:

    • "Everyone stand up."
    • "Everyone who plays piano, clap."
    • "Everyone who has a dog or cat as a pet, put your right hand on your head."
    • "Everyone whose favorite sport is soccer, stand on one foot."
    • "Everyone who has been to another country, put your left hand on your right shoulder."
    • "Everyone who speaks more than one language, tap your foot."
    • "Everyone who has brown eyes, turn around twice."
    • "Everyone who likes pizza, touch your toes."
    • "Everyone who was born in another state, raise your hand."
    • "Everyone who has a sister, jump up and down."
    • "Everyone who has a brother, pat your knees."

      A variation is to have the children form two lines facing each other. If the statement is true, i.e. "You were born in another state," have them step forward. Or, have them form a circle and move to the center of the circle if the comment applies to them. At the end of the game ask each student to name one thing that he or she learned about another child. For example, "I didn't know that Kate spoke another language," or "I didn't know that Joe played the piano."

  7. Have the children sit in a circle. Pass around a roll of toilet paper and tell the students to tear off as many squares as they need or want. After everyone is through, tell them that for each square that they took, they must tell one thing about themselves. For example, if Joseph took eight squares, he must say eight things about himself. Provide students who have trouble thinking of what to say, with clues like, "What is your favorite TV show, food, book, state, color, movie or interest?"
  8. Give each child a sheet of paper. Have the students cut the corners to make their paper look like an island. Ask them to draw what they would want to have with them on the island if they had to live there a long time. Suggest that they may want to draw people as well as objects. When everyone is finished, have them partner with another child and discuss their drawing. Then have the children share two things they discovered about their partner with the class.

Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website [www.kellybear.com]. 8/04



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About Leah Davies...

Leah Davies received her Master's Degree from the Department of Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Auburn University. She has been dedicated to the well-being of children for 44 years as a certified teacher, counselor, prevention specialist, parent, and grandparent. Her professional experience includes teaching, counseling, consulting, instructing at Auburn University, and directing educational and prevention services at a mental health agency.

Besides the Kelly Bear materials, Leah has written articles that have appeared in The American School Counseling Association Counselor, The School Counselor, Elementary School Guidance and Counseling Journal, Early Childhood News, and National Head Start Association Journal. She has presented workshops at the following national professional meetings: American School Counselor Association; Association for Childhood Education International; National Association for the Education of Young Children; National Child Care Association; National Head Start Association; National School-Age Child Care Alliance Conference.

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