For far too many years I started the first day of the school year reading through the dreaded syllabus and going over classroom rules and procedures. Students would sit politely, but you could almost see their eyes glaze over and all color drain from their face as they feared the worst. Was all days in Mrs. Richmond's class going to be this boring?
I finally wised up and ditched the syllabus on the first day. Instead, I created an engaging and exciting first day activity called Favorite Things, and became intentional about getting to know my student's names and passions the first few weeks of class. I can't emphasize enough what a difference it made on our classroom culture when I made this shift. Students began to feel psychologically safe in my classroom as they got to know me and their peers. It may seem like a big investment at first when there is so much curriculum and content to cover. However, I will tell you from my own experience that when you take the time in the first weeks to prioritize relationships, it will pay dividends for learning in the long run. When students know they are seen and heard, trust you and their peers, and feel safe in their learning environment, they thrive. Nothing is as important in the first few weeks of school than building relationships with your students.
A strategy that worked beautifully for building relationships and a positive, trusting classroom culture was developing an introduction unit that covered the important procedures and basic skills framed with team challenges and mystery badges. For those of you who have read Make Learning Magical, you are going to recognize this as the MasterChef Bootcamp. This is similar, but I've iterated it so that it could be used in any class or grade level. You can use this idea in elementary, middle, or high school and in any content area. Use this strategy as a launching point to creating your own rendition of the magical mystery tour with your students so you can create a classroom this year that is bursting with magical learning!
Magical Mystery Relationship-Building Tour
Print the Magical Mystery Badges on card stock as follows:
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.