Beginning of the Year: Blending Procedures, Icebreakers, and Fun

scavenger huntWe all know that explicitly teaching and re-teaching procedures at the start of the school year is considered “best practice.” We also know that building relationships with students is vital to a successful and enjoyable year, and a great way to do this is through get-to-know-you “icebreakers” at the beginning of the year. Lastly, we know that students learn by doing, movement, and teaching others (and have a lot more fun this way).

Why not combine the three?

Two years ago at the middle school level I did a “Procedures Scavenger Hunt” at the beginning of the year, and not only did my students learn my procedures quickly, they also loved it. Last year at the high school we spent a few days of procedure lists, which were, I’ll admit, less than thrilling for us and the kids. I am excited to bring back the scavenger hunt, get students moving, practicing talking to each other, investigating information on their own, and adding a little competition in there too!

Procedures Scavenger Hunt (or a more creative name you can come up with):

Type simple procedures in question/answer format onto a Word document. Leave the answers blank (the students will complete these during the game). I write the procedures in order from most important (#1) to less important, so that, even in my smaller classes, we are covering the most vital information when I give only one answer notecard to each student.

Next, gather notecards and write 1 answer on each.

Give one answer notecard to each student (if you have more students than procedures, it’s fun to add questions about yourself, the school, etc.). Pass out one procedures Word doc to each student with a clipboard. Give the students a set amount of time (5 minutes) to walk around the room and talk to as many students as possible to exchange answers. If they want to guess for some answers they did not get to talk to the corresponding student about, that’s okay! The goal is to try to answer as many correct questions before time runs out. When the time is up, show the correct answers one by one and have students “grade themselves” or each other, and write down any answers they missed. The student with the most correct answers wins!

Challenge variation: Do not number the answer note cards- students guess which question the answer fits with.

More structured variation: Have students walk around the room until you say “Stop!” Then they find a student to pair with and exchange answers. After 30 seconds of talking about answers, they walk around the room again until you tell them to stop and partner up. This could be fun with music, too!

*Note: Be prepared for students potentially giving each other more than just their own note card answer when they meet to exchange answers. For high school students, I see it difficult and also unnecessary to try to prevent this, but instead important to encourage the students to try to exchange as many answers as possible in the 30-second talking period.

Even more structured variation: Form two large circles with equal numbers of students in each. They stand and exchange answers with the person across from them until you say, “Rotate.” Then the inner circle rotates (this method would not work as a competition).

Independent/Exploring the room variation: Tape the answer note cards on walls, desks, etc. all around the room. Give students a set amount of time, and they explore the room to find as many answers as possible in that time frame.

Don’t forget to model and re-teach procedures often, and provide rationale (sometimes I even like to role-play, which the kids think is hilarious!). I believe catching any student not following them the first few days of school will really help to prevent problems the rest of the school year.