Build Trust Week One: A Back to School Activity - Terry's Teaching Tidbits

The first week of school is filled with creating routines, establishing expectations, and connecting with your students.  Each year, I have back to school activity that I love doing with my students both at the very beginning of the year and then again at the very end.  I call it “The Compliment Paper”.

Here’s What You Do

  1. Have your students (and you) sit in a circle – You’ll want everybody to have a hard surface to write on, so you can rearrange the desks or move chairs around all the tables or desks in your room.
  2. Pass out two things to each student: lined paper and a pencil.
  3. Everyone writes their name on the top of the paper.
  4. Students pass their paper to the person to their left.
  5. Everyone writes a kind sentence about the person whose name is on the paper.
  6. When everybody is finished writing, pass them to the left again.
  7. Continue to pass the papers around until you receive your paper back.
  8. Everybody will read all of the kind words that their classmates and teacher have written about them.
  9. I suggest each student keep their paper somewhere safe (a pencil pouch, their locker, etc.) so that whenever they’re having a bad day, they can take out the paper, read all of the wonderful things that everybody has said about them, and hopefully turn their day around.

Things to note

  • Encourage your students to write something more than just “you’re nice” – give them an example of what they could write such as, “You’re a kind person and I appreciate that you invited so-and-so to sit at your lunch table”.
  • Ensure that nobody writes anything negative on somebody’s paper – only compliments allowed.
  • Don’t rush anybody.  This activity takes time and that’s okay.  I don’t have the kids pass their paper until I see all pencils down.

This activity has created trust among myself and my students as well as themselves and their classmates.  It gets the school year started on a positive note and allows everybody to feel good about themselves right from the start.

I love doing this activity again at the very end of the school year because it allows us to end on a positive note and the comments students write are much more meaningful and detailed after they’ve spent an entire school year with each other.

How do you build trust and create a positive classroom environment at the beginning of the school year?


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