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
- 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.
- Pass out two things to each student: lined paper and a pencil.
- Everyone writes their name on the top of the paper.
- Students pass their paper to the person to their left.
- Everyone writes a kind sentence about the person whose name is on the paper.
- When everybody is finished writing, pass them to the left again.
- Continue to pass the papers around until you receive your paper back.
- Everybody will read all of the kind words that their classmates and teacher have written about them.
- 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?