I love this time of year. It’s Back to School season which means teachers and students are busy getting to know each other as they transition into their classrooms. Kids, teachers, and parents alike are often having some pretty big feelings and everyone is doing their best to make back to school a smooth transition. As a long time teacher, I always tried my best to create a sense of community in my classroom from day one with various Getting to Know You Activities. Some years were more effective than others, but overall when I look back on my years as a Kindergarten through Second Grade teacher, I am pretty pleased with what we were able to accomplish.
There are so many ways to build community in your classroom through art. For parents, these ideas are great for home as well. We called them getting to know you activities and most of them are pretty easy art activities as well. Ok, maybe not every single one is easy, but most of them are pretty easy and I know you can do at least one. I have faith in you. Here are ten art ideas for the first few weeks of school, at home or in the classroom.
1. Self Portraits – Self Portraits are pretty standard for back to school because you can do them again at the end of the year and see the transformative growth that’s taken place over the course of one year. There are so many ways to do self portraits, from collage, to painting, to pastel and watercolor. I would say this is one of the best activities for the first week or two of school.
2. Family Portraits – Family portraits are such a wonderful keepsake and can provide so much information about a child. They can be a great conversation starter and a window into the most important people in any child’s life. This watercolor and pastel activity can be done as a self portrait too and is super simple. If you’re going to start somewhere, here may be the best place.
3. All about Me Glyph – You can tailor this glyph to your students or children, make it as silly or informative as you want. A really fun one for back to school.
4. Building with Wood – You might be wondering why I put this open ended building activity on the list. I am a firm believer in tinkering (check out this post All About Tinker Trays) and the power of open ended creativity. Building with wood is perfect for getting to know your students or children, seeing what interests them and getting to know how they think and see the world. I love this activity!
5. Art Journals – Art journals kind of rule. I would be thrilled to receive an art journal my child had been working on over the course of the year or several weeks/months. You can start with the cover for the first week and add as you go. Kids love to reflect on their different projects throughout the year. You can add a photo page in the beginning where kids can tell about their families and friends and use quotes throughout.
6. Self Portrait Shadow Boxes for Kindergarten and First grade – I share this project as much as I can. It’s in so many posts you may be thinking, ok already, enough with the shadow box self-portraits. I just love this so art project so much and still can’t believe I haven’t done this with my own children. It’s such a wonderful keep sake and you can learn a lot about your students or children from the experience. Plus it makes the coolest display in the hallway or a child’s room.
Here’s another self portrait shadow box post with Preschoolers
7. Mixed Media Collage – I love mixed media collage for kids of all ages. You can prep some pics from home, cut out some magazine pictures, and let your children or students create an incredible masterpiece on wood, cardboard, paper or canvas all while getting to know the person growing and learning in front of you.
8. Art Portfolios – I threw these art portfolios in here because you’ll need a place to store all this wonderful getting to know you art. We use these all the time at home and love them. I have them in a big basket and at work I have them for every preschooler in a big cardboard box.
10. Gratitude Boxes – These gratitude boxes are so open ended and thoughtful. I did them here as a way to celebrate a Reggio Inspired Thanksgiving. You can use them in a similar way to hear from your children and students. All the art has quotes on the back. You can ask them to tell you 5 things about themselves, introduce you to family members, draw pictures of the family members, etc. A great great getting to know you project.
I hope you are inspired to bring some creativity into the first few weeks of school, if not the whole year. Please let me know if you have any questions about the above projects. I’d be happy to hear from you. xo Meri Cherry