First Week of School Activities for Middle School Science

Are you looking for some ideas for your first day of school in middle school science? According to my instagram poll, going over the syllabus is a modern teacher’s worst nightmare. I think my sarcasm was lost on most of the respondents. (What else is new?)

Regardless, I took it upon myself to gather some ideas from some of the respected educators on Instagram and Twitter which I will list here for your and my later reference:

1. Play A Game

As long as all your students have access to the internet, I love the idea of using competitive games like Kahoot or (my new personal favorite) Quizizz to allow students to guess on topics ranging from About the Teacher or Classroom Procedures. If your students are extra competitive, I’d recommend setting the questions to 0 points to ease the tension.

If you aren’t familiar already, you can use these fun websites to actually introduce and teach in a “guess, check, and learn” style. Here is a helpful guide on how to make an educational quiz more officially called a “Blind Kahoot.”

Another great internet-free game to play that can help your students get to know you or one another is four corners. I’d advise creating a Power Point or Google Slide presentation with all the questions and answers labeled by corner. That way when you get to class you can just stick an A, B, C, and D sign in each corner and you’re ready to play.

I’ve done 4 corners with about the teacher (Go to corner A if you think Ms. Hill is 28, corner B if you think she’s 29, etc.) or about the students (Go to corner A if your favorite sport is basketball, corner B if it’s football, etc.). Get creative with it!

2. Do a STEM Challenge

Why bother with boring rules that never change when you could actually get your hands dirty with a fun tower building activity. I used to do this activity with spaghetti and marshmallows, but I’ve since switched to using aluminum foil and tape because it’s easier. I’ve also seen it done with index cards (folding is allowed).

Here is a link to my worksheet and teacher directions if you’d like some help connecting the activity to the Engineering Design Process. A couple other fun STEM challenges I’ve been seeing lately include the Pringle Ring Challenge and the Zip Lock Water Pencil Challenge (sorry I totally just made that title up!). I’m looking forward to trying both of those, but the aluminum foil tower takes the lead in my book as it is by far the easiest to set up and clean up.

3. Make Way for Team Building!

Day 1 in our middle school science class means nothing if it doesn’t put us on the path to becoming Robin Williams in Freedom Writers and we’ll never get that kind of community without TEAM BUILDING!

My personal favorite team building exercise is the whale band-aid. Students have to figure out how to flip a 1 meter x 1 meter piece of fabric (any old bulletin board fabric will do) without speaking or stepping off. I like to group the class so the waiting groups can giggle and learn from the earlier teams’ mistakes. This is the worksheet I use with that activity.

Another fun brain teaser and easy to set up activity I have done in the past is the Dog Goose and Bag of Corn. I think this one works better in smaller groups though and is a great activity to bring up the concept of persistence in problem solving. An area in which we could all use a little work!

4. Get creative!

In my office they like to make fun of me by saying that I don’t teach science I teach art. Well that’s just fine by me!!!!!! Nothing soothes me like a little bit of coloring. And nothing makes me laugh like watching my kids attempt to use their fine motor skills to cut and paste anything slightly intricate. Doing artistic activities gives me a chance to circulate the room and chat with my students, and more importantly it’s an equalizing assignment. Everyone can do it! If everyone can do it, they WILL do it!

Making decorative name tents, designing the covers to your interactive notebooks, or anything else creative and fun will give you the opportunity to teach procedures for picking up and passing back materials, cleaning the room, and expected noise levels during individual work.

5. Stations

I have to admit I kind of loathe stations, but it was suggested to me multiple times on social media as a great way to start the year so I’m going to include it here for those of you that have the space or patience for stations. I think moving around the room would be a great way to get kids moving a bit, as well as being broken into smaller, less anxiety inducing groups. One idea would be to have posters (the sticky ones pictured here, I have no clue what they’re called) hung around the room and ask that the students add their thoughts about each topic to the page. A great way to include student voice to your rules and procedures! Maybe someone can teach me how to better implement stations in the future!

Pro tip: Giving students different marker colors provides that extra piece of accountability that we all need!

6. Scavenger Hunt

I’m a big fan of scavenger hunts because our school has a huge outdoor courtyard that’s completely self contained. At my old school, though, we used to do them in the hallways too. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids the expectations for traveling together outside the classroom as well as appropriate noise levels in the hallways.

You could set your scavenger hunt up in all different ways, and of course you can do it within your own room too! One idea would be to simply hide questions related to procedures and the syllabus and let the kids search for and answer them.

To take it up a notch, @JohnstonChemistry suggested that she actually encourages the kids to search her Instagram for clues about her as a teacher! I know my students would absolutely go nuts over this idea as they seem to quite enjoy Googling their teachers.

I hope you’re able to take away some ideas here for your own first day of school in middle school science! I’d like to include some credits to those who helped me compile this fabulous list of ideas:

Teaching is a weird job. I’d love to connect and discuss anything about the information you’ve read here. Find me on Instagram (@stemstrength). 

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