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School Year

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Back-to-school ice breakers to ease first day fears

Parents and educators can sometimes underestimate children's anxiety over the dawn of a new school year. Many students feel nervous when wondering if their teachers will be nice or if they will make new friends. These worries may be compounded by the return to routine and the end of an enjoyable period of rest and relaxation.

In 2015, CNN polled campers at a summer day camp outside New York City. The campers were elementary school students who were asked about what they were most nervous about for the return to school. Homework, tests, competition, greater expectations, grades, and making new friends topped the list of fears.

To help students transition to the classroom with fewer worries, teachers and parents may want to initiate ice breakers and other stress-reducing interactions. Here are some ideas.

Buddy up

Many schools will give out classroom assignments a few days before the first day of school. Parents can investigate who is in their child's homeroom and initiate contact with the parents of one or more of those students. Collectively, parents can make a buddy plan for students to arrive to school together and enter the classroom as a team. Coordinate clothing colors or have students wear another unifying symbol. This may allay fears and make the first day of school more fun.

School selfie

Students can craft "school selfies" on a piece of paper using a smartphone image template. This selfie illustration will give the class key facts about each student and present an interesting, creative and enjoyable way for students to get to know one another.

Student word search

Word searches are entertaining and educational tools that can be put to use in the classroom. Parents or teachers can create word searches featuring the first names of all the students in the class. Children often enjoy searching for their own names, and then they can help others, opening up lines of communication.

Word searches also can be customized for any subject. Therefore, if student names aren't desired, the theme can be classroom items or school terms.

Personal introductions

Students may worry about teachers mispronouncing their names or using a full name instead of a nickname. Rather than a traditional roll call, teachers can encourage students to introduce themselves to classmates, using their preferential name and including a brief synopsis of their interests and what makes them unique.

Teachers also can initiate other ice-breakers by giving students a sheet with various questions, which students then have to complete by asking around among the other students. For example, "Who has a pet fish?" or "Find someone who has blue eyes."

The first day of school can be difficult for some children. Fun activities and some extra effort from parents and teachers can make the return to the classroom less stressful.

Pulaski Citizen