Activities to Start Your Year Off on the Right Foot!

The start of the 2022-2023 school year is upon us. As we start to head back to work (if we haven’t already) we focus on preparing for the first few weeks of school. The first few weeks of school is the foundational time to prepare your students for learning. If you do not spend time creating the routines and atmosphere for a successful class you can struggle with classroom management and learning for the entire school year. I divide up the start of the school year into three phases: Ice Breakers, Rules & Expectations, and Team Building. 

Physical Education Ice Breakers:

The first few days of school for students can be really boring. In each class, they hear about the rules and expectations from each teacher. This is a time when the teacher does most of the talking. In the past ten years, I’ve avoided this part in the first 1-2 classes by focusing on ice breakers. I take time for students to say their names out loud so that I can listen to their pronunciation. I also ask for them to share about their summer, likes or dislikes.

Ice Breaker: Classroom BINGO


I’ve been a big fan of playing classroom BINGO for the last few years. Students walk up to another student, and first, introduce themselves before asking one of 25 questions on their paper. If they make a match the student’s sign in the box where they made a match. The goal is to get the students around to meet different students. This year I found a great website via Twitter where I could generate different BINGO cards for my students.

I added a few ideas and deleted some of their options. I could download 30 individual cards for free or pay for more. After setting up the cards all I had to do was print and cut. 

Ice Breaker: Dynamic Duos


This year I have added a new ice breaker to my schedule. It is called Dynamic Duos and I found it on a website (I’m sorry I forgot to write down the name of the website). I created 40 paired dynamic duos and found a template for Avery 5163 labels. Each person will get a sticker on their back. The students will need to talk with other students and ask questions that can be only answered in yes/no answers. The primary goal is to figure out which sticker you have on your back. Afterward you will need to find your dynamic duo. Follow this link to grab your copy (don’t forget to order the labels). 

Rules and Expectations:

The second phase to the start of my school year is Rules and Expectations. We cannot skip this step. I HATED having to lecture my students. I could barely talk after the two days it would take for me to complete this task. One year I decided to try a new experience for my students. I created a scavenger hunt where the students went looking for the rules and expectations. I set clear boundaries, I could always see my students, and I provided them a worksheet they had to fill out. I’ve even held one of the posters I created in order to show the students what to look for. 


Here is one of the posters I created for my class. Gonky taught us that the students needed to bring a positive attitude to class. They would find this spot on the worksheet and fill in the answer. I also use this as a way to share my love for Star Wars, in case you didn’t notice already. The best part of this whole thing was that the students were moving to learn the expectations and my voice wouldn’t take a beating. 

Team Building:

The third section to start my school year is to focus on Team Building. These team building activities are things that I want my students to focus on during the school year. I want them to be able to communicate, problem solve, take chances, FAIL (Frequent Attempts in Learning), and succeed. One year I skipped this step and went right into my first unit. I made a huge mistake. Each year I pull out some old favorites like Crossing the River, Toxic Waste Transfer, or Group Juggling. Many years I love to share “The Maze” with my students as it promotes making a lot of mistakes and working together to solve the maze. If you’d like to check out some of my oldie but goodie Team Building Activities you can view a presentation I did for the #PhysEdSummit in 2016 below.

Adding Reflection Questions to Team Building Exercises:

This year I’m spending more of my time developing better reflection questions for my team building activities. I’m making sure that I break down the goals for each activity and then focus on what I’m expecting from my students for the rest of the school year. My topics will include cooperation and communication. I will also focus on some GRIT and problem solving.

One idea that I’m also going to work on is creating some mini lessons. My friend, Cliff Roop, posted on Twitter a lesson on the circle of influence that he completed in his class last year. He took an issue, occurring in his class, and had his students discuss who was hurt by those actions. I’m going to work on a similar idea this year with focusing on items like listening, following directions, cooperation, and effective communication. The goal is to foster an understanding of clear expectations for a productive learning environment. 

As you are preparing to start the school year I would encourage you to try something new this year. Find a YouTube video, blog, book or call your favorite Physical Educator and learn a new activity to work with your students. Set the foundation for a learning environment where everyone can succeed. You will appreciate the extra time preparing for these steps when you see your students doing more later in the year. More importantly, your students will also appreciate it as well! 

3 Responses

    1. The circle of influence is a lesson designed to talk about how an action affects not just the person(s) involved but the entire class. A decision to talk during instructions can affect more than just the people talking. I’m going to create a scenario (like not following directions) and let the students start to talk about the influence that decision might have on the class.

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