On the first day of school as part of our advisory period, we gather the 6th graders together (about 40 students) and take them outside to do this ice breaker as a whole class. The 5 advisors model how to do this activity and then we hand each student a card and allow them to mingle and mix for about 10-15 minutes.
Strike a Pose
I am not really sure what the name of this activity is, so I just call it “strike a pose” – if you know what it is, please let me know in the comments so I can update it 🙂
This is also a really fun large group activity where the kids get to run around outside and make different poses. Start off with everyone just mingling around, and then you call out a “pose” for them to strike. When starting this activity, use multiples that total the number of students you have so that no one is left out in the first few rounds. For example, it you have 40 students, you can do poses that need a pair of students, a group of 4, a group of 5, etc. Then, after a few rounds, you pick a number that does not fit evenly. Mix up the groupings randomly, they have to figure out how many people to complete the pose. The students that don’t pair up with someone, will then sit out. You can keep going until you have a handful of students left or restart at any time. This is really fun and the kids will grab anyone near them to complete the pose!
Examples of Poses:
Single: Statue of Liberty, Michael Jackson, Spider Man, Hulk, a bowler
I wanted a simple handout for my students to use and that was easy to manage. Most of the Periodic Table Battleship games involve expo markers and file folders, but that is time consuming to set up and clean up. Using this handout, they can use two different colored highlighters, crayons, colored pencils, etc. to keep track of their boat placement, hits, and misses. I have ‘privacy screens’ that we use during tests and quizzes that they can use to keep their papers hidden from their opponent.
print slides and place into plastic sleeves or laminate
For 2016-2017 I updated some of the stations to have more variety in the outcomes and introduce some higher level concepts for my 6th graders to lead into our unit on Plate Tectonics
Dice: 2-4 at each station
Tips for running the lesson:
Use this lesson after introducing the Rock Cycle to students.
Having 2-4 dice at each location allows multiple students to be at each station at the same time. In the past when I used the paper dice that come with the lesson, it took time for each student to write down the outcome from the dice. Having the outcomes on the station cards helps speed things up.
Set up stations around the room, depending on the number of students you have, you can make multiple stations for each one.
For example, for the Soil Station or the Earth’s Crust & Interior Station, you can have more than one of each to spread students out around the room. They get a lot of traffic.
If students get ‘stuck’ at a station, explain that they can be stuck in the Earth’s Interior for millions of years and their whole comic would be just that one station, but allow them to ‘roll out’ of a station if they are there for a 3rd time.
For example – A student will end up at the Soil Station and roll “Sediments Being Formed Remain Here” and write that on their handout. Then they will roll “Sediments Being Formed Remain Here” again, and write it down. If on the 3rd turn they roll “Rocks Break Down, Remain Here” have them roll again until they get something different. They may then get “Flooding Occurs, Go to River” and write that down and go to the River Station. They may end up back at the Soil Station on a later turn, but that is OK. They will visit some stations more than others.
Once students are done with their journey, check over their work and then have them start their comic strip. They might need some tips on how to draw certain geological processes.
I have used this lesson for many years and the students really enjoy making their comics and come away with a better understanding of how rocks change over time.
The first day of school is always so exciting and the kids are eager to explore their new surroundings. As part of my first-day procedures, along with expectations and all the things I need to cover/explain, I like to do a scavenger hunt. This usually takes place during the last 20 minutes of the class period (we have 50 min periods) to help students become familiar with their new classroom, satisfy their curiosities, and burn off some of that energy.
While the students are completing the scavenger hunt, it really gives me a glimpse into the dynamics of each class. Some students like to work alone, some like to work with a partner, some are super focused and task driven, some students prioritize what they want to find first and make a plan, some students are more relaxed and let the answers find them as they walk around making quiet observations, some students pair up and find half of the items and share their information, some will trade answers for things they can’t find. It is really interesting to watch it unfold.
The scavenger hunt will continue into the first 10 minutes of the second class and then we will go over the answers. (If they don’t find all the answers, that is OK, it isn’t graded.) Each student checks their work, making corrections as needed. (This also gives me a good segway into talking about corrections – many students view corrections as something they did ‘wrong’ and I want them to view them as opportunities.) This will stay in their notebook and can be used for reference. There are always a few tricky ones that very few students have correct, for example, the outlets for the laptops are hanging from the ceiling on rolled up extension cords – we don’t use the wall outlets.
Just for fun, at the end, I have all the students stand up. We then determine who found the most items. If they have 5 or more correct, they stay standing, if not, they sit down. We continue until the last person is left standing for each class. I write their name on the board and write “Sally – 25”.
To view my version of Scavenger Hunt handout click on the image above or here (pdf)
I used this activity with my 6th graders to emphasize observations, communication skills, and team work. It is a variation on the classic Telephone Game that many students are familiar with. Depending on the number of students you have, I found that 7-8 per team worked really well. The more students on a team, the more difficult it is to relay the information to each student, and less than 7 was much easier. If your teams aren’t exactly even, that is ok. When grouping students, be sure to mix abilities and plan accordingly for teams that are larger/smaller.
How the game works is I have 10 color photos of damselflies, and each team will make & share observations for one of the photos. The only person who will see the photo, however, is person #1. The rest of the team will not see the photo, and they don’t know what the photos are of. The only information they will have are the 10 observations person #1 will give them. Once each group determines who #1 is, #1 will come up to make and record 10 observations about their photo for 3 minutes. The rest of the team will determine who will receive the information from #1 and the order they will go in. Some strategies will go into determining the order, for example, someone who has a really good memory may want to be person #2.
Students will spread out around the room and take a seat. When the 3 minutes are up, person #1 will go to person #2 and whisper the 10 observations to them for 1 minute. Person #1 will have their index card, but can not give the index card to person #2. Person #2 can ask questions and repeat the information until the 1 minute is up. #1 will take #2’s seat and #2 will go to #3 and share the 10 observations from memory. This will continue until all members have had a turn sharing the observations.
The last member of the team will share the observations with the class and then pick out the photograph from the 10 I have. We will then compare the last set of observations to the original 10 and find out if they were able to choose the correct photo.
This was a fun and challenging activity, and it lead to some really great discussions about making and sharing observations. Many groups had difficulty picking out the original photograph because the information changed or went missing somewhere along the line, just like when they play the game telephone.
Students will collaborate, problem solve, and persevere to accomplish each challenge
Materials – per group of 3-4 students
Task Cards – cut apart, laminate, and secure with a metal ring or brass brad
1 rubber band
4-6 pieces of string of equal length
This is one of the team building exercises I plan to use with my 6th graders during the first week of school. Many variations of this lesson can be found online. For this version, I created 6 different challenges for the students to tackle – each one increasing in difficulty. Not every group will get to complete all 6 challenges, and that is OK. The objective is to learn to work together as a team and not give up.
July 26, 2017 – One recommendation I have for this activity is placing the cups on the floor, when the cups fall off the table it makes it more difficult to complete the task in a timely manner.
Updated: Pictures September 2015
Discussion & Reflection
Which challenge was the easiest for you group to complete? The most difficult? Why?
Did your techniques change as you advanced to each challenge? Explain why or why not.
Describe a technique that worked best within your group.
Compare using two hands vs. one hand when holding the string to guide the cups. List advantages and disadvantages for each.
Compare using verbal and nonverbal communication, what were some of the challenges your group faced?
If you were to complete this activity again, what would your group do differently? What would you do the same?
Why are collaboration and communication skills important characteristics for scientists to have?
Did you feel like giving up at any point? How did you and your group deal with frustration?
Will your species survive for a million years? Will it survive a viral outbreak, meteorite impacts, predators, temperature changes, and changes in food sources?
In this natural selection simulation, students will choose 3 individuals as their starter population. What traits do they think will increase the chances of survival for their species? Long legs? Long necks? Stripes? Furry or bulky bodies? Only time will tell!
My 6th graders enjoyed playing this game and many were much more successful than I was 🙂
“Pour to Score” is an interactive website created by PBS. The objective of the game is to pour the water between the larger container and the smaller container to create 8 different volumes of water.
At first glance, it may seem like an easy exercise in addition and subtraction, but it requires problem solving skills, logic, and patience. My 5th graders have enjoyed using this game as part of our volume unit. Some students will figure out the pattern quickly, and advance to the next few levels, while for others, it will require trial and error, and perseverance.
This classic interactive website is a great way to practice identifying acidic, basic, and neutral substances along with reading pH values. There are three different levels which increase in difficulty as the students complete each activity.
Challenge 1 – students have to identify and categorize the different ‘juices’ that they will serve to the aliens as either Acids, Bases, or Neutral.
Challenge 2 – students will practice serving requested juices to aliens, but if they serve a juice from the wrong category, aliens can become sick, or worse!
Challenge 3 – students have to change the pH values of the juices on the tray by either adding acids or bases to raise or lower the pH values.
I have a handout with instructions for the students to record their progress (worksheet)
Please note that the updated link is located at: (updated 3/4/18)