Try It Tuesday: Starting Things Right

As many programs are gearing up for the summer, we wanted to revisit ideas for starting well. How we welcome young people into a program and how we start each day can have a profound impact.

It's easy for us to get hung up on starting with things like paperwork or telling students the rules, but if we are more intentional and creative, we can create welcoming space that both set expectations and help young people feel invited into the work. 

What's particularly important in starting a program is creating relationships, so that young people feel connected to others in the program, as well as to the adults on staff. The more connected young people feel, the more likely they will be to complete the program and to persist if/when things get challenging. Our focus should be on "relationships before content," understanding that the more young people feel a part of a community, the more positive and successful they will be. 

First, here's a post on Great Beginnings that we published last June. It includes a number of different activities for program starts and for daily starts. 

Now, a few more ideas. . . 

Create a Future Self-Portrait

Invite students to reflect on where they want to be at the end of the summer as a result of participating in your program by having them create a future self-portrait. Let them use collage and drawing to reflect on this future self--who they want to be and what they want to achieve by the end of the summer. Then have them share their self-portrait with a partner. You may want to hang their self-portrait or have students keep these in a reflection folder that they can work with throughout the program and return to at the end of the summer. 

Create a Motivational Collage for a Classmate

Start by having students interview each other to learn about what motivates their partner. What colors do they like? Are there particular images that motivate them? Particular phrases or words? It can help to interview a partner about times when they've felt particularly motivated and to have them think about what helped them feel motivated during those times. Each partner should get 10 minutes to talk about what motivates them. 

Then provide students with a variety of magazines and images. (Here are a bunch of magazine phrases organized in various collections that you could download and print out for students to use) If possible, you can allow them to look online for images that they can then print out. Also provide them with glue sticks, markers, scissors and card stock or construction paper to glue the images onto. Invite each student to create a motivational collage for their partner. 

Once the collages are complete, they should present the collage to their partner and talk through why they selected the various images, etc.

Create a Timeline to Introduce Yourself

One creative way to get students acquainted with one another is to have them create a timeline of their lives, identifying the most significant (to them) events in their lives thus far. You can do this with Post-It Notes or with a few sheets of paper. Invite students to create their timelines and then share with a partner or small group. Have them look for similarities and places where their lives have been different.

Notes to a Friend

Prior to the start of class, write down the names of every student on separate slips of paper. As students enter the classroom that day, have them draw someone's name and give them 5 Post-It notes. Have them keep an eye out for something they appreciate about the person whose name they've drawn and have them write down their observations on a Post-It. By the end of the day, they should leave these notes on the person's desk. It's fun to do this anonymously!

These are just a few ideas to get you started. What other creative ways do you have for beginnings--either beginning a program or beginning each day? Leave us a note in comments!

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