The beginning of the year is all about routine, routine, routine. Between setting the classroom rules, learning everyone’s name, and getting the kiddos into a groove, things can get a little… less than exciting. I always like an activity that will break up that monotony, but that will continue to reinforce all the good habits you are working to instill in your students. Taking a poll and using a graph as a visual aid is a great way to get to know your students better, have students practice listening and following directions, introducing some classroom supplies, and getting your kids familiar with graphs.
First, decide what question to ask your little love bugs. I like to pick a question that does not require students to think of an answer or make a decision the first time I try an activity like this. A big hit has been:
How did you get to school today?
This is a question each child will know the answer to, and also allows you, the teacher, to anticipate their responses. There are only so many ways it is likely that each child got to school that day. Walk, bike, bus, train, and car pretty much cover it, although as soon as you decide on those five undoubtedly one little one will take a scooter or a zip line that morning.
After you decide on all the possible responses, find and print out visuals for each mode of transportation. These visuals should be outlines so that students can color and cut the picture that corresponds to their answer. You will also need one of each in order to make a large poster, where your poll will be charted. With activities that you will utilize annually, it’s worth it to laminate the poster. Oh, laminating. If I was writing a personal ad to find my perfect match, it would just be a description of a perfectly laminated, reusable classroom product.
After introducing the question, I find it easiest to say, “if you took a car to get to school today, quietly and safely stand up and come stand here.” Assign a different spot in the room or on the carpet for each answer. This makes it easier to hand out those pictures later.
Once students answer, they will each receive a picture to color in and cut out. This is a great time to talk about whatever coloring supplies you would like them to use. (I like to start with either crayons or color pencils, leaving proper marker etiquette talks for a later date…) At this point in the year, I then go around and place a preprinted label with each child’s name on their vote. It looks nice and saves a little time in what can become a lengthy activity.
Once students finish cutting and cleaning up their spot, they can join you by sitting in a circle on the carpet. In the middle of the carpet you will have your large poster for the chart. One at a time, students can come and place the finished picture of their mode of transportation on the graph. This is a great time to explain that, when using a pictograph, start at the bottom. Each person who comes after in the same category will stack his or her picture on the others. The column with the most pictures stacked on top of each other has the greatest number of people answering in that way. As a vocabulary nerd, I love this opportunity early in the year to get students saying “greatest, least and equal.” Not only are students being stuffed with new academic knowledge, but they are practicing taking turns, continuing to familiarize themselves with their classmates names, and following the behavioral expectations for lessons. It’s win, win, win—and who doesn’t love a triple win? After the chart is all finished, find a prominent spot in your room to display all that hard work.