On the first day of school, students are eager to get to know their new classmates and learn what will be expected of them in the academic year. Give your students the opportunity to gather this information by engaging them in first-day-of-school computer lab activities. Instead of focusing on learning the complexities of computing, as they will later in the year, these basic activities help students step back into school.
Who I Am Brochures
Have students explore computer tools, while telling classmates about themselves, by having them create Who I Am brochures. Briefly introduce a computer program that your students can use to make brochures, such as Publisher or PageMaker. After explaining the basic functions of this program, have students use them to create brochures that explain who they are. Give students a list of information to include, such as information about their family and hobbies, fun facts about themselves and lists of their favorite things including colors, TV shows and songs. Require each student to include all of this information, or allow them to pick and choose from the list, including only the things most applicable to them. Have students print their finished creations and trade them with their classmates.
Introducing ... Slide Show
Help students get to know their classmates by pairing them up and having them create “Introducing …” slide shows. Ask them to interview their partners to gather information. Instruct them to ask their partners about their likes and dislikes, what subjects they do best in and the extracurricular activities in which they take part. After gathering this information, have students create digital slide shows to introduce their partners to the class. Allow each student to present his creation.
Demonstrate the power of computers by having students take a survey. Ask each student to select a survey question to ask his peers. Allow students freedom in selecting these questions, letting them create questions that reflect their interests. For example, a football-loving student may want to ask his classmates which football teams they prefer; a movie-buff student may want to poll the students about their favorite films. Have the students walk around and ask each other their questions, then have them input these survey results into a spreadsheet program and create a chart that illustrates the findings. If your students have not taken a basic computer class, you may need to guide them through the process.
Make your first-day-of-school computer lab activity a playful one by having your students create autoshapes self-portraits. Start by showing students how to use the basic autoshapes function that is present in most word processing programs, including Microsoft Word. Guide students through the creation of geometric shapes, such as triangles and squares, as well as organic ones that they can create freehand, such as squiggles or amorphous blobs. Then ask students to use the tool to create a self-portrait. Have students print out their portraits and hang them on the wall, numbering each. Ask each student write on a sheet of paper his guesses as to who made each image. Give a prize to the student with the most correct guesses.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.