Welcoming new students to our schools is one of the things school counselors should do during the first few weeks of school.
Leaving old friends and familiar surroundings can make students feel alone and isolated. Typically, meeting a new friend (or two) and learning the procedures and layout of the building can do wonders to ease anxiety and help their transition.
Meeting with your new students in a small group setting is extremely helpful in getting the biggest bang for your time…in terms of time. -> You can meet with multiple kids at once and they get to meet other kids going through the same situation.
New Student Small Group Session:
Obtain your new student list.
Determine how many new students you have and consider how much time you have to devote to the groups.
I enjoy having groups of 6 or less, but this is a luxury (especially when running from building to building). Typically, I have 8-10. I have done more than that with 3rd-5th and while it can be done, it severely reduces the ability for the participants to get to know you and one another.
I would much rather have two groups of 7 & 8 than have a group of 15. But like I said if you must…then you must.
Work with the teachers to schedule one 30 minute group session that won’t interrupt direct instruction.
Tip on Scheduling:
I send out a spreadsheet at the beginning of the year so the teachers can mark their DO NOT DISTURB (DND) time, with the understanding that I will do my best to avoid this time.
Keeping the teachers’ DND time along with specials, computers, and library times in mind, I find two or three time slots per group and ask the teachers which they prefer…I have also found that scheduling and groups run smoother when groups are organized by grade level.
Pick students up at the scheduled group time & rock your group!
Activities for New Student Groups:
Icebreaker: Name Game
Play this fun memorization game to encourage interaction, improve name retention, and (of course) have fun!
Tell the students to do the following:
- Put their thinking caps on and think of their first name.
- Think of the first letter of their name.
- Now think of a type of food that begins with your name (You can mix this up a bit & make it more challenging by having older students think of an adjective that starts with the same letter. Since I am not always aware of their academic ability during our new student group, I tend to go with something that works with all ages.)
Start with the student on your left and have them say their first name and the name of the food -> the next student then says the first person’s name and food and then adds their name and food -> the third student starts with the first, then the second, and then adds theirs. Do you see where I am going with this?
Continue all the way around the table. Provide enough wait time for students to answer but feel free to give hints as necessary!
Guess who the lucky duck is that gets to go last? YUP! It’s you!!!!
Kids love this part of the activity and are pretty impressed when you get them all right. I’ve had a few students keep their “food name” as a nickname throughout the year. Hey, kids these days…go figure.
M&M New Student Game
- Prep: Print out M&M New Student Game, glue onto card stock or file folder and laminate.
- Give each student a snack size bag of M&M’s.
- Have the students pick only 5 colors…they can eat the rest later.
- Reveal one color of the M&M New Student Game board at a time.
- If the student has that color, they can answer but they have to wait for all the answers to that color before they can eat it.
- Lastly, if they do not have the color they say “pass.” Not having one of each color tends to promote the attention span and involvement of the students.
Download M&M New Student Game
New Student Autograph Book
The last thing I do is give them a New Student Autograph Book and send them on a scavenger hunt of sorts. The autograph book has pages for various roles around the school.
I highly recommend letting the staff in on the fact that your newbies will be asking them for their “autograph.” 🙂
Set a few ground rules with the students:
- Before school, after school, during specials, and at lunch.
- Take a pencil. -> Some staff may not have one handy and searching for one on the spot can take away from their other duties.
- They can turn it into my box any time through the year, but if they lose it they will need to start all over.
- You may not interrupt a class or adult to get an autograph.
- Autograph Books must have ALL of the signatures to get the “special surprise.”
- Students need to turn in their completed booklets to my mailbox and I will give them their prize as soon as I am able.
Download New Student Autograph Book
To wrap everything up, I give the students a copy of the School Counselor Introduction Brochure to take home and share with their parents…when my budget or supplies allow, I give my newbies a welcome bag.
New Student Welcome Baggie Contents:
My Business Card
Fun Pencil & Eraser*
Parks & Rec Activity Guide*
*Your local Chamber of Commerce may donate free maps and other items (pencils, pens, magnets, coupons, etc.)