Back to school means old faces, new faces, and getting to know each other in a new classroom community. We know fostering collaboration and building an emotionally supportive environment positively impacts academic achievement and developing a community from the start is key.
Team building activities that promote critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving are a great way to kick off the year with your students and develop a strong sense of community that works together from day one. Traditional team builders like “The Human Knot” are great, but what if we could use coding and computer science concepts to get to know each other?
In programming, variables store information in a program. The information is referred to as values, and can be either text or numbers. You can think of a variable like a container with a label that stores related items inside.
A string is a variable that stores values that are groups of characters, like a word or phrase. A great example of a string variable is a name: a name is a value that is used to identify a person.
Name Games: Back to school name games that help students get to know each other are a great opportunity to introduce string variables. Explain to students that they represent a variable and their name is a string that is a value associated with them. There are tons of name games out there, get creative and have fun!
A simple and silly name game that can get students thinking about string variables can be as basic as students going around a circle and choosing a word that goes with their name (their favorite food, sport, a rhyme, or a letter that matches the first letter in their name). For example, “Ashley Apples” or “Mike Bike”. Everyone says their own name and the names that came before to help get to know each other!
Integers are values that are written and stored as numbers. Integers are variables that store values just like strings, only the values are numbers and not words.
Paper Bag Share: Each student has a paper bag and labels the bag with a word or topic that describes something about them. The topic must relate to the student and needs to be something expressed in numbers. Get students thinking about things they have that will tell a little bit about them.
An example would be labeling the bag “Siblings” or “Pets”. Students would write on a piece of paper how many siblings or pets they have (0, 2, 4, etc.) and place the value inside the bag. You can have students choose any topic to represent a variable and have them place a related value inside.
Arrays are ordered lists of variables that include both strings and integers. Arrays keep related values organized and in a specific order.
Time Capsule: As a class, make a time capsule for the year that represents an array.
- Name the array based on the grade or class name, like “4th Grade.”
- Students write down their expectations and goals for each month of the school year on separate pieces of paper.
- Students place each of the 10 “values” inside the time capsule in order from September to June, keeping the values organized chronologically in the time capsule.
Classes hold information about an object and allow us to create new, individual objects based on these details. A helpful way to explain classes and objects to students is to think of basic classification: grouping objects based on their similarities and differences.
Activities that allow students to explore their similarities and differences will help students understand classes and objects in programming while getting to know each other.
Properties are special types of variables that are attached to an object and describe it.
Students can think about themselves as an object and things that they have as properties. Any team building activities that allow students to describe themselves and each other will help students understand properties and objects in programming.
We’ve gone ahead and created a sample activity for you that will help students in grades 3-5 learn about variables and properties while engaging in back to school team building. Get it here:
Like what you see or have ideas? Leave it in the comments below!