You can use these ideas at any stage of the year, but I like to use them early on while I'm getting to know my new class.

I use them to "hook 'em early" and set expectations.

Truth or Lie

Create a presentation about yourself with 8-12 personal facts.

Make half the facts true, and half a lie.

Try to make the facts as weird, entertaining, impress and fun as possible. Here is an example of one I use.


Show your students all the facts, pretending they are all true.

At the end tell the students that half of the facts are true, and half are a lie.

Challenge them to write down the ones they believe are true and ones that are false.

Go through the answers and give a prize to the highest (or lowest) scores.

Finally, I get the kids to make up one truth and one lie about themselves that they are willing to share. They tell me their facts one by one and I guess which is true.

One point to me if I get it right, one to them if I get it wrong. I always tell the kids “I never lose at this game”, just to up the ante.

Why do this?

It’s a “legal brag”. You can show off all the cool things about you that might engage kids. Hence, try and choose cool and varied facts about you that you students might engage with.

  1. You learn a LOT about your new students. It’s a very quick way to identify what matters to your new students.

“I have only been in the country 14 weeks”

“I have travelled to 14 countries”

“My mother has cancer”

“When I grow up I was to be a teacher”

“I have seven horses”

The Mat Game

I play this game first thing, on the first day of the year, but you can also use it for transition. I get the kids to drop their bags and we go straight to the gym when I have everything ready to play “The Mat Game”.

I’ve written the instructions of the game here.

After they have played once each, I talk about what I have seen, the positive and negative, and about my expectations for the year. I don’t care who wins, I care about the kids that try, encourage, think and play nice.


Why do this?

See how students interact

  • Who leads? Who follows? Who wants to hide?
  • Who bullies? Who does/doesn’t listen to others? Who is loud?
  • What language (positive or negative) do students use?

See how students approach problem solving.

  • Who jumps in without thought?
  • Who thinks but doesn’t act?
  • Who fails once and gives up or makes “makes scene”?
  • Who learns from mistakes or from watching others?

See how fairly students play.

  • Who will try and cheat?
  • Who will dob/complain about others?
  • Who cares more about winning than relationships or playing fair?

Fall Asleep

Setup a subtle cue (lean against the board, drop your pen, etc.) as a signal for your students to pretend to fall asleep.

Have someone from leadership (Principal, Queen of England, President of the USA, etc) walk into your room, let them engage with the kids for a minute and then use the cue. The kids should fall asleep instantly.

Word the intruder up to be surprised/amazed/shocked/outraged accordingly. The kids will be excited by playing a joke on the intruder and being a little rebellious.

You can change the action, from falling asleep, to anything you like or even let the kids choose.

Why do this?

The kids learn that when they follow your instructions, good things happen.

Holiday Challenge

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s an absolute winner so I’m putting it out there again.

I give the kids a sheet of voluntary challenges. You can download my version here. I give it to my new class before the Summer holidays.

I give each kid a small piece of chocolate and challenge them not to eat it over the holidays to demonstrate their self-control. They can eat it straight away…and about 20% do. However, years after giving this challenge I bump into old students and they still have their chocolate.

Why do this?
  • Kids enjoy these challenges.
  • Parents love the fact it gives their kids a long list of things they could do on the holidays.
  • You can very quickly see which of your students are motivated for a challenge, creative and self-disciplined.

A letter to parents

I like to reach out to parents ASAP. I send them a brief letter, here is an old example.

I like to explain who I am, what I’m about in an education sense and how to contact me.

Check with your school/team that they are ok with this and show them your letter. Many schools may already have a policy on these sorts of correspondences.

Why do this?

There is no love like a parents love for their kids. Therefore parents will obviously want to know a little about their child’s new teacher. A letter home early on is great way to address their curiosity and start a positive dialogue.


I take my class out to have free time or play as soon as possible.

“If we achieve X we can go out for five minutes”

I set X as something very achievable.

Once X is achieved I say, “We have 5 minutes exactly. After 5 minutes everyone must be back in their seats and ready to learn. Achieve that and I’ll know I can trust you to work with me, and we’ll be able to go out more often”

######**Why do this?**

The kids learn that when they follow your instructions, good things happen.

It allows you to set positive and negative consequences that you can easily follow through on.

It freshens the kids (and teacher) up.

I hope this blog post give you a few ideas. If you put it into action please send me an email or leave a comment below.


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