A Fun First Day Activity for ANY Class- Free Download!!


What am I going to do on the FIRST DAY of class????

This question starts rattling around in my head as soon as the firecrackers go off on the 4th of July.  Ugh!

Since I know the first day(s) of class set the tone and expectations for the entire school year, the pressure in ON to grab students’ attention (and interest) right from the beginning.  I don’t want my first class days to be spent going over the syllabus and course rules/expectations ad nauseum.  Who wants to sit there while the teacher tells you over and over that you’re expected to do all of your work while conducting yourself in a rational manner?  Those things are important, don’t get me wrong, but working together and communicating are also important in my classroom, especially since we utilize teams & groups so often.  So here’s what I did with my classes, both Anatomy & Physiology and Forensics….


The Activity:

Students were given 6 big yellow plastic cups at their lab station.  I placed them stacked up, one inside the other, on the lab bench as if they were waiting to be filled with water.  They were also given a “contraption” I made before class of 1 rubber band with 5 pieces of yarn tied to it at equal intervals (I had 5 students in my groups).  The rubber band was a medium thickness one (not one of the super skinny ones).  The yarn I cut was about 4 ft long per piece.  I folded it in the middle and used the center to make a knot around the rubber band so each student had 2 free “tails” of yarn (it helps them manipulate better).  You can see what it looked like in the picture below.


The first task students had was to take the stack of 6 cups, separate them, turn them over, and create a pyramid with 3 on the bottom, 2 on the 2nd row, and 1 on the top.  The catch– They could not touch the cups with their hands, elbows, chins, etc (don’t ask– they tried every way! LOL).  For my Forensics class, I made them do this without talking to each other (Oh gosh, this was so hard but so fun!).

teambuilding snap

They had to time their efforts and record their times in the data table.  We only had time to do 1 run through of each attempt, but you could do as many as time allows.  After they finished the silent trial, then they could talk as they built.  Each time, I had them begin with the cups stacked inside each other and on the table the same way.  They also timed themselves as they deconstructed the pyramid.  Once they had their data from the 6 cups, I gave them “extra materials”.  You could use anything, but I had styrofoam cups and clear plastic cups in my closet so I gave them 2 of each.  They had to repeat their pyramid building using ALL of the materials they were given.  It was challenging for my kids because the cups weren’t the same size.  They found they had to come up with a “game plan” and strategize the best placement for the cups so that their pyramid would be straight enough to stand.  Here are some of the different ways my students made their pyramids:

My Forensics class had an additional task of building a huge pyramid with ALL of the materials I had available (everyone’s yellow cups, as well as everyone’s styrofoam cups and clear plastic cups).  It was awesome!


Follow-up questions were completed as well.  teambuilding followup

So what did we gain as a result of this activity?

As students, they had to see that the importance of working in a group with communication between group members being KEY.  When I had them build the big pyramid as a whole class, it was chaos for a few minutes!  Then, the natural leaders emerged, the natural organizers got everyone in line, the natural critical thinkers put pencil to paper and figured out the logistics of what they were building.   As a teacher, it helped me figure out which students take charge..which ones quietly just get things accomplished.. which ones are analytical.. and which ones need a little extra “teacher presence”.  All in all, I think it was a successful activity for the first day of class.  We are on alternating block schedule and I had several students on the 2nd day say that everyone couldn’t wait for my class so they could try it for themselves!

I hope everyone has a great school year.  So far, mine is off to a fantastic start! (Translate= I survived the first week lol)

I put the worksheet in my Gdrive if you are interested in trying this activity with your students.  To download the data sheet, please visit this link https://docs.google.com/document/d/1D2ME1zVWGZt0218zY8hhelDRfW9qnmUNQMF-doDhroU/copy

If Google Drive link doesn’t work, please try this link Copy of Forensics Data Sheet for Teambuilding Task

About Edgy Instruction

Science Teacher (Biology, AP Biology, and Forensic Science), Anatomy Professor, and former Instructional coach.
This entry was posted in Anatomy & Physiology, biology, Forensics, Instructional Coaching, Strategies, Teaching and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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