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Back-To-School Games

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Tracy Radler, from Ewing, New Jersey, shares two neat K-8 games for your consideration.

Background: Here are two terrific “back-to-school” games for your consideration. The first one is a fast-paced warm-up activity that reinforces good listening skills. The second activity is a challenging “adventure” activity designed to develop cooperation, teamwork, and leadership skills.


Equipment: Traffic cones (red and yellow)

Set-Up: This game can be used as a fun warm-up activity or energizer. Good listening and cooperation skills are needed in order to be successful! The students are spread out in a large playing area for fast movement and rapid change of directions. Red cones are placed at one end and yellow cones are placed at the other end.

How We Play It: The students are told in the beginning about general safety and the boundaries (traffic cones) of the activity. The students are given a set of directions by the teacher. Introduce three or four at a time and demonstrate each one. If the teacher raises his hand, this means “freeze” (stop, look, and listen). Here are some of the teacher commands that can be used in this activity. Please feel free to make up your own commands too!

COMMAND: “Are you ready?”
STUDENT RESPONSE: Students stand at attention and display good listening skills.

COMMAND:”It’s a new student”
STUDENT RESPONSE: Quickly shake hands with as many people as you can; make good eye contact; welcome them to the school.

COMMAND: “Recess”
STUDENT RESPONSE: Run to the left toward the red cones.

COMMAND: “Recess is over”
STUDENT RESPONSE: Run to the right toward the yellow cones.

COMMAND: “Free time”
STUDENT RESPONSE: Walk in a random pattern.

STUDENT RESPONSE: Scratch heads and write a pretend math problem in the air.

COMMAND: “Clean up”
STUDENT RESPONSE: Pretend to put things away in a desk.

COMMAND: “Lunch time”
STUDENT RESPONSE: Sit down and “eat” with four other students.

COMMAND: “Class picture”
STUDENT RESPONSE: All gather around the teacher and smile.

Other: Other teacher commands can include -

- “Science” (Pretend to mix solutions and pretend something blows up.)
- “Fire drill” (Students all line up quietly with arms at their sides.)
- “Make a friend” (Tell someone about yourself.)
- “School bus” (In two lines of four to eight students, walk around the gym.)
- “Sneaker check” (Find a buddy; sit sneaker-to-sneaker and check to make sure shoe laces are tied.)
- “SSR” (Silent Sustained Reading) [Pretend to sit and read by flipping through pages.]


- Numerous large scooters (6-8 per group)
- Large mats that can be placed on scooters (1 mat per group)
- Large plastic water bottles or other suitable objects (1 per group). Note: We use the ones from the water cooler at school.
- Teacher-made “messages”
- Blindfolds (1 per group)
- Floor tape or cones (to designate where each group starts)
- Pillow pillo “paddles” (3-4 per group)
- Teacher-made “Survivor” voting box
- Index cards and pencils
- Plastic tarps (optional)

Set-Up: Divide the class into groups of 5-6 students. Each group is stationed as shown. On the other side of the gym are the large plastic water bottles with a “message in the bottle.” This is a team challenge handwritten on a long strip of paper.

How We Play It: This activity is based on the popular “Survivor” television series. Each “tribe” is provided with enough materials (scooters, mat) to build a “raft.” The raft must hold their entire tribe (i.e., the players on that team should be able to fit everyone on the raft).

Using the “paddles,” the teammates “row” their raft to the other side of the gym. When they get across, one player is blindfolded and is given the additional challenge to retrieve the “floating bottle” by using two of the paddles. Once the bottle is on the raft, the team may get the message out, row back to their starting line and perform the cooperative task that is written on the piece of paper. Example messages:

(1) Great job! To complete your assignment, everyone in your tribe will need to form a large letter “G” for great!
(2) The rescue helicopter is coming! Jump and shout to get their attention!

Other: (1) If it starts to “rain,” each tribe must cover themselves with the tarp. (2) Unlike the “Survivor” television show, we give each tribe the opportunity to vote for a person who displayed leadership and encouragement. Instead of voting a player “off,” we vote for a person that did a good job in helping the tribe to be successful. We give the students voting slips (index cards) and they pick someone who showed good leadership throughout the activity. They put the slips into the “Survivor box” and the students with the most votes get a certificate to take home!

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