Something my methods professor talked about was making observations of students, even on the first day of school. He had some ideas of how to get students to their seats, as do many people if you read all the Tweets and FB posts about the first day of school. A few years ago, I found a method called "Subversive Lab Grouping," from this blog: Action Reaction. Th whole idea is to hand them out and then have students figure out what group they fit into. It is important to have some overlap, for example, a car that is also a color. This builds some tension into the activity, there isn't just a quick, easy answer. I have modified groups based on the level of my students, our town, and things they have or will learn about. This summer, I wanted to refresh categories a bit and it just so happened that someone else had a conversation with the blog author, Frank Nochese, and he mentioned that there were some new ideas in the blog comments. My categories for this year are: Disney, Planets, Elements, Cars, Astronomy, and Color for 7th grade. For 8th grade, Shoes, Big Cats, Beans, Colors, Capital Cities, and Presidents. In the past I've used Marvel characters, streets in town, flowers, nuts, scientists, and other categories specifically related to their previous year's content.
Our first day schedule varies a little bit from year to year. Some times we've had 10 minutes for group and this year we will have 25 minutes for each class. I hand out the card and tell students to find a seat, pointing out directions on the board. The goal with that is to link to the process of working on bellwork each day. I usually have them write their name, birthday, and maybe some facts that we can use in other ice breaker activities throughout the next few days. If we have time, we try to figure out groups and that becomes my first seating arrangement for a while.
This activity gets students up and moving, gets them thinking, and sometimes gets them talking to students that don't normally talk to. Those seem like worthy goals to start promoting.
What categories would you use?