Four Fast and Fun Check-In Ideas for Your Classroom

Four Fast and Fun Check-In Ideas for Your Classroom

Whether you call it a bell-ringer, opener, do-now, etc., we all know the first few moments of the school day (or a class) set the tone. That’s why we LOVE these quick check-in activities to connect with students.

These activities help:

  • Set a positive tone
  • Get those neurons firing
  • Stimulate background knowledge
  • Create opportunities for all students to share
  • Provide teachers with opportunities to VALIDATE students

Here are a few of our favorites!

Caption This

Display an image and invite students to come up with a caption. Encourage students to use their creativity and sense of humor. You can further engage students by having them vote on their favorite captions.

Battery Life

Most of our greetings and check-ins with people are on autopilot: “How are you?” elicits an automatic “I’m fine” response—even if we are not fine.

This strategy is a great way to gauge overall energy levels of adults and students. Simply ask what their current battery life is on a scale from 0–100%. Whether they report being at 5% or 99%, it gives us a helpful insight that will inform our interactions moving forward.

Rose, Bud, Thorn

This check-in strategy is used everywhere from schools to boardrooms. It can be used to help kindergarteners share their feelings or a teenager to check in with a peer. The idea is to evaluate a project, event, or even your day by highlighting a Rose, Bud, and Thorn.

Rose: A highlight, success, or small win.

Thorn: A challenge you are experiencing or have experienced.

Bud: Something you are looking forward to in the future.

Name That Icon

Display a photo and ask students what they know about that individual. Some follow-up questions could be:

  • What is this person known for?
  • How do you know that?
  • How are you similar to this person?
  • How are you different from this person?


Student: I don’t know her name, but I’ve seen her before.

Teacher: Nice connection. Do you have any idea where you may have seen her?

Student: At that thing for the President.

Teacher: Wow. Great memory. Yes, she was at the thing for the president. Anyone know what she did?

Student 2: She sang?

Teacher: Good answer. You are halfway there. She did perform, but it wasn’t a song—it was a _____.

Student: Poem. She did a poem!

Teacher: Nice job. This is Amanda Gorman and she is a poet. She recited a poem at the President’s Inauguration, which is the ceremony where we honor a new president. Great job making connections!

The point of this check-in is NOT to be right. The point is to get students thinking and speaking by engaging their curiosity and validating them for their effort and participation.

You can change up this activity by having students play:

  • Name That Decade
  • Name That Food
  • Name That Sport
  • Name the City

Feel free to augment these activities with your own personal teacher style. Remember: Using positive opening activities regularly contributes to a classroom culture of belonging, and our students thrive when they feel they belong.


50 Strategies for Your Virtual Classroom, Jennifer Jump, Shell Educational Publishing, 2021.

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About the Authors

Trisha DiFazio

Trisha DiFazio is an education consultant for Teacher Created Materials (TCM) and a former adjunct professor in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California (USC). Trisha was also a contributing author on TCM’s Language Power: Building Language Proficiency series as well as Creating Social Emotional Learning Environments. She is passionate about empowering teachers and students around social and emotional learning as well as Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching. Ms. DiFazio holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lake Forest College with a double concentration in English and Spanish, a Master of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University, an ESL Endorsement from Dominican University, and International TEFL Certification from the International Teaching Center in Madrid, Spain. As a result of studying with instructors from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), Trisha has experienced firsthand how practicing mindfulness contributes to one’s overall health and sense of well-being.

Allison Roeser

Allison Roeser is an education consultant, author, and leadership coach. She holds a Master of Health Science (MHS) degree from Johns Hopkins University, Professional Coach Certification (PCC) from the International Coaching Federation, and is an Academy Licensed Trainer (ALT) with the Academy for Coaching Excellence. Ms. Roeser has almost two decades of experience working with leaders in education. She is passionate about child welfare and social change. She is also a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), a program that advocates for foster care youth in San Francisco. Previously, Allison served as Deputy Director at Westat, a research organization where she directed studies focused on health and education. Allison is also co-founder of SEL&Beyond, an organization dedicated to providing SEL professional development and coaching for educators, parents, and students.

For more strategies and tips, follow the authors on Twitter @SELandBeyond, contact them at

Also, check out their book:
Social-Emotional Learning Starts with Us: Empowering Teachers to Support Students