First Day of School Ideas
The first day of school will set the tone for the entire school year. Get your students enthused about being a part of your class this year through a variety of fun, productive lessons and activities. I have put together some of my favorite first day of school ideas that can be adapted for a wide variety of elementary and middle school classes.
1. Getting to Know You Games
My personal favorite getting to know you game is a scavenger hunt. Every person gets a sheet with items, such as "attended the state fair this summer" or "read at least one non-fiction book." Then every person has to find someone who has done each item on the list. Consider including items of local interest and items that are specific to that age level. Make sure to include at least one way out there item that will keep everyone hunting for a while.
My second favorite game is interviewing another student. This is a less tedious and intimidating activity than many getting to know you games. It will also give students more personal interaction than many games. You can write questions ahead of time and/or let students come up with some of their own questions.
There are lots of getting to know you game options.
Just a Few Ideas
"Take some..." (toilet paper, M&Ms, etc.). Then share that many facts about yourself.
"If this sentence describes you, stand up."
Put everyone in a circle. Ask a question and go around the circle, passing a bean bag or other object, to answer it. Repeat as many times as you like.
Instead of organizing a scavenger hunt, turn it into a bingo game.
Two truths and a lie. Everyone tells two truths and a lie, and the group has to figure out which one is the lie.
A no talking organization game. For example, students have to arrange themselves by birthday month without talking.
Write an acrostic poem or other poem about yourself to share with a partner, a small group, or the whole class.
2. Mad Lib
Mad Libs are fun for students of a wide variety of ages. A back to school Mad Lib can put everyone at ease with a good laugh while providing a little grammar review. There are lots of free school Mad Libs out there online. You can also write your own.
3. Time Capsule
Have students put together a time capsule that they will open again at the end of the school year. You can also work with other teachers within your school or district to create a time capsule that students won't open for 5 years or even 10 years. Here are just a few ideas of items for the capsule.
- An artifact for a favorite item. Instead of putting in the item itself, consider a photo of it or information about it (i.e. an article about a video game release).
- An artifact from the summer (i.e. plane ticket, movie ticket stub). If students don't want to include the item itself, they can take a photo or write about it.
- A drawing of one of the student's hands. Make sure that it includes scratches, scars, rings, etc.
- A picture of or a piece of writing about the members of their family.
- An essay about what their life will be like in five or ten years. You can pick the time frame. These writing pieces will be priceless.
- A survey about favorite items (foods, movies, etc.).
- Photograph of the student. Students can bring in photos the first week of school or you can take photos of them during the first day of school and then print them later in the week.
- Mix CD with current favorite songs. This can be a first week of school assignment that students will add to their capsules as they complete it.
4. Write an ABC Book About the Summer
Putting students on the spot write about what they did this summer on the first day of school may not produce high quality writing, as it is not a specific prompt. Brainstorm or research summer writing prompts or consider having students write an ABC book about the summer. Most likely a prompt or the challenge of fitting summer happenings with different letters will provide more inspiration. Before students start to write, work as a group to write a list of different summer associated words for each letter.
Scavenger Hunt - Spiro High School
Tip: For younger students, create a scavenger hunt within the classroom or a contained area of the school (i.e. playground, library).
5. School Scavenger Hunt
Give students the opportunity to explore their school through a school scavenger hunt. Have students work in pairs or small groups of three or four students. Students can check items off of a list or take pictures of the items. After students have completed the hunt, work through the list together, discussing where each item is located and/or reviewing the photos that the students took. If students took photos, take it one step further by creating a bulletin board or other display of the hunt during the first week of school.
6. Crossword Puzzle or Other Fun Activity for the Classroom Rules or Policies
There are a few logistical things that you have to cover in any classroom on the first day of school, such as classroom rules and emergency procedures. Turning these tasks into a game or other fun activity will make them more enjoyable and possibly more memorable for everyone. A crossword puzzle is one of the most popular options, but you don't need to feel limited to this.
There are lots of free crossword and other puzzle templates online.
7. Fun Getting to Know the Teacher Activity
It can be easy to get caught up in getting through logistical tasks and getting to know the students activities during the first day of school. Take a few minutes to share a little about yourself with the students, too. One of the years that I taught special education I made a book about my summer with photos (pictured above). The students really enjoyed seeing photos of basic parts of my life, such as my cat and my home. Other options to consider include a photo slideshow, PowerPoint presentation, or video. If you have a grade level or other team that you belong to at school (i.e. special education services), you can also work with them to create a group presentation of sorts for the students.
8. Learning Styles Inventory
The first day of school is a perfect opportunity to give students a short learning styles survey. Explain that they will not be graded on it and that it will give you information that will help you plan better lessons for them. A number of the inventories out there may need to be modified for younger grade levels. If questions are confusing for a lot of students, it may be best to work through the survey as a group so you can field questions for everyone at once.
9. Make a Bookmark
A bookmark is a quick, productive, low stress craft activity that students can complete during the first day of school. This may be a good project for the later part of the day when students are ready for some unstructured time. There are lots of inexpensive materials that you can provide for the bookmarks, such as scrapbook paper, felt, and foam stickers. If you want to get more ambitious, you can set up art stations with messier materials, such as paint and pastels.
Tween Authors Give Back to School Advice | Lisa Gottfried
10. First Day Advice From the Previous Class
I have seen a couple classes do this, and it is priceless. Students really put their heart into their writing and cover topics that never would have occurred to you. It will put a smile on your face pulling out those letters again for your new group of students. When it is their turn to write advice for the next class, they'll be able to look back on those initial memories of your classroom fondly.
- Let Me Give You a Little Advice | Scholastic.com
- End of Year Letter to Next Year's Students by Stephanie Rye-Forever in Fifth Grade | Teachers Pay Te
Have your students end their year by writing a letter to a student who will be in your room next year.
First Day of School - Kindergarten
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