The first week of school can be overwhelming! There is so much to plan for the entire back-to-school season, but especially that first week. What will my students do as soon as they enter the room? Which rules and procedures should I set? How will I build classroom community with a brand new class during that first week back? This post will provide you with some fun activity ideas and resources to ease your workload during this year’s back to school season.
Create a Word Search with Students’ Names
It’s important to have activities sitting on students’ desks as soon as they arrive to the classroom on the first day of school. These should be simple activities that students won’t need help to complete. A word search makes a great option. There are many word search puzzle makers online, but I prefer to make mine using PowerPoint. I’ve made a quick video to show you how I do that here.
Or if you’d prefer a more generic back to school word search puzzle, you can grab a free one here. I’ve also included a simple code-breaker activity and a bookmark to color to provide your students with some different options.
Have these first day of school activities sitting on student desks when they arrive to keep them engaged while you circulate the room and meet your new students!
Have a Snowball Fight!
I love this activity because it gets kids up and moving around, and it is just plain FUN!
Have your students write one (or two or three) interesting things about themselves on a piece of paper. Then they crumple it up into a “snowball.” Divide your students into two groups, and have each group line up across one side of the classroom. On your cue, students throw their “snowballs” to the group on the other side of the room. I like to do this a few times back and forth to make sure the papers get really mixed up. Then each student picks up a paper, and reads it to themselves. Have a sharing time where the group tries to guess the student who wrote the facts.
Alternatively, you may have students walk around asking each other questions (based on the things written on the paper they picked up), trying to find the student who wrote it.
Play Guess Who
This is an activity that I love for when there are 5 minutes left in class. I used to have my students write 10 facts about themselves on a recipe card, and then I would collect them. When we had a few minutes that we needed to fill, I’d pull out a card, and have students guess who I was describing! I always found it worked best to read just one fact, then have 2 students guess. Then read another fact, and have another 2 students guess. If you don’t get to read all the facts, you can save them for another time later in the year!
Do a Classroom Rules Carousel!
Carousel is a fun cooperative learning strategy for any topic, but works great to set classroom rules in a collaborative way at the beginning of the year! To do this, place large pieces of chart paper around the room. Label each one with a “big idea.” Suggestions are:
- Being Prepared
- Effort and Participation
Divide students into small groups of 3 or 4 and give each group a marker. Have each group start at a different sheet of paper, brainstorm rules for that big idea, and write for 2 minutes. Then have all groups circulate to the next sheet of paper. When they come to a new piece, they must first read what the previous groups wrote, and then spend their 2 minutes writing NEW ideas (no repetition).
Think About Procedures
You’ll want to give plenty of thought to the procedures and routines inside your classroom. Try having your students model the procedures as you teach them. For example, “What does a good example of transitioning from center to center look like?” Here’s a handy (and free) checklist to help.
Create a Class Puzzle
One of my all-time favorite first day of school activities is creating a classroom puzzle. I would give each student a piece of the puzzle and have them decorate it with their name and any patterns or pictures, as long as it was as colorful as possible! When it is put together it makes a beautiful display that can stay up all year long! Create your own by drawing large letters with puzzle lines to divide them up, or find a pre-made version here.
Create a Birthday Graph
Birthdays are the ideal subject to graph as a first day math activity because they are relevant and interesting to your students! Here are two different birthday graphs (one for younger students and one for older) that you can download for free.
Do a Back to School Escape Room
Escape rooms are a great way to build teamwork and cooperation skills during the first week of school. Here’s a fun one that your students will love! Together, they will work through obstacles and challenges, to ultimately “escape” the back-to-school mix up!