Make the first day of school a memorable one with these teacher-tested ideas! They’ll help put students at ease and establish the groundwork for a fun and educational year. Be sure to let us know which ideas you tried and how they worked out for you and your students!
First Day of School Activities
Getting to Know You
Idea by Rosio, 5th Grade Teacher, Turlock, CA
On the first day of school we divide the class in half and ask students to stand in two parallel lines facing each other. Students then have one minute to take turns introducing themselves and offering one cool, “bet you didn’t know this about me” fact to his or her partner. After one minute, I ring the bell and one row rotates one place to the left; the children left alone at the ends of the lines walk to the other end of their respective lines, then students repeat the activity with their new partners.
Truth or Spoof
Idea by Michael, 5th Grade Teacher, Delmar, NY
To help break the ice in my class, I have students play a game I call “2 Truths and a Spoof.” To play, students must write three items about themselves, two that are true and one that is false. I tell them to really think carefully so that their friends will not guess right away. My students love trying to fool classmates and they always discover connections with each other that they never knew existed.
Hold a Social
Idea by Farrah, Kindergarten Teacher, Nanuet, NY
Each year, before the first day of school, we hold a “Back-to-School Kindergarten Social.” At that time, parents and students can come in to meet me, greet classmates, and explore the classroom while I help soothe any jitters. It’s also a great time for parents to meet other parents and maybe set-up some play dates. When my young students are able to identify familiar faces on day one, I know the year is off to a good start.
Real First Day Jitters
This idea for helping with first day jitters comes to from Jane, a Kindergarten Teacher in Springfield, MI.
On the first day of Kindergarten, I expect my young students will arrive excited, nervous, and even a bit apprehensive. So, when a mother-daughter duo came to my door that first morning and Mom reported her daughter, Marleen, was complaining she felt sick and to not pay that any mind, I took the news into consideration while also assuring them both that everything would be just fine.
Once my small charges were all seated, I welcomed them to my class by inviting Marleen to come up to the front of the room to help everyone feel more comfortable. With Marleen’s permission, I told my new class that she had been complaining her tummy felt “funny.” I asked those who felt fluttery in their tummies to raise their hands. To my delight, 23 small hands shot into the air. I then said, “See, Marleen, we all feel a bit nervous this first day. You are not alone. Do you feel better now?” She nodded in agreement and then emptied the contents of her funny-feeling tummy on my shoes.
Ease Them Into a Routine
Ease into the school year with this insightful idea by John, a 4nd Grade Teacher in Bloomington, MN.
In an attempt to help my children ease into the school year, I used to plan a lot of fun “getting to know you” games and activities for those first couple of weeks back. But over time, I noticed that planning too many of these light and fun activities served to make the students jumpy, plus they weren’t effective in setting the stage for the year to come.
Now, when I plan my first two weeks of school, in addition to the fun activities and the classroom routines, I introduce one new academic subject per day. With this measured approach, my children have fun while easing their way into the academic portion of our program. Within two weeks time, we are well on our way to a great year.
Lose Those First Day Jitters
This clever idea by Natausha, a 2nd Grade Teacher in Warsaw, NC, helps students lose their first day jitters quickly!
On the first day of school, I use a scavenger hunt to help my students acclimate to their new classroom environment. I make up several different lists of things for pairs of students to locate and respond to. The lists may include items such as:
• Find our 100th day of School Bulletin Board. Record the date the 100th Day will fall on this school year.
• Locate our class library. Jot down the names of three book titles you have read or want to read.
• Find our class pet, Cornflake the hamster. Look on the care sheet next to Cornflake’s cage and jot down two things we need to do to take care of her each day.
For the last item on the list, I have children locating a surprise, such as a back to school treat bag filled with colorful erasers, a cool pencil, stickers, mini activity books, etc.
Use Literature to Get Acquainted
Get students off on the right foot at the start of the school year with this idea by Glenda, a Literacy Coach for Grades K-5 in Gaffney, SC.
I have found that the patterned story structure in the book, The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown, works well as a beginning-of-the-year writing frame for students. First, we discuss the pattern repeated in the book (e.g., “The important thing about…”). Then I have my students brainstorm a list of topics of interest to them (e.g., color, subject, football team, book, etc.).
I divide students into pairs and give each pair five to ten minutes to interview each other about individual preferences related to each topic. Finally, I have students each pen a poem about their partner titled, “The Important Thing About (Student’s Name) Is…”. I tell students to generate at least 5 or 6 lines per poem. When all of the poems have been completed (this may take several sessions), I have students read their poems aloud as a way to introduce their partners to the class. I then use the poems to create a “Getting to Know You” bulletin-board display, complete with a labeled photo of each student.
Facts vs. Opinions
Here’s a great first day of school idea by Christina, a 2nd Grade Teacher in Murrieta, CA, that gets students thinking right away!
To integrate the arts throughout the curriculum from the get-go, and to help children differentiate between facts and opinions, I set up a chart that greets them on that first day back. The chart features art vocabulary terms they are familiar with (e.g., lines, horizontal, vertical, curved, primary colors, secondary colors, etc.) plus a T-chart labeled with “Fact” and “Opinion.”
I then offer my students a series of art reproductions and invite them to use the chart to offer facts and opinions related to each piece. This exercise helps to “set up” the tone for our year together. It gives my students practice in identifying facts, and lets them know that, in my class, all of their opinions will be respected.
Create a Keepsake
When Laura, a Kindergarten Teacher in Morris Plains, NJ, asks her students what they eat for dinner, she turns their responses into cherished keepsakes. Check out her idea below!
“For a fun activity, I meet individually with students and ask each one, “How does your family prepare dinner?” I record exactly what they say. (Even if they report they have take-out pizza most nights, I ask them to tell me how the pizza arrives on their table.) I then use my computer to record each student’s words on a separate piece of paper, leaving plenty of room at the bottom of each page so students can personalize with illustrations. I then make copies of each page and bind the pages into booklets for them to present to their parents on Back-to-School Night. This project receives rave reviews from parents. Many say it has provided wonderful entertainment during their subsequent mealtimes at home.”
Create a PowerPoint
Idea by Julie, 4th Grade Teacher, Akron, OH
I use pictures of students and activities from former years to prepare a PowerPoint presentation that I display on the first day of school. This lets students and their parents know what they can look forward to as the year unfolds.
And to get students ready ahead of time, try these Back to School ideas!
Create an Open Door Policy
Idea by Regina, 3rd Grade Teacher, Basile, LA
At my school, we make home visits. We schedule the visits about two weeks before school starts. The brief visits afford us an invaluable glimpse into our students’ world while affording us an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the student and parents and to offer families a Welcome Packet. We also plan for a Parent Night before school opens. At that time, parents meet parents while students check out their new classrooms and visit with their new friends. By day one of the new school year, any apprehension has vanished and everyone is quite excited about the upcoming year.
Leave a Note
Idea by Janet, 2nd Grade Teacher, Tyler, TX
Positive communication is the key to keeping parents involved and children motivated. Here are a few ideas I have found to be successful:
For Open House and Meet the Teacher Night I always set out a supply of cute stationery and a note (for parents’ eyes only) that reads as follows:
The beginning of school can be very uncertain for children. To help ease these nervous butterflies, please help yourself to some of this stationery and write your child an encouraging note. Your child will discover your special note on his or her desk tomorrow morning.
In class the next day, the kids’ faces light up when they read these notes. (Tip: I jot notes to those few students whose parents were absent from the events so that every child receives a note.) In addition, during the first week of school, I send uplifting notes to each child’s family.