If you are anything like me, you probably over plan for the first week of school. When I start back-to-school, I would rather have WAY TOO MUCH to do than be stuck frantically searching for activities to fill the last 20 minutes of class.
Here’s a list of some fun back-to-school activities to incorporate during the first week of school.
The first few days of school can be awkward- not just for the students but for the teachers too. It’s hard to be in a room full of people that you don’t really know. Especially when you are the one that is supposed to be “in charge.”
I know we’ve all done plenty of “Get to Know You” activities to help us learn about our students, help them learn about each other, and well… break the ice.
Here are just a few of my favorites that I’ve used over the years.
1. Skittles Grammar Game Freebie:
This is a twist on the Skittles ice breaker game that throws in a little bit of grammar review. The traditional way to play is to assign specific questions to specific colors of Skittles. When a student chooses a particular color, they must answer that question. I wanted it to add a little ELA flair, so I made the questions focus on nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Grab the freebie here!
2. Name Game:
This is the game that helps me out the most! By the end of it, I can remember every student’s name. It can be one of the longer games, so make sure you include some opportunities for movement during the activity.
Have everyone sit in a circle. The first person (probably the teacher) starts by saying an adjective that describes them and their name. And it’s just more fun if it’s alliterative! So, I would say something like, “Clean Carter” or “Clean Mrs. Carter.” (There is a long-standing joke with some of my co-workers that I have germ issues. I’m a little obsessive about disinfecting stuff. I’ve had students get me Germ-X hand wipes for teacher appreciation… and I was SUPER excited!)
After my introduction, the student sitting next to me would introduce themself as Artistic Annie. The next student might be Joyful Jana. Then everyone would say all the names we’ve learned so far: Clean Carter, Artistic Annie, Joyful Jana, etc.
This can take a long time if you repeat everyone’s name between each new introduction. You may want to only repeat names after every 5th student. It will still help everyone remember names, but it won’t take quite as long.
3. All About Me Activity: Back-to-School Bingo
I always love an All About Me activity and this bingo game is perfect! Kids get to create their own individualized bingo board and share information about themselves. This game focuses on learning facts about the person with some fun summer and back-to-school info thrown in. You can see how I use this activity here.
4. Introduce a Friend
Partner students up and give them several minutes to learn everything they can about each other. You may want to post some questions on the board for reference, but I like to let the students decide what to ask (for the most part.) Be sure to explain that questions should be school-appropriate, and their partner has the option not to answer if it is embarrassing. Encourage students to take notes so they won’t forget anything important about their partner. Next, have students take turns introducing their partner to the class. They should include the person’s name and a few facts about them.
For younger students, you may want to give an example. You could pretend to interview a stuffed animal or book character, write down notes, and introduce them to the class. Kids will get a laugh out of it and be more prepared when it’s their turn.
5. Make QR Codes to Teach Procedures
No matter the age of your students, you will have to go over some classroom procedures.
Where do I put my things?
What do I do when I get to class?
When can I go to the restroom?
What is the classroom library system?
How do I _____?
Whatever the question, you need to make sure the students know the answer. This will prevent so many behavior problems down the road.
Usually, on the 2nd day of school, I start focusing on procedures so the students know the expectations from the beginning.
Rather than just standing in the front of the room talking all morning, try something a little unconventional like QR codes! This will grab your students’ attention and keep them engaged while learning the ropes of your classroom.
Your code can go to a Google Doc that the students can read through or a Google Slide presentation. If you have the time, create video or audio files to explain each procedure. You can make some quick videos of a student following the correct procedure (use your own child or a co-worker’s so you can have this done before school starts).
Post the QR codes around the classroom. Try to put them near important items like the backpack hooks, cubbies, restroom passes, pencil sharpener, classroom library, or flexible seating options. Really, you can make codes for anything you want the kids to learn about.
I like QR Code Tiger. because it allows you to upload audio right to their server and then create a link to it.
For Google Docs or Slides, make sure you set the “share” settings to “anyone with link can view” to ensure it’s accessible for your students. You can also create a QR code by adding text directly into the text feature. For videos, you can upload as an unlisted video on YouTube, copy the link, then generate a QR code. This will take a little bit of work to begin with, but you can reuse the same QR codes each year.
When you’re ready, just divide the class into groups and give each group a device to scan the QR codes. Have each team start at a different posted QR code around the room. Set a timer and then have the kids rotate through each “station”.
Once they’ve gone through all the stations, have them make a poster of all the things they learned. They can draw pictures, write a bulleted list, or come up with their own creative way to show their learning.
Just to be on the safe side, I suggest testing out all your QR codes before the kids arrive. If you are able, try the codes on a student device or personal device. You want to work out any of the kinks so that everything goes off without a hitch.
If your school is anything like mine, you are probably required to post some classroom rules. Several years ago, I completely simplified my classroom rules and chose only TWO positive rules. You can read about that HERE.
7. Read Aloud Books
I really do love reading aloud books to my students. Even when I taught 5th grade, I still found time to read to my students. And believe it or not, they LOVED it!
8. Throw in Some Fun Review
You can get a chance to see what skills your students are coming with and give yourself a few minutes to catch your breath.
I like to use a fun activity that’s incorporates some ELA skills and also takes a fair bit of time to complete.
One of my favorite activities for this is Parts of Speech Mystery Pictures! Students read sentences, identify or fill in the part of speech, and then color the corresponding boxes on the mystery picture. My students love discovering the mystery picture and stay engaged throughout the whole activity.
You can also grab a free Summer Mystery Picture here.
I’d love to know about your favorite back-to-school activities. Tell about them in the comments below!