Students and teachers can both feel a mix of emotions on the first day of school. Excitement, happiness, anxiety, sadness, fear . . . Having some fun activities planned for those first few days can help kids transition back to school and show them that your classroom is a fun place to learn. Here are some ways to make back to school fun for kids and you too.
Start off easy
Welcome your new students into your classroom with a fun and easy activity. You need something for kids to do when they first enter the room while you are waiting for everyone to arrive. This activity should be easy and self-explanatory, and it should be something that everyone can do independently.
Setting out a simple morning activity that engages our students also frees you up to greet new students as they come in, deal with paperwork, reassure anxious kids, and track down an extra desk for that unexpected student. It also gets kids used to doing morning work when they enter the room – a routine you’ll follow all year long. And, when you pick the right activity, you can hook kids right away and show them that your classroom is a fun place to be.
My favorite first day activity was Play-Doh. Now, I know some of you might think I’m crazy, but hear me out. When kids see a brand new can of play doh sitting on their desk they can’t help but smile. Play-Doh is the perfect activity to make back to school fun:
- Everyone knows how to use Play-Doh.
- It’s hands-on, engaging, and fun.
- It forms a natural ice-breakers as kids ask each other about what they are molding.
- It’s not too messy and easy to clean up.
- Lots of kids don’t have access to Play-Doh at home
- Your school might even supply Play-Doh
If you just can’t wrap your head around Play-Doh, no worries. You can also try puzzles, coloring pages, tangrams, blocks, or Legos.
Don’t think that upper elementary kids are too old for these activities. They are still kids and they enjoy the opportunity to play. Some teachers even prefer to keep this soft transition to start each day throughout the year.
Plan an engaging back to school activity.
What you do during the first days of school sets the tone for the rest of the year. Let your students know that your classroom is a fun place to learn and grow by picking some engaging back to school activities.
Back to School Paper Bag Book
Students will love the opportunity to get to know you and their classmates. Make time to complete simple, fun activities that help your class get to know one another. My Back to School Paper Bag Book is an easy activity to get kids engaged in learning.
Kids will love making a scrapbook of their first day of school. This activity helps them learn your new classroom routines and set goals for the year. And it gives you a glimpse into their writing skills. All you need are three lunch-sized paper bags per student and basic classroom supplies like scissors, crayons, and glue.
Back to School Escape Room
Cooperative activities like my Back to School Escape Room are great for building classroom community.
This escape room includes a fun mix of problems and puzzles that students in grades 2-5 can enjoy! Two separate versions for upper and lower grades make it easy to differentiate. We’ve also included optional hints to help make the game easier.
This escape room game challenges students to use their problem solving skills and communication skills to unlock the code. Six different activities incorporate math, reading, maps, and logic skills
This low-prep activity is easy to use. All you have to do is print, organize the materials, and present to students. No complicated props needed. It is a fun and exciting way for your students to get to know and work with their new classmates!
Growth Mindset Activities
Get your students ready to tackle hard things with a Growth Mindset Activity.
This resource will introduce students to what they are capable of with their BIG BRAINS. When kids believe they can develop their talents through persistence and hard work, they are more willing to try hard things and keep going even when they don’t get something right away. Cultivating a growth mindset in students helps them learn and achieve more.
This interactive growth mindset activity for grades 2-5 includes 5 days of engaging lesson plans to help your students understand how the brain works. Students will learn about parts of the brain, how the brain works, fixed mindset versus growth mindset, famous failures, and developing grit. By the end of this unit, your students will see that their brains literally grow!
This printable and digital resource is the perfect activity to start the year on a positive note. You’ll love that this resource is low-prep and easy to use, and your kids will love the fun, interactive activities. They especially love learning about famous failures.
Classroom Procedures Games
It’s also important to spend some time teaching students classroom rules and procedures. But don’t just stand in the front of the room and lecture to your students about expectations. That doesn’t make back to school fun for anyone.
Instead, engage kids in a discussion about what it means to be a good learner, a good classmate, and a good friend. Model what to do and have volunteers show their classmates what not to do. This is always good for a few laughs.
Then give your students lots of opportunity to practice. A great way to do this is with my Back to School Classroom Procedures Game.
This fun classroom procedures game gets kids up and moving. A variety of game cards help students learn the appropriate classroom rules and procedures. They’ll also learn what not to do, practice applying the procedures to everyday situations, and they’ll even have a chance to act them out!
Playing games is a great way to help students get to know one another, build classroom community, and practice collaborative learning.
This low prep game is perfect for busy teachers at the beginning of the year. All you have to do is print and teach. I’ve even included editable cards to make this game fully customizable for your unique classroom rules and procedures.
Back to School Bundle
You can also grab a money-saving Back to School Bundle that includes the Back to School Escape Room, Growth Mindset Activity, Back to School Classroom Procedures Game Board and a set of Meet the Teacher Slides that you can use to get to know your students and their families.
Check out the Back to School Bundle and save yourself some time and money – and make back to school fun.
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Pick out a fun read aloud.
I’m a huge fan of read alouds, even in the higher grades. Students benefit from hearing stories read aloud. It helps with fluency and reading comprehension. Read alouds are a great way to introduce new authors and genres, expose students to more challenging texts, and build classroom connections.
I love to start the year with some fun, fresh read alouds. Here are a few of my favorites:
First Day Jitters by Julie Dannenburg
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look
Absolutely Alfie by Sally Warner
The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney
Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border
How to Be Cool in the Third Grade by Betsy Duffey
The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer by Davide Cali
Wonder by R.J. Polacio
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Wordy Birdy by Tammi Sauer
Eraser by Ann Kang and Christopher Weyant
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Restart by Gordon Korman
Hoot by Carl Hiassen
What Do You Do With a Problem by Kobi Yamada
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Gary Rubenstein and Mark Pett
Frindle by Andrew Clements
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
After the Fall by Dan Santat
Help kids get to know one another with some active ice-breakers.
One easy ice-breaker that requires little prep is four corners. Label the corners of your classroom A, B, C, and D. You will be able to use these labels and this activity all year for review games in any subject. It’s also great for indoor recess.
Project a series of questions on your white board with four choices labeled A, B, C, and D. Kids move to the correct corner of the room for their answer. Examples include: Favorite subject, favorite special, favorite type of book, last year’s teacher, favorite sport, favorite hobby, favorite color, etc. . .
Another easy way to help you get to know your students is to use chart paper and sticky notes. Place five large pieces of chart paper around the room with questions like: favorite subject, favorite ice-cream flavor, favorite animal, etc . . . and list 4 choices and an “other” category on each page.
Give your students sticky notes – kids LOVE sticky notes – and let them walk around the room and mark their favorite choices. This activity incorporates movement, lets kids know they’re opinions matters, and helps students get to know one another. It also gives you some insight into likes and dislikes of your class.
Bring out back out at the end of the year and see how much your class has changed.
I’m going on a…
Have you students sit in a circle and play “I’m going on a…” It could be a traditional game of going on a picnic or you could get creative. You could go to the moon, to a desert island, to school, to a birthday party, etc . . . You might even be able to tie it into your classroom theme, if that makes sense.
Each child introduces themselves and then brings something that starts with the same letter as their first name. As you go around the circle, each child introduces themselves, what they are bringing, and tries to remember the other names and objects,
This helps classmates make connections and learn each other’s names. Just be sure to jump in and help right away if anyone is struggling to remember a name or an item. This should not be a stressful game for anyone.
Alternatively, you could just have each student introduce themselves with their names and a color, food, animal, or activity that also starts with their first name. For example, Banana Briane, Deviled Eggs Dan, Hamburger Harrison. This kind of alliteration helps kids make lasting connections and makes it easier to learn new names.
This is a super fun activity! Especially if you tell your students, “It’s time for your first quiz.” Just wait until you see the look on their faces!!!
This quiz will help the students get to learn a little bit about you. Plus, their answers are often hilarious. Remind students they aren’t expected to know their answers, but to just make their best guess. Give them a few minutes to answer the questions and then go over the answers.
Just don’t be offended when they guess you’ve been teaching for 65 years. It’s all apart of the back to school fun!
Download your FREE Teacher’s Quiz HERE.
I hope that gives you some ideas on how to make back to school fun.
Have a Not So Wimpy Day,