Summer begins to draw to an end right at the beginning of August, just as soon as you see those ever so bright and colorful “Back 2 School!” signs showing up at your local retailers. For new teachers just entering the field, there is an untold excitement for what is to come. Veteran teachers, well…most of us either have that feeling that you get when you accidentally run a red light, or you’re prepared and ready for that first day back to school.
Whatever that feeling might be for you, you must do some absolutely fundamental things when beginning a new school year, and it doesn’t circle laying down all of the rules. The first day of school will be a lot of work and excitement for both the teachers and the students. That being said, don’t fret about what to do because we’ve got your back!
That First Day Back to School
I can already smell the scent of fresh new crayons, paper, and hand sanitizer. Before I go into all of the great things you should do and how to prepare for the first day back to school, let me first give you some advice on what NOT to do.
The Do NOTs
1 . Do Not Give Homework
DO NOT give your students “real” homework on the first day. You don’t have to want to be the cool teacher, but you don’t want to be THAT teacher.
2 . Do Not Lay Out the Law
I learned the hard way that laying out the law for my class and giving out rules on the very first day of school was a great way to have my students tune out to what I was saying very quickly. You will have plenty of time to layout those important rules, classroom jobs, and expectations during the first week, so don’t stress.
3 . Do NOT Single Out Kids
Many ice breaker activities involve all kids breaking out of their comfort zone to participate in the activities. With the first day of school stuff, I have a general rule that we all get to look silly together. So instead of calling only on the kid you don’t know to introduce themselves, have everyone go through the process.
First Day Activities for a Great School Year
When starting a new school year, your whole goal for that first day of school is setting the stage to begin forming relationships with your students. The entire point of the cheezy ice breaker activities is simply for you to get to know your students and for your students to do the same with you.
1. Tell Your Students About YOU on the First Day of School
One of the most important things you can do to begin building a relationship with your students is to tell them about you. Create a small presentation and show your kids pictures of places you went over the summer, your family, pets, favorite foods, and so on. Students from elementary age all the way up through high school like to see who you are as an individual they can relate to.
2. Greet Each Student on the First Day of School
The first day of school is the most intimidating, especially for students who are brand new to a school. Greet each student at the door, say your name, ask for theirs, and do a fist bump or a high-five. I know that sounds like it may not be a big deal, but it is a huge deal to the kid who comes from a place where friendly interactions aren’t the norm.
3. Play With Some M&Ms!
I have used this game in my classroom on the first day for the last seven years. This game is a fun way for students to become acquainted with each other and have a little fun with a sweet treat at the end. Students from kindergarten enjoy this game all the way up through students taking on their last year of high school.
First, you will break your students up into groups of 3-5; you then give each student a “fun size” bag of M&Ms (making sure they do not eat them), then hand out the free printable guide.
4. Play the “Find a Friend” Game
This game is ideal for younger children and can be modified to accommodate those that are a bit older. There are tons of free printable that you can use to have a great first day of school welcome activity. This game can also be used as new words or as a review game. Besides, this activity builds a stronger community in the classroom.
Watch this video to see an elementary class playing this game during a math class:
5. Two Truths and a Lie
Playing this game on the first day of school will definitely have your students learn about you and everyone else in the class. It is always fun and exciting when learning about new people for the first time, and best of all, this game is totally free and is a great teaching tool. Plus, you will find that your students really love trying to guess which one is the lie!
6. Create an “All About Me” Wall on the First Day of School
There is something that is just a lot of fun to see all of the things that everyone is about on a wall. During that first week of school, when everyone is still getting to know you (the teacher) and each other, have students create a poster board with clippings and pictures of all of the things they love. This is a great way to get parents involved with bringing in pictures so that students can create a great piece that really shows who they are outside of school.
7. Red Solo Cup Game
This game is so much fun and ideal for building teamwork skills with people you’ve just met. Perfect for second grade and up, this is a great game to play on the first day of school before anyone even knows each other’s name. All it takes is some red solo cups, string, and some rubber bands. The primary purpose of this game is to build a tower of solo cups only using rubber bands with string handles attached. Not so hard, right? Except for all students in the group my share one rubber band and work together to build the tower. You can find tons of great picture resources and ideas through Google. However, you can also go to TeachersPayTeachers for inexpensive teaching tools and support educators.
8. Thumbprint Poem
The thumbprint poem writing activity is entirely about expressing who they are and what they love educationally and artistically. On the first day of school, have each student press their thumb against an ink pad and proceed to place their fingerprint onto a piece of paper. Students will then begin to re-create the image of their thumbprint in a large-scale version that takes up a piece of printer paper. Students at this point will write about all the things that they love, their families, hobbies, who they are, what they like to eat…the possibilities are endless. Kids can be as creative as they want, playing with words, doodles, and pictures. Hang these up in the hallway or even in the classroom so they can be at all times.
9. Read a Fun Story About the First Day of School!
One great way to welcome small children on their first day of school is by sitting together and reading a good story. This activity is ideal for kids who are in kindergarten or 1st grade. Choose a story that is all about the first day of school and all of the challenges and adventures that it can hold. Some great first-day of school books that can match your class are On the First Day of First Grade by Tish Rabe or Curious George’s First Day of School by Margaret & H.A. Rey’s. These are great books to read and then discuss with your class. Kindergarten and 1st-grade children love to tell all about their nerves and feelings about coming to school. If you’re a teacher looking for some inexpensive stories, you can find these on Amazon.
10. Put Birthdays on the Class Calendar
There is something really exciting for a child when it comes to being able to write down their birthday on the class calendar. Doing this on the first day of school lets the child know that their special day is coming up and that everyone is going to recognize it. This will make every person in your classroom feel valued and important. Make sure your classroom calendar is large and can be seen by every student every day of school. Possibly, even make announcements throughout the month about who’s birthday is coming up.
First Day of School Final Thoughts
As a teacher, no matter what day of school it is, the most important thing is that every single student in the classroom feels valued and feels important. The most important thing about the first day of school is setting the stage for each and every kid to have a role and a purpose and become better than they were the day before.