Back To School: Top 5 First Day of School Activities

1. Name Wave

This is TRIBES activity so kids (and of course, me!) can learn each other’s names in a fun way using movement!  You can tell right away which students are comfortable or uncomfortable with being in the spotlight or using their bodies to express themselves.  Check here for the rules of the game.


2. Designing/writing assessment

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Students are instructed to color a design on the triangular grid paper shown above and write about it three times this school year (beginning, middle, and end).  So this is the first one!  I will have students compare the beginning and middle designs in a self-assessment written piece.  My hope is that students will discover that they are creative and that there is no wrong answer in this open ended activity.  Also, I hope they notice any progressions in complexity and/or creativity in their pieces.  I will use them at parent teacher conferences and students will share their findings with each other.  I made this up and will try it this year to see how it goes!  See my beginning of the school year post with student work here!


3. Establish your classroom culture

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Go over your behavior expectations and classroom management routines.  Be consistent throughout the year and practice, practice, practice!  If you have to line up your class 100x’s to get it right, then do it.  The time and hard work you invest now, the more efficiently you can run the class and ultimately, the more time your students have for discovering and learning!  I love reading this book, Cookies (Amazon affiliate link), to my class to get conversations going about life lessons.  Simple and meaningful!


4. Show an inspirational video and have a discussion

I show this powerful video and afterwards, students independently write why I showed it to them.  It’s about taking risks, making mistakes, and failing in order to succeed.  Students are always concerned with getting the right answer and dismiss the process altogether.  We’ll do a think-pair-share about their writing and then share their thoughts as a whole class in a discussion.  I constantly refer back to this video throughout the year. Check it out:


5. Dream Quilt: students set meaningful personal and academic goals for the school year


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Students share their dream quilts with a partner and explain why they set their goals.  Then, I put them up on a large fadeless paper to look like a quilt.  The dream quilt is displayed in the classroom as a constant reminder to keep students’ goals on track.  The example I use to model for my students is above.  Then, we revisit the goals in the beginning of January as a way to make and/or continue goals (New Year’s resolutions).  I like to take moments like these away from the crazy schedule to have students reflect and take a deep look into themselves.  This activity gives them purpose and empowers them to make good choices that contribute to achieving their goals.

We would love to hear your top first day of school activities! Please share by commenting below!


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Sharon Jaravata

Sharon is a 3rd grade public school teacher.

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