Activities for the First Days of School


First Day Hunt

To familiarize students with the school and personnel, I take students on a hunt for a certain goodie (cookies, watermelon, etc.) around the school. Before school begins I hide the goodie somewhere on campus and write out clue cards. On the first day of kindergarten we read the clues which take us around the school, into the office, the library, restrooms, playground, etc. As we read the clues we look for the goodie in all the places. The last clue leads us to the goodie. After the students find the treat they get to eat it. We also then create a map of the school and create a book about our hunt.  Kim, Grade K

“I CAN’T” Funeral

A great first day activity is the “I Can’t Funeral”. Distribute a small piece of paper to each student for them to write at least one thing they think they cannot do academically. Such as “I can’t do word problems,” or “I can’t read well.” Collect the papers, place them in a shoe box or paper bag, and bury it in the school yard. Or bury it away somewhere in your school or classroom to pull out at the end of the year. Have a simple service with appropriate words such as “Today, we bury our can’ts. We will miss them terribly but we will learn to live without them”.   Nadine Poper

A Great Book to Start the Year

I usually begin the year by reading the chapter book “Walter the Lazy Mouse” by Marjorie Flack. This is an old book that none of the children have ever read, so the story is always a surprise to them. Walter is very lazy and never pays attention in school. He ends up getting lost, and meets three frogs. He tries to teach the frogs what he knows, but soon realizes that he only knows the wrong answers since he did not pay attention in class. He goes back home, returns to school, and becomes a good student himself, so he can come back and teach the frogs correctly. I think it’s a great book to begin the school year. There are so many cute art projects using mice that it’s easy to find a follow-up creative activity, too.  Mary Ann Oczkowski, 2nd Grade

All About Me Posters

On the first day of school, I have my students draw and color their name on a large sheet of paper. They add things about themselves, including their birthdays and their favorite things to do. The posters are then displayed on the wall in the classroom.  Drucilla, Grade 3


When the children arrive on the first day of school I have a bookmark waiting for them on their desks. I ask them to make it as beautiful as possible as it will be very important to them throughout the year. Later that morning we look at everyone’s bookmarks and talk about how we are all going to become even better readers that year.  Ashley DeMazza

Class Puzzle

During the first week of school I have my class create a puzzle. I cut a poster up and give each student a piece of the puzzle. (Be sure to put a dot in one of the corners so that you know which side is up.) The students put their name on it and decorate it. Then as a class we put the puzzle together on a bulletin board. This is great for problem solving and cooperative learning. Every year the kids love it.  Cheryl Pauly

Common Threads

Materials: ball of twine, kite string, or mason’s line One student (or teacher) has the ball of string and shares one small fact about their life or an interest they have. Any other student in the classroom finds a way to connect, and raises their hand. The student with the twine holds the end of the twine and chooses where to pass it, preference given to students who have not connected yet. Each student who has connected holds the string and passes the ball of twine. The object is to have all students share something, creating a “web” that shows we are all connected through each other. The connections sometimes get very fun and creative, and rewinding the ball of twine shows you a thing or two about how manageable your class is!  John Markealli

Cover Sheets

Many of the classrooms in my district are arranged in a way that groups 3 or 4 students together in individual desks. On the first day, have the students decorate a plain manila file folder with their name and any other decorative elements that they choose. Have the students place these in their own desk to use as needed for cover sheets or open them and create their own personal “cubicle” for test times.  L. Parker

Dear Me,

“Dear Me” is a letter students write to themselves on the first day of school. Inside the letter they are to discuss their feelings about starting a new school year, what they loved/hated about the previous school year, and what they expect to learn this year. The requirements can be changed. The teacher collects the letters to put them in individual envelopes. At the end of the year, the teacher passes out their letters. The students read their own letter. This can lead to other activities such as sharing their letters, seeing if their opinions changes a great deal. It is exciting to read all the letters to get to know the students, understand where they are coming from, and what they expect. At the end of the year it is exciting to observe the students react to their own letters (and share with others). Another adaptation is that I give this assignment to the 6th graders. Then I give them the letters when they graduate the 8th grade. Some students really get a kick out of reading what they wrote 3 years prior. Ms. V

Family Tree

During the first week of school my Kindergarteners help me to make a large tree out of Brown Butcher paper. I encourage parents at open house to send in 2 or 3 family pictures to put on the family tree. We then add leaves–green for the beginning of school, then we change them as the foliage turns. The kids are very proud to have picture of their families in the classroom. It also fits nicely in our “All About Me” theme.  Alyssa Robbins, Kindergarten

First Day Advice

At the end of each school year, one of my closing activities is to have my class write a letter to my next class giving advice as to how to be successful in 2nd grade/my class 😀 I bind their letters together and I usually read it the first day. Not only is it a hoot to hear “their” take on what makes ME tick, but it’s a very good ice breaker.

First Day Letter

On the first day of school, I have a letter ready for each child. Although the letter is the same, each is addressed with the child’s name. In the letter I introduce myself, talk about my family, my summer holidays and my hobbies. I then ask them to write back to me and fill me in on them. The students are very interested in the personal life of the teacher at this age. The letter back gives a review of the “friendly letter” format, gives me an overview of their writing ability and an insight into the child as well.  Penny – Grade 5

First Day Name Puzzle

On the first day of school, I like to make a name puzzle with my students. I take a large piece of poster board, and mark out lines that can be cut into pieces. Make sure that the puzzle will have enough pieces for each student to have one. We all gather on the floor to write our name on the blank side of the poster board. I write my name in the middle, and the students write their name in all different directions. When I have free time, I cut the board into puzzle pieces. As a class we each find the spot where our puzzle piece belongs. Tape the puzzle together after school, and post it on the wall in the classroom. When the students return the next day, the will be excited to see the puzzle, and to show off their name. My kids have fun talking and, working to put the puzzle together.  Carmen, 1st Grade

First Day Nameplates

On the first day of school, I have enough pre-cut letters ready for each child to spell out their first name twice. Each student is provided a sheet of cardstock cut to fit their name, and folded in half to form a tent. The students then glue their names on both the front and the back side of the ‘tent’ and stand the nameplate on their desk. After this fun activity, not only does the teacher have a clear view of each new student’s name, but the student can also see their name in print and can use it to copy from, match letters, count letters to compare with classmates, etc.  Darlene L., K-1st

First Days Activities

For the last several years, we have started back with students in the middle of the week. Those “odd” days I have spent slowly introducing the classroom rather than begin active lessons. A new grade level and classroom is so overwhelming… there is so much so to see and do! I make a word search using my new class list and have a crossword puzzle (or similiar “seat work”) available. I set out many math manipulatives for free exploration. Learning Centers are a big hit in my room–so, I have really neat ones out that first week. We spend those first days going over discipline, listening skills, and procedures. Even the first full week of school, we go slow–introducing each text book one at a time. I don’t even pass them out until we are ready to use them.  Lisa Slaughter, 2nd Grade

Fun First Day Activity

On the first day of school I have plenty of pre-cut letters in lots of different colors on a table. As the children come in they find the letters to spell their names and glue them together. I hang these from the ceiling! They really brighten up the room and look great for Open House! Usually this is the first thing they point out to their parents.  Shelly, 1st Grade

Introducing Science

A great introduction to Science at the beginning of the year is to talk about scientists. Give your students a piece of white paper and tell them to draw what they think a scientist looks like. Let them have about 10 minutes or so to do this. Then instruct students to write on the paper what they think a scientist does. Encourage them to use a word or short phrase. Ex. read, study, mixes things, experiments, observes, etc. After a few minutes, have students put their pencils down and ask them to share different words that they wrote. Ask the students, Do you read? Have you ever experimented with things? What about things in the kitchen? Have you ever created something? Objective is for the students to realize that they are all scientist. A scientist does not have a particular look. They are all scientists.  Karen Wilson, Grades 3-6

Making An Important Book

On the first day of school I read The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. I review paragraph writing and instruct them to write a paragraph following the same format as the book about themselves. I also do the same. After the rough drafts are written they are to do a final draft and attach it to a white piece of paper, where they add an illustration. All the pages are laminated and bound into a book. Students reread this book throughout the year. It easily becomes a favorite. Students also enjoy reading the book from the previous years classes.  Robin Long

New Student Information Booklet

During the first few weeks of school, my class makes a book about the school. Each student has a page about themself with a picture that they make themselves. I include pictures of important staff and faculty, important parts of the school (gym, media center, computer lab, etc), and extra copies of the student information from the beginning of the year. When a new student arrives, they take the book home for a few days to help get familiar with the school. The students love this and it works great.  Jennifer, Grade 1

Picture portfolio

Take a digital picture of each student on the first day of school. Insert into a Microsoft Word document in which each student types or writes about what they would like to learn in second grade. Glue on the front of a file folder and put samples of student’s work in it throughout the year. Take a picture of each student the last week of school and have students write what they learned throughout the year. Glue on the inside of the file folder. Use folders as a portfolio to send home at the end of the year.
Grade Level(s): K, 1-2, 3-5

Picture Rules

While introducing the class rules and expectations, I have a student model each desired behavior. I take a digital picture of it and use them in a PowerPoint. I make a slide of each rule with the child’s picture for the background. I print the slides and post the picture rules on the wall. The heading for this is “Model Behavior” or “Welcome to Our Picture Perfect Class”.  Debbie Coria

Sentence Strip Unscramble

This activity is great to use the first day kids walk in, while you greet new students and their parents. Type a short letter attached to an envelope inviting students to unscramble the sentence you have placed in their envelope. Sentences like: Welcome to 3rd grade! It’s going to be a great year! I’m glad you are here! Be sure to cut between the words like a puzzle. The students job is to place the sentence in order.   S. Crenshaw

Snowball Fight!

Students write three things about themselves on a piece of paper. Then they crumple the paper up into a “snowball.” Students have one-two minutes to have a snowball fight. When time is called, everyone grabs the closest snowball and tries to find the person who wrote it. They then introduce that person to the entire class by sharing the three facts. If you really want to liven things up, join in the fight with your class.  Daphne Sherrod

Time Capsules

I have a Year 2 class (5-6 year olds). In the first week of school, we make time capsules (small cardboard boxes) with pictures of “What I want to be,” “Who my friends are,” a print of their hands, a sample story, and a sample of handwriting. We decorate the box with their name in glitter and hang them from the classroom roof. They are exciting to open at the end of the year to see how we’ve changed!   Kim Burdett, Taupo, New Zealand

Toothpaste to Teach Respect

Before we discuss classroom rules I tell the kids we are going to play a game. Each group has a travel size tube of toothpaste. First I tell them to squeeze all the toothpaste onto a paper plate. Then I tell them the game is to try to get all of the toothpaste back into the tube without using any tools expect a toothpick (including not using their hands!). Well, it doesn’t work. I then tell them that the toothpaste is like words we speak. Once we say an unkind word we can’t put it back in our mouth. Then we talk about repecting one another and our classroom rules. I heard about this idea from Dr. Dobson.  Mary Beth Busick

True False Quiz
On the first day of school I give my new students a T/F quiz all about me. I have silly things in there like “I like to hang upside-down from trees” “I love Harry Potter books” and “My favorite color is purple.” The children take the quiz and then we go over the answers. I usually give a small prize to whoever gets the most correct. Then it is their turn to write a T/F quiz for me about them. If there is time, I will try to answer the quizes out loud so that everyone gets to know everyone a bit. I tell them I want them to pay attention to punctuation and do the best they can on spelling as well, without putting too much pressure on them about it. This give me a change to preview their skill level as well as get to know them.

Turning over a new Leaf

On the first day of school students see their names written on a leaf that is hanging from a tree in our reading center. The quote, “Turning over a new leaf” is written on the board and we brainstorm ideas as to what it means. Once the children have an understanding of the quote, they then write me a letter that begins, “This year I am turning over a new leaf. Last year I…..and this year I want to….” Many students wrote about grades, and others wrote about wanting to change their behavior. Students feel better after we have discussed that they are indeed turning over a new leaf because they are starting the new year with a clean slate!  Andrea, Grade 4


7 Responses to Activities for the First Days of School

  1. lori August 28, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    I loved the TOOTH PASTE TO TEACH respect.

  2. Renay Langley September 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    I love the ideas, I am aiming to do the scavenger hunt, name mobile, connected web and sentence strip unscramble. Wish me luck:)

  3. Gamila Alwan September 2, 2011 at 1:06 am #

    Thank you, I love the ideas. I teach Arabic and I will use some of the ideas in my classrooms.

  4. Jumana Sweidan September 2, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    Thank you for the great ideas, you make me more anxious to the first day of school!!!

  5. Kunal September 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    Thanks sooooo much for these ideas!! I’m new to the primary classroom and am anxious about the first few days with the class next week – most of these ideas are fantastic and I’ll definitely be giving them a go …

  6. okino September 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    These tips are great! I especially liked the Me Puppets, and Autobiographical Poem.
    I didn’t like the ToothPaste one as it wasted a lot of toothpaste! One tube could be sufficient.

    Thanks for these, I’ll try my best!

  7. Alifia September 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    Thanks for all these lovely ideas, I’m going to read the story “Walter the lazy mouse” also I liked the toothpaste idea, yes it is a waste of one tube, but at the end if it is going to be benefited then why not.

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