15 First Day Jitters Activities to Calm Back-to-School Nerves

Jitter juice, jitter glitter, and more!

First Day Jitters Activities

First day of school! It’s a phrase that sends thrills and chills down your spine. Those feelings are captured perfectly in the classic picture book First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg and Judy Love. Readers learn that everyone is nervous on their first day—including teachers! If you’re reading this beloved book to your class this year, try one of these First Day Jitters–inspired activities to make it even more meaningful.

1. Mix up a batch of Jitter Juice.

First Day Jitters Activities The Kindergarten Connection

Jitter Juice is one of everyone’s favorite activities! Have kids help you mix up lemon-lime soda and fruit punch, then add a dash of sprinkles (for even more fun, try edible glitter). They can sip their juice while you read and discuss the book.

Learn more: The Kindergarten Connection

2. Practice counting with a Jitter Juice survey.

Once they’ve drunk their Jitter Juice, take a survey to find out who liked it. Have kids keep count, then graph the results. 

Learn more: A Cupcake for the Teacher

3. Assemble a paper craft bed.

First Day Jitters Activities First Grade Wow

Sarah Jane hides under the covers at the beginning of the book, and maybe a few of your students did the same! Craft this bed using the free patterns found at the link below and have students fill in the blank, describing how they felt that morning before coming to school.

Learn more: First Grade Wow

4. Give them some Jitter Glitter.

First Day Jitters Activities Class of Kinders

This is a great giveaway for a pre–first day meet and greet. Fill small bags with glitter that students can tuck under their pillow the night before the big day and pass them out along with this sweet poem.

Learn more: Class of Kinders

5. Try a cleaner take on Jitter Glitter.

One teacher explains, “I didn’t want messy glitter, so instead I use a decorated antibacterial hand gel that has the glittery-like beads, which magically disappear as kids rub their hands together. (It also helps to keep germs at bay on the first day!)”

Source: Happy Teacher/Pinterest

6. Craft Jitter Glitter necklaces.

First Day Jitters activities using Jitter Glitter are really popular! In this version, kids help fill tiny jars with glitter (a tiny funnel will make this job much easier). Tie a cord or ribbon around the neck so kids can wear their necklace when they’re feeling nervous. (Here’s another cool Jitter Glitter idea: calm-down jars! )

Learn more: The DIY Mommy

7. Help them make a text-to-self connection.

First Day Jitters Activities Lesson Plan Diva

This free printable is simple but gets straight to the point. Use it in class or as a first-day homework assignment to talk over and complete with their grown-ups.

Learn more: Lesson Plan Diva

8. Put your worries in a Jitter Jar.

First Day Jitters Activities Mrs Medeiros Twitter

Sometimes just acknowledging your worries is enough to calm you down. Have kids write down their jittery thoughts on a small piece of paper. Then, crumple them up and seal them in the jar, explaining that they’re getting the worries out of their heads so they can focus on more fun things!

Source: Mrs. Medeiros/Twitter

9. Make a First Day Feelings graph.

First Day Jitters Activities The Cutesy Teacher

First, students color a small symbol of themselves showing how they felt about the first day of school. Then, they construct a picture graph with those symbols as a class, learning about the parts of a graph as they go.

Learn more: The Cutesy Teacher

10. Write and draw a before and after.

First Day Jitters Activities The Applicious Teacher

The reality is usually a lot less scary than what we imagine in advance. Let kids reflect on how they felt before the first day and how they feel now that they’re living it. Then have them write and/or draw about their before-and-after feelings.

Learn more: The Applicious Teacher

11. Compose a First Day Jitters predictable chart.

First Day Jitters Activities The Kindergarten Smorgasboard

Predictable charts are great for kindergarten when students aren’t writing much on their own yet. Kids help fill in the blanks to create a chart of complete sentences describing how the first day of school made them feel.

Learn more: The Kindergarten Smorgasboard

12. Stick your feelings to the wall.

First Day Jitters Activities Trisha Little Weinig Pinterest

Writing is always more fun with sticky notes! This is a terrific way to assess handwriting, spelling, and basic writing skills on the first day in a low-pressure way. (Here are more fun ways to  use sticky notes in the classroom.)

Source: Trisha Little Weinig/Pinterest

13. Snack on some Jitter Beans.

You can use Jitter Beans for multiple First Day Jitters activities. Estimate them, count them, sort them, graph them … oh, and eat them, too!

Learn more: The Krafty Teacher

14. Use emojis to illustrate their jitters.

Try this activity with older kids (because first day jitters certainly aren’t limited to little ones). Project a selection of emojis on your screen and have kids choose a couple to describe how they’re feeling. Then, ask them to write an explanation of why those chose each one. For a fun finish, take a picture of each student and print it out. Then have kids cut them out and paste the emojis over their faces!

Learn more: Teaching in Room 6

15. Learn new vocabulary words.

Even though it’s a picture book, First Day Jitters has some words kids may not be familiar with. Identify some vocab words (like the ones shown here) and help kids learn what they mean.

Learn more: Teacher Mom of 3

Have more First Day Jitters activities to share? Come tell us about them in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, more read-aloud books for the first day of school.

15 First Day Jitters Activities to Calm Back-to-School Nerves

Posted by Jill Staake

Jill Staake is a writer living in Tampa, Florida. She's spent most of her life teaching in traditional classrooms and beyond, from 8th grade English to butterfly encounters, and believes learning is a life-long process.

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