The first day of school can come with lots of excitement and, often, a bit of the jitters. It’s the start of a fresh academic year with new challenges and loads of learning opportunities. It’s also time to meet new people, make new friends, and learn different perspectives. These first-day-of-school activities will help you start off the year with a bang as you and your students form your community and begin your journey together.
1. Take first-day photos
Mark the occasion! These signs for the first day of school are the perfect back-to-school accessory for photo opportunities and activities on the first day of school.
2. Play a name game
Playing a name game is a fun way to help the entire class place faces with names and learn proper pronunciation. Plus kids are more likely to feel like they’re part of an inclusive environment when they hear their name pronounced correctly.
Learn more: Fun Name Games To Play With Your New Class
3. Read first-day-of-school books
The first days of back-to-school can truly set the stage for the entire school year with students. Get off on the right track with these entertaining and informative read-alouds.
4. Play a round of Classmate Bingo
Invite students to mix and mingle as they learn fun facts about one another with this fun, free printable bingo template. And check out the link below for even more awesome first-day printable activities.
Learn more: Fun First-Day-of-School Worksheets
5. Go on a school supply scavenger hunt
Spending lots of time gathering supplies for each assignment is time-consuming! Use this free printable worksheet to send your students on a scavenger hunt to find everything on the list. Then, when the time comes, they’ll be able to get geared up quickly.
Learn more: Life Over Cs
6. Ask your students about their hopes and dreams
Asking students about their hopes and dreams at the start of the school year gets them excited and enthusiastic about learning in your classroom.
Learn more: Responsive Classroom
7. Break the ice with fun activities
Icebreaker activities help kids form positive relationships from the get-go and are a great way to build community in your classroom. Along with these fun activities, try these Fun Icebreaker Questions for Kids and Teens.
Learn more: Elementary Icebreakers
8. Interview a classmate
What better way to help students get to know each other those first few weeks of school than by asking each other questions? Have students pair up, ask questions, and take notes on each other. Do this activity a few times, having students switch up partners each time.
Learn more: Teaching Made Practical
9. Write “I Am” poems
“I Am” poems beautifully capture a snapshot of your students at the beginning of the school year. Their poems reveal their hopes, dreams, and fears and help you get to know them a little better. Write your own along with them, and be sure to share.
Learn more: Mary Hanna Wilson
10. Craft a class contract together
Taking the time to create a classroom contract sets the stage for a supportive environment. Asking questions like “How do you want to treat each other?” and “How should we handle conflict?” opens up the dialogue and lets your students know that their needs are important.
Learn more: 4 Free 15-Minute Icebreakers for Your Classroom
11. Offer a STEM challenge
STEM challenges not only encourage kids to work together to solve problems and challenge their thinking skills, they are super fun!
- Kindergarten STEM Challenges
- First Grade STEM Challenges
- Second Grade STEM Challenges
- Third Grade STEM Challenges
- Fourth Grade STEM Challenges
- Fifth Grade STEM Challenges
12. Open up with a teacher Q&A
Holding a Q&A session is a great way for your students to know more about you. Sit center stage and open the floor to their questions. Not only will this establish trust and help your students feel more comfortable with you, it is a great way to model how your morning circle works.
Learn more: What I Have Learned
13. Establish a few first-day-of-school traditions
Over the years, you’ll find a few first-day-of-school activities that are keepers. They mark the day as special and help you set the tone for a fun year ahead. Check out the list below and adopt a few as your own.
14. Start a goal-setting project
Being able to set goals is an important skill for students to practice all year long. This fun activity helps students identify some of the things they hope to accomplish and document them in an artful, creative way that becomes a colorful display for the classroom and a great keepsake for parents.
Learn more: What I Have Learned
15. Get those procedures and routines rolling
The first days and weeks of school are the ideal time to set the stage for a well-managed classroom. These tips will help you establish, reinforce, and streamline classroom procedures that will really make a difference.
Learn more: Must-Teach Classroom Routines and Procedures
16. Race to build the tallest tower
This is another fun STEM challenge and collaborative activity for your students. As your students work, circulate around the classroom and take note of the strengths and challenges you see among your students. Use your notes to plan future coaching sessions.
Learn more: Laura Candler
17. Ask “Would you rather” questions
A perennial favorite, “Would you rather” questions delight kids of all ages. Funny, silly, and though-provoking, they loosen up first-day jitters and help kids find common ground with their classmates.
18. Play “Get To Know You” Jenga
Sometimes direct Q and A can feel a little intimidating. Putting a Jenga spin on it turns it into a game while accomplishing the “get to know you” aspect of this fun first-day-of-school activity.
Learn more: Jennifer Findley
19. Get creative together
Get your students’ creative juices flowing from the get-go with these fun drawing activities.
Learn more: Clever Drawing Games To Level Up Artistic Skills
20. Find out what your students wish their teacher knew
Getting to know your students is the first step toward building meaningful relationships with them. This activity gives your kids the opportunity to share important information about who they are and what is important to them. Share a little bit of yourself as you model this activity for them first.
Learn more: For the Love of Teachers
21. Establish your job/my job expectations
Occasionally kids can get a little overzealous and have some issues with boundaries. This activity is a great reminder for students about their job as a student vs. yours as their teacher.
Learn more: Mrs. Hawk’s Nest
22. Set the stage for a great year
The key to a well-planned classroom management system is finding out what works best for you and for your particular group of individuals each year. Here are 22 teacher-tested management techniques to help you design and maintain your own ideal classroom learning environment.
23. Find common ground with Venn diagrams
Venn diagrams are not only a great learning tool, they can be a fun get-to-know-you activity. Watch this fun video together, then pair students up to find out just how much they have in common with one another.
24. Put together a group puzzle
Create a beautiful collage of student art with this group puzzle. Hand out one piece to each student and encourage them to illustrate their piece in a way that expresses their personality. Then, give them time to put it all together. Once they’re done, apply clear contact paper over the puzzle and turn it into a hangable piece of art for your classroom.
Learn more: Teachers Pay Teachers
25. Touch base with some one-on-one time
This teacher-blogger shares one of her favorite activities for the first day of school. “I like to spend a few minutes one-on-one with each student,” she says. “Get to know them, introduce yourself, giggle, and encourage them. Making that personal connection on the first day is so important! You may get some teacher inspiration and insights into your students that you can use all year long!”
Learn more: What I Have Learned
26. Sweeten the getting-to-know-you process
Did someone say M&Ms? This fun activity is sure to catch your students’ attention. Maybe save it until right before recess so they can run off the sugar spike.
Learn more: She’s Crafty
27. Play a team-building game
Team-building activities are a super way to kick off the first day of school. They give your students the chance to get to know one another, build trust as a community, and, best of all, have fun!
Learn more: Awesome Team-Building Activities for Kids
28. Set goals with avatars
This is another fun way to teach students the importance of setting meaningful goals. And just like the characters they create, have your students focus on their individual strengths and needs as they formulate their goals.
Learn more: Around the Kampfire
What are some of your favorite first-day-of-school activities? We’d love to hear about them in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out Welcoming Doors for Back to School.