Guest Post by Christine Weis | For the Love of Teachers
There’s no crazy like back to school crazy so I like to start off the year with some fun and easy activities that build classroom community and allows us all to get to know each other quickly. I’ve grown to love these activities and my students have too. Here are 5 activities that you don’t want to skip the first week of school.
Day 1: Back To School Name Tag
Want to dive right into STEM on day 1? Give students this Name Tag Challenge.
This activity is a lot of fun for the kids. You will immediately begin to tell who can do this with ease, who gets frustrated, who redesigns over and over again and who just gives up! It definitely helped me and my students to remember student names on day 1, plus I was able to informally assess my students early on. As a class we do a classroom museum walk when all are finished and give thoughtful comments or suggestions to each student’s work. You can get this FREE STEM Name Tag activity here.
Day 2: I Wish My Teacher Knew
I gave my students one index card (that’s all you need) and told them to share with me one thing that they wanted me to know about them. I said that it could be as simple or as general as their favorite color, hobby, or sport, something they like or enjoy or it could be something more personal, a feeling or a thought. I put my own spin on this activity by modeling it first by giving each student an index card with one thing I wanted them to know about me (I wish my students knew…). It was easier than I thought coming up with 25 facts about myself.
After each student received a card from me with a personal fact their eyes lit up. They loved receiving a fun fact about their teacher, made some great connections with me, and eagerly began writing a fun fact about themselves for me to read. I was completely blown away by some of the responses too. Some were very general like, “I love animals.” “I have 3 cats.” “My favorite color is sky blue.” But then some of them were more personal like, “My mom and dad just got divorced.” “I cannot buy my school supplies yet.” “I have no pencils at home.” “My mom works late.”
This activity tells me so much about my students and how they were feeling on the first day of school. Some were feeling happy and excited and some were feeling a little bit anxious and scared. This is an activity that I NEVER skip because I know it helps me and my students connect and I hear get to hear all of their voices.
I got this idea from this book. It’s a great read!
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Day 3: Me, Myself and I
This is my favorite back to school activity. It’s inspired by the “Writer’s I” with the same idea in mind, but I use and display it as a getting to know you activity at the beginning of the school year. Have your students fill in the “I” template with nouns about themselves. The noun could follow an adjective or stand by itself. I always model mine first by brainstorming a list of nouns about myself in front of my students. Then I take my favorite words and order them the way I’d like from top to bottom in the “I” template. I hang these in the hallways for Open House. My students and their parents loved reading theirs and each other’s. I put together a few templates, black & white and color. You can get this FREE activity here.
Day 4: All About Me Newspaper
By the end of week 1 I always have my students work on an All About Me Project. I have done All About Me books, banners, but I really like this All About Me Newspaper. It is a great way to kick off the school year with a getting to know you activity. It’s easy to print and to reuse year after year. You may want to give students a few days to complete this and it may trickle into week 2. I always introduce it with a sample of my own. They come out really awesome. I put these newspapers up for display and then add them to our class library. The kids love reading each other’s newspapers. You can get this All About Me Newspaper here.
All About Me Book Project
For primary grades K-2, I send home an All About Me project at the end of week one. This book is the cutest getting to know you back to school activity and a class favorite. Over the summer I make a copy of the book for each of my students. I cut it out and staple each book. I send the book and directions sheet home at the end of the first week of school before the weekend. We shared about 4 books a day.
The books became part of our classroom library so students could peruse through the books throughout the year. This project certainly helps build classroom community and friendships. Plus, they came out fantastic! You can get this All About Me Book Project here.
Day 5: Hope and Dreams
As a Responsive Classroom teacher, I always start off the year with discussing, sharing and writing about our Hope & Dreams. I display my students hopes and dreams as a reminder that if we all want to reach them, we have to do our part in following the rules, routines and expectations in helping us all reach them. I ask my students to write a few sentences and answer the following 2 questions:
What is your Hope and Dream?
How will you reach your hope(s) and dream(s)? (What will you do (actionable steps) to reach your hope(s) and dream(s)?)
My hope and dream is… I will reach my hope and dream by…
You could get this watercolor pennant banner to write and display your students Hopes and Dreams here.
If you are not a Responsive Classroom teacher but want to learn more about it and need some support planning back to school activities, then I highly recommend the book, The First Six Weeks of School. It’s absolutely my go to for planning the first 6 weeks of school. It’s easy to use and is teacher friendly with so many great ideas.
Have a great start to the school year and have some fun!
Christine Weis is a passionate elementary teacher, classroom management coach, blogger, TpT author, mom of two busy boys and founder of For The Love of Teachers, a website/blog/Shop that provides tips and resources for all things elementary from writing to classroom management.