The first week of school is so exciting! It's an opportunity to start fresh and get to know a whole new group of students that are eager and ready to learn! But, before diving into the content that I know you're dying to get to; it is so important to get to know your students and build a classroom community. There are so many meaningful first week of school activities that you can do to create a welcoming environment.
The first week of school is so important for setting routines, reviewing procedures, and developing relationships that will last throughout the year. You can easily work the procedures into the day while also working on building a classroom community. Creating a welcoming and safe environment for your students will help set the tone for the rest of the year.
You'll see that I really love to share picture books in the first days of school. I love to use picture books because it is a great time to practice procedures in a whole group setting; coming to the reading area, where to sit, how to sit, etc…by reading aloud with the whole group, you're laying the groundwork for whole group lessons later in the year. And I just really enjoy reading aloud picture books too!
Here are my top 7 back to school activities:
1. Goal Setting
I love to work with students during the first week of school to set goals. Goal setting is the perfect complement to teaching a growth mindset and the power of “yet.” Setting goals is so important…think about crossing off a task on your own to-do list! It always feels so good. Even a small goal/task that is completed gives us a sense of accomplishment. Your students will feel such a sense of accomplishment when they set goals AND reach them!
“There” by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick is my favorite read-aloud to discuss goal setting. It is a great way to begin a conversation about setting goals and how will you get “there.” Students can then trace their hands and write goals for themselves on their hands. You can allow them choose any goals, personal or academic because when it comes to goal setting, we don't want to limit them; the sky is the limit for goal setting.
Students can write down their goals and what they can do to accomplish their goals. They can then trace their hands to hold onto their goal-setting paper and display them on a bulletin board that reads “Together small hands can accomplish big things.”
2. A Recipe for a Good Year
The first day of school is always so fun, but it's long. And tiring during the first week of school. When everyone is used to summer schedules (and snacks), it takes some time to get back in the swing of things. I've always liked to do a fun activity that also provides students with a snack.
Each ingredient in the snack equals a trait that makes a good school year…kindness, effort, teamwork, fairness, pride, honesty, curiosity, and excitement. When students take a scoop of each ingredient, it's an opportunity to discuss how it contributes to a good year; each of them together is delicious and wonderful, but when you mix it altogether, it is quite a treat. Just like each part of our school year, when you work together to demonstrate each trait, it makes for a wonderful school year.
It's a fun discussion and a great way to make a fun trail mix snack.
*Be cautious of food allergies and policies regarding snacks before planning this activity*
3. The Bad Seed
Have you read “The Bad Seed” by Jory John? It is a great book to read at the beginning of the year and a great way to get to know your students too. After reading the book, students can write down two things that everyone might know about them already, and three things that they want everyone to know. It's a really cute book that teaches about positive changes and shows kids that it is possible to change for the better!
4. Be Kind the first week of school
“Be Kind” by Pat Zietlow Miller is another great book to share during the first week of school because it really shows kids different ways that we can be kind. It's so easy to tell kids to be kind…but what does that really mean? This book shows us how we can be kind in certain situations and how sometimes our perception of a situation might not be the same as someone else's.
To accompany this book, you can have students think about the different ways they can show kindness in and out of the classroom. You can use sticky notes and create a fun display to “Stick with Kindness.”
5. The Best Part of Me
I have always really loved doing this activity because it gives you a glimpse at your students as writers, while also getting to know them. It also helps build students' writing stamina by starting off with a small project that can be completed in one sitting. This project also makes a really beautiful display if you have parent's night or open house early in the year.
“The Best Part of Me” is a series of black and white pictures taken by students. Their writing describes “The Best Part of Me.” This works as a great mentor text for students; you can read the book and then have students take a turn to take a picture and write about the best part of themselves. It is such a meaningful writing project and also fun for students to get up and moving and take pictures.
Students love to share their writing too, they'll be so proud of their first writing project of the year!
6. Hopes and Dreams
While working on setting goals in the first week of school, students can also think of their hopes and dreams for the school year. At the beginning of the year, anything is possible and you want students to feel like they CAN accomplish anything! Students can create a small foldable books to showcase their hopes and dreams for the year. Foldable books are perfect to use to guide the morning meeting for the day, and talking about hopes and dreams for the year is the perfect topic for your morning meeting during the first week of school!
7. First week of school Book
Another favorite activity for the first week of school is to create a book all about the first day. It's a great way to review some of the rules and procedures while also having something to send home so that parents can see a little of what their child did on the first day.
Creating a book is something that usually takes a couple of days, as you work on building up stamina to see how long students can work independently. It's a fun keepsake as well as a fun way to discuss all of the important info on the first day of school.
I stock up on blank books from the Target Dollar Spot, but they can also be stapled or bound. Any way you put them together, they make a really cute keepsake for students.
You can shop some of my favorite back to school activities here:
You can find some of my favorite back to school read-aloud books here:
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