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Back to School Activities

Compiled By: lovetolaugh

As the beginning of the school year approaches we are always looking for new and exciting activities to introduce the students to their new teacher and also their classmates. Compiled here you will find some great ideas you might like to try with your class!

Posted by: SusanTeach

There are so many ideas I do, but I can't say that I made them all up myself. I've altered some of them so I guess that's partially creating some. :) Here are some of my favorites (and the kids' favorites!):

1. Open House - "Treasure Hunt" - Give the kids a list of things to show their parents in the room (class pet, their desk, etc...). The last thing on there is for them to find the treasure chest and it has a goody bag for each child (a few small things in it - piece of candy, pencil, eraser, homework pass, etc...).

2. First Day - Read Chysanthemum. I've posted about this before, so I'll give a shortened version. As you're reading the book, when the mouse gets insulted make a tear in a paper doll. When she gets complimented, put tape over the tear. In the end, explain how words can hurt feelings and you're better after encouragement but not ever quite the same. I keep the doll taped near the white board as a reminder all year about talking nice to others.

3. People Bingo - I have a grid with 25 spaces on it. Each one has different items on it (someone with earrings, born in another state, etc...). The kids walk around the room and find someone different for each square - then he/she signs it. You can end it when someone gets a regular Bingo (5 in a row in any direction) or a complete "blackout".

4. Time Capsule - I take a picture on the first day of each child. They fill out a form that has their shoe size, date, shirt size, height, tracing of their hand, and a drawn picture of them. They put the form along with the picture taped/glued to it in a papertowel tube and close the ends with cupcake liners and rubber bands. They can decorate the outside with their name and stickers. I hide those in a cabinet and let them take them home at the end of the year, after they do a 2nd one (on the back) to show how much they've changed through the year!

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Back to school ideas
Posted by: Lynn

Here are a few ideas I've used that my students loved...
1. Name Scrabble-we used giant graph paper and fit in each child's name a la Scrabble.
2. We talked about how each one of us is special. To illustrate, I cut apples in half crossways and showed the children the star inside. Then we ate the apples of course!
3. I read "Chrysanthemum" to the children, then passed around a paper girl with instructions to bend or crumple her in some way. We then tried to smooth her out. The children learned that we can say we're sorry for saying hurtful things but some of the hurt will still be there.

Hope these help?

Some More Ideas
Posted by: 5th teacher

We play "Just like Me" I read a statement about myself, such as "My favorite color is green." Anyone else whose favorite color is green stands up and says, "Just like me." I also read the poem, "If I Were in Charge of the World" by Judith Viorst. Then we brainstorm a list of things we would do if we were in charge of the world, and students write their own poems. We always do an autograph scavenger hunt (Ex. find the tallest person and get them to sign your paper). Usally the first week of school I make index cards with different scenarios that would come up during the school year that have to do with rules or procedures I have been teaching, the students pair up and tell their partner what they would do in the case. For example, the card might say, "I finshed all of my assignments. What do I do next?" The procedure I have taught is to look at the "What Do I Do Now" board and complete the activities listed. So, this is what they tell their partner. In the end, we go over all of them together. Also, the first week, we make a time capsuel to capture what the student was like in the beginning of the year. I give them back on the last day of school so the kids can see how much they have changed. Just a few ideas.

First Day Activities
Posted by: Melanie

Here are some fun things to do the first day/week of school:
-Letter to previous teacher, have students write a letter to their teacher last year telling what happened over the summer, things remembered from last year, and what they are looking forward to this year
-Name Bingo (names of all students)
-Name Word search (you can make these on the internet)
-Our Favorite Things- scramble words of some of your favorite things and have the class unscramble them. This introduces yourself to the class. Then, have them scramble some of their favorite things and have a partner unscramble some of their things.

There's some really good websites that talk about back to school. Email me if you want them (I don't know if I can post them).

1st day goodie bags
Posted by: donna

On the first day of school I leave a goodie bag on each desk. I attach yellow star cutouts to white bags. On the cutouts I print "Second Grade Superstar".

Inside the bag are supplies and goodies to start the year. Most of it I can get from the supply closet (pencils, erasers, boxes of crayons). But I also buy special bookmarks that may say "Welcome to 2nd Grade" and special pencils "Spectacular Second Graders" and star shaped erasers. I also include a treat like a roll of Smarties.

I would love to see your webpage of ideas if you wouldn't mind posting that link. Thanks!

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First Couple of Weeks of School
Posted by: Becky

Here are some things that I do the first couple of weeks as beginning of the school year activities:

***We make time capsules (a paper towel tube). We stuff is with a self-portrait, a writing sample and a writing prompt ("My favorite thing to do is....."). We attach a note that says "Do not open until June 22, 2002, or whatever the last day of school is. One the last day, they had so much fun looking at their handwriting from the first week of school.
***I used a large piece of oaktag to make a blank puzzle. The amount of puzzle pieces should be equal to how many kids there are in your class plus yourself. Give each child a piece and have them write their name on it and draw a few things that represent them. Once this is done, get together in a circle and put the puzzle back together as a class. Once it is complete, tell the children that you are like a puzzle, every piece (person) is different, but you all fit together perfectly. You can even hang it on a bulletin board with a title "Ms. Smith's Class.....A Perfect Fit!"
*** Read The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. Do a writing prompt "I am important because....."
*** Read Ten Black Dots. Give them a dot tracer. Trace 10 black dots and have them create their own picture. Give them a strip that says "With my ten black dots I made..........."
***Do a Kevin Henkes author study.
For Chrysantheum, make a graph "How many letters are in your name?"
For Owen, give the kids a piece of yellow felt. Tell them that it is their own piece of Owen's fuzzy.
For Wemberely Worried, talk about some of the things that the class might be nervous about for First Grade. Last year I had a former study come in while we read the story. She was there to address the fears and since the kids knew that she had just been in my class they really listened to her.
Some of the teacher websites have other ideas for extensions with Kevin Henkes books (#####).
***A good way to establish classroom rules is by having the kids write and draw the one rule that they think is the most important rule to follow in school.I give this as a homework assignment on the first night.
Share and discuss what they wrote/drew. Come up with a list of rules. Make sure that you come up with a list of consequences as well. Look at the other posts that talk about the Stoplight management systems. I use that (the four colired cards) and it's very effective.
***There is also a book called When Will I Read? by Miriam Cohen. It's part of the Welcome to First Grade series. That's another good series to use as a Spotlight Author.
Good luck!

First Day/Week
Posted by: MBK/4th

I really liked reading about the suggestions from the previous poster! I have done similar activities! On the first week of school I distribute their first project assignment. It is called "Me Boxes". Here are the directions for completing this assignment:

Your assignment is to create a cereal box all about you. Your box will be decorated with words, pictures, and objects that tell all about you. You should first decorate your cereal box with paper (such as construction paper, newspaper, wrapping paper, or copy paper). Your box must include all of the following:

1. Personal Information
Ø Your first and last name in big letters
Ø Your birthday
Ø A picture of yourself (drawn or real)

2. Personal Favorites
Include words, drawings, or pictures neatly cut from a magazine that show at least four of your personal favorites. Some examples of personal favorites are:
Food Ice cream
Animal Color
Sport Activity
Achievement School subject

3. Important People
Who are the people that are most important to you? Draw the people that are most important to you (or use a real photo), and write why they are important to you on an index card.

Example: ____________ is/are important to me because __________________.

4. Personal Grab Bag
Inside the box, place three items that are special to you (real objects, drawn, or cut from a magazine). On each index card (provided for you), name the object and explain why this object is special to you.

You will be presenting your “ME BOX” during sharing time. Be sure to proofread your work for correct spelling, punctuation, and capital letters. HAVE FUN with this assignment and remember to be CREATIVE and COLORFUL!!

I also did a cooperative game on the first day called "We All Fit In". This is one of my favorite first day activities ...making a class puzzle. Prior to the first day, I take a large sheet of white drawing paper and cut it into puzzle pieces so that each child will have their own. During the first day, I distribute a piece to each student and have them decorate it with their name and designs/decorations of their choice. When several of the students have completed theirs I have them begin to
reconstruct the puzzle on the carpet. The students, some of who may not know each other, begin to work together, discussing where the various pieces go. As other students
finish their piece, they are welcomed to the group because other hole can be filled in. The students are working together cooperatively the entire time. I can begin to see who tends to take charge, hang back, etc. When the puzzle has been completed, I include a heading which
says, "We all fit in!" I staple the puzzle together when I have a chance and make a bulletin board out of it. The puzzle stays up for the entire year, and we take it apart on
the last day of school. If a student moves away, we take their piece out, leaving a hole. If a new student moves in, the hole can be filled with a new piece they design. I have also sometimes purposely left a blank piece or two the first
day of school, just to let the students know we will always have room in our class for others.
This has always been a great group building activity . . . ONE TIP...Make sure that you draw an arrow in pencil to indicate on each puzzle piece which way is up. THis way, the students will not draw on an upside down puzzle piece!!

I also do "Lollipop Buddies" if you're interested, let me know and I will post the directions for that!

Hope these help...would LOVE to hear from others!

first days of school
Posted by: Katy

A 5th grade teacher at my school does an activity that I think is great and could be possible for 2nd. She makes silhouettes of students heads, they cut them out and then cut out pictures and words from magazines to fill them in with and the pictures and words represent who they think they are. She then mounts them and keeps them as a border around the room (up high)so they can reflect on them at the end of the year. You could also have them use mirrors and people color markers to make self-portraits, frame them and have them write goals around the frame. At back to school night, I've had parents at the end try to guess which self-portrait they think their child made and then they need to make their own self-portrait and the children try to guess the next day. This reminds the parents what it's like to learn by having to do something with others around you doing the same activity and the kids love it.
I also read a lot of stories the first week and teach the kids who don't know already about making text-to-self connections. After reading and discussing a book, I'll ask them to write about a connection they had. This helps me assess reading comprehension, basic writing skills, and get to see their personality a bit by the type of response they write.
For those students who aren't big into reading and writing, it's really great to teach some fun math games. Teach a different game each day and have everybody playing at the same time. At the end of the week, put out all the games and let children choose partners and choose which game they want to play. You could ask a First grade teacher for an end of First grade math game that was successful and fun to have as one game they already know and feel comfortable with.
Lastly, our district has a ton of curriculum to cover and I find that if I spend too much time doing beginning of the year activities, I fall behind schedule and stress at the end of the year. So I would recommend diving into the core curriculum the very first week. Science or Social studies units are really fun for most children so I try to do a lesson almost every day the first week before going to our usual 2-3 times a week. Any art projects are always a big hit. I try to do enough things that by the end of the week children have a few things to take home and we have a few things hanging in our classroom to make it feel like the students' classroom.
Hope some of that helps. I think you'll love Second. I do!

schedule for first weeks
Posted by: Cathy-Dee

This year our first day will be a 1/2 day which will be so nice.

Usually my schedule for the first few weeks is something like this.

First day - students arrive - I have nursery rhyme colouring, cut and paste sheets on their desks - I have them colour only. While they are doing this I and hopefully a few parents get all their materials sorted out. I put all the extra materials into ziplock bags which will be on each students desk. I also have a note on the overhead telling parents what to put into the desks and what to put into the bags.
This takes about 30 minutes - and also allows me to greet any new students - I always have 2-3 empty desks in my room for the first week just in case.

Then we settle into some of our morning routines and I thank the parents for coming and more or less get them moving out of the room. Usually I do this by telling them when school will be finished for the day if they were planning to come back to pick up their child - they usually get the hint.
Then the class moves to the rug and we have a discussion time - I tell them about myself and some of the things we will be doing. I ask them what do they want to learn, it's fun. We learn everyone's names and play a few name games and get to know you games. Then we do a quick tour of the school so that the kids know where the bathrooms are, doors, where to put their shoes, etc., usually this takes us to our first recess.
We come back and they draw a picture of something they did during the summer that I will display in the hallway for the first couple of weeks.

If we have time I will also do the calendar and weather charts.

After recess - I make sure everyone has put their shoes away properly and has used the bathroom.

I read a story and then I have them do a printing activity where they print their name - I keep this for their portfolio. We learn 3 sight words, the, is, I and read a poem together. Then we use unifix cubes to make patterns. Then I have them draw a picture of something we did today at school as they love to take something home especially on the first day. This usually takes us to lunch (80 minutes classtime) and this year they will head home at lunch.

In the following days my schedule will be a bit more structured.

First 80 minutes
- journal writing - they will mainly be drawing pictures at the beginning of the year
- Find the letter book - I wrote stories featuring the letters and the kids have to find and circle the letter we are working on. I do these in order from A to Z
- Printing book - learning to print the letters properly - again in order from A to Z
- sight word drills
- Phonics/Companion Reading - programs or workbooks that work on letter sounds - these I teach out of order.
- Phonic songs - to go with the letters we are printing and learning - also reviewing the sound
- reading from our readers
(We may not do everything each day - usually I do one letter per week, or at least one letter and perhaps introducing the next letter by the end of the week).


next 80 minutes - math - the first 40 minutes we do hands-on activities, lessons and worksheets. We start with patterns and numbers to 20. I also work on number words. The second 40 minutes is usually math centers and often I use this time for initial one-to-one testing.

Lunch - all our kids remain at school for lunch

After lunch recess

first 1/2 hour - centers - again I do one-to-one testing - after Christmas this first 1/2 hour will become a silent reading time for the students as I wean them off of "fun" centers. From this point on all my centers are learning related and specific to the subject area.

Next 40 minutes - I will start my science unit on colours or my social studies unit on our school.

We have one more recess and another 80 minutes.
I do these classes during the afternoons, gym, music, art, health, social studies and science, computers, library. So I just vary these throughout the week and of course some are scheduled because others may be teaching them.

Kissing Hand
Posted by: Megan

Read the Kissing Hand and do some activities surrounding it. There are lots of good sites on this book (refer to previous have to go to the previous page of posts). I had the students paint their handprints on a special poem I had typed up for their parents...they loved this! It was about how they will go to school and they were scared but will be ok and bring lots of projects home, and grow throughout the year. You could play getting to know you games, the Building Blocks books have great a predictable chart..."My name is..." etc. Hope this helps!!! : ) Searching the internet for "back to school activities" helped me as well!!! : )

Book for 1st day
Posted by: Angi

I always read "Chrysanthemum" by Kevin Henkes. It can be for younger kids, but you can do many activities with the book. After reading, we make a graph of the amount of letters in each of our names. Also, we pick a different name and wear name tags with our "new names". I give them a baby name book to look up the meaning of their names. Look at for other ideas. Another book I read (if not the 1st day, but another day) is "I Don't Want to Go Back to School" by Marisabina Russo. I make a writing frame for them to tell why they didn't want to come back to school themselves.

First Day
Posted by: Carrie

Congrats! Second Grade is awesome to teach!!!
Usually on the first day, I let the students pick their own desk to start off, then we have introductions, put supplies away, draw a self portriat, create a rule book, then each child was asked to bring in a special item to share with the class and they share the items and I take their picture for our check-in magnets, and in the afternoon we eat watermelon and work on some activities. I take it really easy and ease the kids back into school!

first days
Posted by: Rebecca

Yes, the first few days we just get to know each other and the class/school rules. I share several books with my third graders.....
Teacher From The Black Lagoon
Miss Nelson Is Missing
Miss Nelson Is Back
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

I do a lot of getting to know you activities. I bring in a brown lunch sack with a few personal things (my favorite book, picture of my family, something I collect, a craft, or whatever). I share theis with them and then assign homework. They get a brown lunch bag as well. They are suppose to bring 5 items(and only 5) from home that would tell about themselves. The items MUST fit in the bag (this is my rule---or you will have all kinds of things come in). Then they take turns sharing theirs on the second day.

We go over rules (we discuss them, write them, and draw pictures of them). I give them scenarios and we act out appropriate and inappropriate ways to react to situations.

We too started on a Wed. and this is all I did the first three days. I had them tell me things they would like to learn about this year. I did hand out textbooks that Friday and let them look through them.

Hope this helps some. Have a super year!

a busy first week
Posted by: BeaJay

Each year I make a Welcome to Third grade folder that has all my rules, schedules, and other pertinent school information. We read this every day and learn the rules, demonstrate the rules, practice the rules. (Harry Wong is my hero!) You can give Power Point presentations on the rules (cute template at Microsoft site). I also give daily quizzes on the rules. I use sentence strips with out schedule on it and we put them in the correct order in a pocket chart. I read Judy Moody was in a Mood, not a good Mood by Megan McDonald. Judy is a third grader who does not want to get up and start back to school after summer vacation. In the story she has to make a "Me" project, we make a "Me" project. She also has a pet Venus Flytrap, we get a pet Venus Flytrap. The book is so cute and the kids love it. Mailbox from Aug/Sept 2001 has more activities to go with the story. By the time you have taught rules, the kids have learned about each other, and supplies are put away, it is time to pass out textbooks and get to the really fun stuff. Have a great year.

back to school ideas
Posted by: Cathy-Dee

One idea might be for them to do a survey of sorts.

A fun style is for them to have a form where they need to get one name beside each category.

1) Find someone who likes to eat strawberries.

2) Find someone who has a birthday in the same month as yours.

3) Find someone who has 2 brothers.

And so on. You want to make most of the questions ones they can find someone to match, but a few can be more difficult. This gets them talking to and learning about one another and you get to see which ones can read easily, which ones struggle with writing, who seems to be shy and withdrawn, who is out-going and so on.

I also have a web page of links for back to school ideas. Just send me and email if you'd like the address.

venn diagram
Posted by: bamateach

One thing that I did last year that was soo fun for the kids was friend venn diagrams. They were paired with a new friend (someone they did not know before). The students drew a venn diagram on 12x18 construction paper and titled it with their names in the circles and then both in the center. They filled in the venn diagram with things that made them different and with things that they had in common. It was great. All during the activity they would run up to me and say Mrs. R did you know that we had this much in common? or We both like such and such! It was so fun. I then took a pic of the new pals and put it on a bulletin board titled Making Friends in 2nd Grade. (took the idea from Mailbox '05)

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First Day/Full Day
Posted by: Brenda

I have always started school with a full day. I taught 4th grade for 15 years. I always spent most of the morning going over rules, procedures, assigning lockers, books, etc. I also took the opportunity to complete a few "get to know each other" activities like "people searches" (find someone who went to camp this summer, find someone who went to the library this summer, etc....). I also read a few picture books that introduced the school year (The Teacher from the Black Lagoon). It was a good opportunity to start the 1st spelling unit, begin a required bus safety unit, and complete some math games for review of last year's skills. I also usually gave a small homework assignment (usuallly spelling words). You'll be surprised how quickly your 1st day will go. I usually never got to everything I planned. All the forms that needed to be returned by the students... I always promised extra recess minutes if everyone remembered them the next day. I didn't always get them all returned, but a large percent always came back the next day.'s always better to over plan than under plan. You'll do fine.

First Days
Posted by: KcK

Two and half days or two half days? We start with two half days then come back the next week for full days. In those two days I:

*go over rules and consequences - I take pictures of the kids following the rules and fufilling the consequences (they love to role play breaking the rule) and then have them make the posters and add the pics.
*Getting to Know You Glyph necklace- this actually takes a bit
*Nametags- I make nameplates for our hallway board- I write their name in cursive on a sentence strip and then go over it with black marker. The kids use crayons to color pretty hard (for bright colors) all over the strip in whatever pattern they want. Then we go over their name with puffy paint. They make really cool nameplates to display their work in the hall.
*Open House Craft- our open house is the week after school starts, so I use those 2 days to make a craft for open house.
*Library- We organize all the books in our library. This does take some time.
*Procedures - we go over some of the procedures and classroom jobs that I have for my helpers of the week
*Centers - I split the class up into groups and give each groupd a center to explore for about 20 minutes. Then each group tells the rest of the class about the things in that center.
*LOTS of team building activities and we practice our morning meeting format on the 2nd day. I also do an introductory guess the covered word about Mrs. K lesson.
I usually overplan and then end up spilling over into the next week... but better to overplan then underplan they always say! :)

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