Back to School Activities for First Week of School

An exciting time is coming up for teachers: back to school! After having time to rejuvenate, relax, and recover from the COVID-crazy year, it is time to start thinking about back to school ideas. The students entering the class may not have been in the physical classroom for an entire year. Or, they had to switch formats between at- home learning, hybrid, and in-person in small groups. On top of all that, they had to adjust to wearing masks. Due to all of this craziness, students truly deserve the best back to school experience. There should be activities for first week of school filled with excitement, smiles, and laughter. It important to help your students make friends and adjust to the school setting at the same time. 

Fun Activities for the First Week of School

Back-to-school activities should be all about fun. For some students, they didn’t want to come back to school. Therefore, fun activities are a great way to improve their outlook on being back in the classroom. If they like the activities, they may look forward to coming back to school. For other students, they have been waiting for several months to start a new school year. Therefore, fun activities will make the wait well worth it! 

Get to Know You Activities 

As a new school year starts, the room is filled with unknown students. However, it is essential that teachers truly get to know their students. By doing this, personal interests can be embedded into the lessons. Additionally, students will truly feel comfortable in the classroom when they know the teacher cares. Therefore, there are some great get-to-know-you activities below! I also love the interest inventories during the first week of school.

  • Beach Ball 

At the beginning of the year, students may really be missing summer vacation and fun at the beach. Therefore, bring some beach fun to the classroom with a beach ball. First, write get-to-know-you questions all over the ball. This can include anything from favorite color to a favorite hobby. Then, have students stand in a circle and toss the ball around. When students catch it, they will answer a question their hand lands on. By doing this, all classmates will be able to get to know each other as well. 

  • Two Truths and a Lie

While this game has been around for a while, it is always fun! Students will write down three statements. However, only two are true and one is a lie. Each student will read their statements to the class and the class will guess which is a lie. 

  • Name Design

It can take time to remember each name in the classroom. Thus, name tents can help. Although, these name tents won’t just have their name written on them! Instead, students will write their names by incorporating aspects they like. For instance, if students have the letter A in their name, they may design it out of golf clubs or chalk! Anything can be used in order to help students write their names with aspects they enjoy. 

  • This or That Activities for First Week of School

If there are just a few minutes left in the day or before lunch, it is the perfect time to get to know students better. In This or That, students are given two options and then get to say which they would select. To answer and save time, they can even raise their hands. For instance, the question may be macaroni and cheese or hot dogs. Students are always so excited to play this game and it gives everyone a chance to make connections with other students! 

  • Friend Scavenger Hunt 

If you want students to get to know each other, these are great activities for first week of school. First, create a chart of nine or twelve personal items. This can be a favorite color, Disney princess, superhero, and food. It can also be the birthday month, number of siblings, and number of animals at home. Then, students write their answers in one spot. After this, they walk around the classroom and see if they can find a match with another student. Students will be jumping for joy when they find a match. 

  • Growth Mindset Activities 

Students have to learn that it is okay to make mistakes. Everyone makes them! It is just important to learn from mistakes versus giving up. However, this is easier said than done! Even from the youngest ages, so many students feel they have to be perfect. Thus, it is so important to teach students that while aspects in life may not always be easy, hard work is well worth it! In order to teach students about growth mindset, you can hang these posters up around the room and have the students discuss what eat quote means to them. 

  • Power of Yet 

It is so important to teach growing students that more skills will come to them with time. Thus, the word yet is so powerful. While something may not be possible right now, it doesn’t mean that will always be the case. To teach this, there are so many great read alouds! For instance, Jabari Jumps or Fantastic Elastic Brain can help teach your students about the power of yet. After reading, have students reflect on aspects that were once hard but now are not. For example, this may be riding a bike, counting to 100, or telling time! This will be sure to remind students how certain aspects may be hard, but it doesn’t mean they are impossible! 

  • Thought Maps

In this thought-provoking activity, students will work in a station format. There will be growth mindset terms around the class on larger sheets of paper. These can include perseverance, risks, mistakes, courage, effort, and bravery. Before starting, be sure to go over the words students may not know. Then, have students walk around the classroom and write what the word means to them or an example of it. This is a silent activity in order to help students truly focus. After everyone is done, review the thought maps as a class. These also look great hanging on the wall and provide a consistent reminder to never give up. 

  • Famous Failures 

There are so many well-known celebrities who were told no. Whether they were told to stop singing or they couldn’t be on a high school sports team, they didn’t let this stop them. Instead, they worked even harder to prove negative people wrong. Therefore, have students work in a small group and assign each group a famous person. One type of electronic device will be needed. Then, provide a few websites for students to explore together. Students will read about the person and how they once failed. After this, students can share with the class in order to show how powerful hard work and determination are. Famous failure people include Walt Disney, Michael Jordan, and Albert Einstein! 

  • Done For You Bundles Activities for First week of School

The return to school is overwhelming. There is just so much to do and time goes so fast. Thus, there are “done for you” bundles that are filled with activities for the first week of school. Each bundle is filled with grade-appropriate activities that students will love. For instance, there is a “We Fit Right In!” puzzle quilt for a bulletin board and different STEM challenges. Additionally, there is a letter template for students to open up to the teacher and a back-to-school flipbook. Furthermore, there are interest inventory activities and bucket list pages. Students will have a blast completing each activity! Be sure to check out the bundles for 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, and 5th Grade

When planning activities for the first week of school, it is okay to feel overwhelmed. You are planning lessons for students you do not even know yet. However, with planning, students are going to be able to tell their teacher is excited for the school year to start. This will set such a positive tone for the return of school and students will feel happy to be with such a caring teacher. You can also check out these awesome back to school bulletin board ideas. These are a great way to help build a sense of community. 

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I am Kirsten Tulsian, an elementary educator with 18 years of experience as a teacher and counselor. My passion lies in empowering students to discover their inherent brilliance through the use of engaging, rigorous, and meaningful activities. I look forward to connecting with you!

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