The first day of school never fails to bring me joy and excitement, but it also comes with a hint of anxiety. What types of activities are fun and engaging for my students? Even after 35 years of teaching, I still experience those familiar “first-day jitters.”
However, as soon as I meet my wonderful students and the day begins, everything falls into place, and I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The rest of the day proceeds smoothly, and I find comfort in the familiar rhythm of the classroom.
If you’re unsure what activities to do on your first day of school, here are some ideas and free resources I’ve collected over the years for my second-grade class. I tend to plan too much, and on occasions, I don’t even complete half of it. However, it’s better to have an abundance of plans than too few.
Nevertheless, take your time and avoid rushing through activities. I’d rather achieve less and have a smooth day than accomplish everything while feeling hurried and stressed. Remember, there are many days ahead, so there’s no need to worry about what you couldn’t cover on the first day!
I will share with you some simple ideas to help your first day of school go by smoothly.
School Tour With Pete the Cat
During the first few weeks of school, my students are engaging in a fun learning experience with Pete the Cat. We kicked off the first day of school by reading Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes and then embarked on a school tour following the clues left by Pete the Cat. Along the way, we discussed and reviewed a few rules and procedures. This initial period is dedicated to establishing a solid foundation of rules and procedures for the rest of the school year.
You can get the clues by visiting Inspired by Kindergarten.
Name Bookmarks for the First Day of School
As you welcome students in, ask them to find the bookmark with their name on it. Have them color their bookmark with their name on it. I like to collect and laminate them so the students can use them for the entire school year. This is a fun, free, and easy first-day of school activity. You can get the editable back-to-school student name bookmarks for Teaching the Tinies.
FREE Editable All About My Name Banner
Another easy and simple idea is having your students make a name banner by Curriculum Castle. Hanging these banners adds a personal and warm touch to my classroom. While the students are busy decorating their banners, you can take the opportunity to greet any late students, complete the lunch count, and take attendance.
School Tour with Pete the Cat
During the first few weeks of school, my students are engaging in a fun learning experience with Pete the Cat. We kicked off the school year by reading Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes and then embarked on a school tour following the clues left by Pete the Cat. Along the way, we discussed and reviewed a few rules and procedures. This initial period is dedicated to establishing a solid foundation of rules and procedures for the rest of the school year.
Find A Friend Bingo-First Day of School Icebreaker
Fostering friendship and creating a sense of community is vital for children’s social and emotional development. Find-A-Friend Bingo is a delightful icebreaker activity that encourages young students to connect with their peers, discover common interests, and build new friendships on the first day of school. This fun and interactive game will not only break the ice but also create a positive and inclusive environment for children to grow and learn together.
This engaging back-to-school activity can be found in my FREE Resource Library.
My School Stinks Read Aloud
Celebrate back to school (and even calm some back-to-school nerves) with this clever and funny story about a boy who accidentally winds up at a school for animals but soon realizes friends can come in all shapes, sizes, and species. Illustrated by Julia Patton and published by Flamingo Books, My School Stinks is a great read for kindergarten through second grade! Click here for a free activity guide and journal pages.
How Well Do You Know Your Teacher?
Participating in a “True or False” game serves as an excellent back-to-school activity, enabling your new students to become more familiar with you. I made this enjoyable activity by incorporating pictures of myself and my Bitmoji. I used PowerPoint to make this True or False activity. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. The children will have a great time attempting to guess the correct answers.
This or That Icebreaker
This or That is another icebreaker I like to do with my students. Not only do icebreaker activities allow you to get to know your students, but it also provides them with opportunities to learn more about each other. This helps create a stronger sense of community in your classroom, and we all know how crucial that can be for a successful year!
Can You Save Fred?
Start the school year with an exciting STEM activity that promotes teamwork and collaboration! Students will have the opportunity to bond and learn about the scientific method while undertaking the challenge of rescuing Fred the worm and his friends. This activity is designed to foster a sense of community within the classroom and encourage cooperative problem-solving.
In the simple “Save Fred” science lab, students collaborate to rescue Fred’s life preserver trapped under his capsized boat. The activity involves placing a gummy lifesaver beneath a plastic cup with a gummy worm on top. Using only paper clips, students must figure out a way to save Fred from drowning.
You can read more about this activity from Gift of Curiosity.
Getting to Know You – First Day of School Activity
A positive classroom community is essential for creating a supportive and engaging learning environment. Show-and-tell activities provide an opportunity for students to share their interests, experiences, and talents with their classmates. This not only helps students to develop their listening and speaking skills but also fosters a sense of belonging and connection within the classroom.
The show-and-tell bag activity is a great way to help students get to know each other at the beginning of the school year. It’s a simple and enjoyable activity that can be done on the first day of school or the first few weeks of school. This editable resource by Foxwell Forest is easy to use. Here’s how you can incorporate this activity into your classroom this year!
Need more ideas for the first week of school? Check out the posts listed below for more Back to School tips, freebies, and activities.