Create a List

List Name

Rename this List
Save to
Back to the Top Teaching Blog
September 2, 2015

Back-to-School: First Week Fun!

By Kriscia Cabral
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    It’s back-to-school time! The most important thing in my mind is creating a safe and fun environment that students will want to return to daily. The first few days are ones you want to capture and share with families. Read on to find activities that capture the day, connect the classroom community, and create a fun learning experience for your students.

    Class Name Search

    I always try to have an activity out that students can entertain themselves with as they walk into the classroom. Students are coming in with supplies and are excited to see friends, while parents would like to take pictures and clarify concerns. Having a name search on every desk allows students to settle and get started on a fun activity that involves them. Every year two activities seem to stick: a letter from me, about me; and a word search.

    For the word search (the kids suggested I used the term "Name Search" because they am looking for names, not words), I use the Armored Penguin website to create a search of all the first names in our class. After the search is created on the website, I download the PDF version and cut and crop it so it is centered and big on a white piece of copy paper. I cut and align the names at the bottom of the page so they are easy for kids to read. I also add a graphic or draw a picture at the top along with a title like “Find Our Class in This Puzzle." As students arrive on their first day, they come in, find a seat, and have something to work on with their neighbor.

    Letter to Students

    Every year I write a letter to students and leave it on their desk for the first day of school. The letter is no longer than one page. In it, I briefly welcome students to their new homeroom and talk a little bit about topics we will cover throughout the year. I also share quick facts about me, as well as an invitation to grow and learn together. I try to keep it simple.

    The point of writing the letter is to help students feel comfortable in their new learning environment and to help them find a way to relate to me as a person and not just a teacher. I write about things that I enjoy and tell them a little bit about my family life. Often, students find areas in which we are similar, and that can be quite comforting to those who are anxious about meeting someone new. At the end of the letter, I ask students to write me back. I leave students with my template as a writing guide and allow time for this activity during the first few days. I then use the letter as a one-piece assessment on student writing.

    First Day Photo Shoot

    I saw this idea in Martha Stewart Living magazine.

    • Take a piece of poster board and measure the length and width you want your frame.

    • Cut out the frame using a very sharp razor blade. I say very sharp because my first attempt was with a not-so-sharp blade and it was not pretty. Thanks to the expertise of my handyman-husband, I came away with five different photo frames with five different sayings.

    • Decorate the frame however you’d like. I used some left over bulletin board letters to add a bit of character to each. I also did a few with puffy paint. Sharpie markers work well too.

     

    As the first day festivities begin, I get students started on an activity they can work on as groups at a table setting (name search or my letter to students) while I snap pictures of each of them. I compile the pictures in a file that I can refer to for activities throughout the year. I also send a copy via email to their parents after the day is over. The pictures are a great keepsake for parents and for you. It could be something you take back out at the end of the year and change from first day to last day. Then send both pictures home via email.

    House of Cards

    I found this great idea in Scholastic Instructor. Students work together to build a tower using index cards.

    • Gather students into small groups of 4 or 5.

    • Pass out a small pile of index cards. I gave each group about 15 cards each.

    • Explain the rules of the game: Teams must work together to build the tallest standing paper tower. They can only stack a card after they have written on it a word that is something the whole group has in common.

    While the end goal of the game is to get your tower to be at least 10 inches high, my end goal was to get students talking and getting to know each other. They were having so much fun they didn’t realize how much they were learning about their classmates.

    Not a Bag

    After reading the book Not a Box and reflecting on imagination and creativity, students were told they would be given a brown bag of materials. Their goal was to take the materials from inside the bag (and the bag itself if they wanted to) and design something that represented them.

    • First we brainstormed a list of ideas.

    • Then every student was given one brown paper bag with the same number of random items (2 paperclips, 2 rubber bands, 2 pipe cleaners, 2 jumbo popsicle sticks, 4 twist ties, a 5" x ½" piece of foil, and a straw.

    • They were given a set amount of work time (20 minutes) to create.

    • When everyone was done, students were invited to present to the class what they made and how it relates to them personally.

     

    As students shared, their peers were able to gain an understanding of who the person was based on their creation.

    By the end of our first week together, students had grown more comfortable with our learning space, connected with classmates, and remembered the excitement of our time together. While there were procedures and assessments entered in here and there, what they remember was the fun they had.

    Use one or all of these activities to energize your students as they head back into the classroom.

    Do you have other ideas that get your students excited about school? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below and share!

    Follow me on Pinterest and Twitter!

     

    Thank you for reading.

    Smiles,

    Kriscia

     

     

     

    It’s back-to-school time! The most important thing in my mind is creating a safe and fun environment that students will want to return to daily. The first few days are ones you want to capture and share with families. Read on to find activities that capture the day, connect the classroom community, and create a fun learning experience for your students.

    Class Name Search

    I always try to have an activity out that students can entertain themselves with as they walk into the classroom. Students are coming in with supplies and are excited to see friends, while parents would like to take pictures and clarify concerns. Having a name search on every desk allows students to settle and get started on a fun activity that involves them. Every year two activities seem to stick: a letter from me, about me; and a word search.

    For the word search (the kids suggested I used the term "Name Search" because they am looking for names, not words), I use the Armored Penguin website to create a search of all the first names in our class. After the search is created on the website, I download the PDF version and cut and crop it so it is centered and big on a white piece of copy paper. I cut and align the names at the bottom of the page so they are easy for kids to read. I also add a graphic or draw a picture at the top along with a title like “Find Our Class in This Puzzle." As students arrive on their first day, they come in, find a seat, and have something to work on with their neighbor.

    Letter to Students

    Every year I write a letter to students and leave it on their desk for the first day of school. The letter is no longer than one page. In it, I briefly welcome students to their new homeroom and talk a little bit about topics we will cover throughout the year. I also share quick facts about me, as well as an invitation to grow and learn together. I try to keep it simple.

    The point of writing the letter is to help students feel comfortable in their new learning environment and to help them find a way to relate to me as a person and not just a teacher. I write about things that I enjoy and tell them a little bit about my family life. Often, students find areas in which we are similar, and that can be quite comforting to those who are anxious about meeting someone new. At the end of the letter, I ask students to write me back. I leave students with my template as a writing guide and allow time for this activity during the first few days. I then use the letter as a one-piece assessment on student writing.

    First Day Photo Shoot

    I saw this idea in Martha Stewart Living magazine.

    • Take a piece of poster board and measure the length and width you want your frame.

    • Cut out the frame using a very sharp razor blade. I say very sharp because my first attempt was with a not-so-sharp blade and it was not pretty. Thanks to the expertise of my handyman-husband, I came away with five different photo frames with five different sayings.

    • Decorate the frame however you’d like. I used some left over bulletin board letters to add a bit of character to each. I also did a few with puffy paint. Sharpie markers work well too.

     

    As the first day festivities begin, I get students started on an activity they can work on as groups at a table setting (name search or my letter to students) while I snap pictures of each of them. I compile the pictures in a file that I can refer to for activities throughout the year. I also send a copy via email to their parents after the day is over. The pictures are a great keepsake for parents and for you. It could be something you take back out at the end of the year and change from first day to last day. Then send both pictures home via email.

    House of Cards

    I found this great idea in Scholastic Instructor. Students work together to build a tower using index cards.

    • Gather students into small groups of 4 or 5.

    • Pass out a small pile of index cards. I gave each group about 15 cards each.

    • Explain the rules of the game: Teams must work together to build the tallest standing paper tower. They can only stack a card after they have written on it a word that is something the whole group has in common.

    While the end goal of the game is to get your tower to be at least 10 inches high, my end goal was to get students talking and getting to know each other. They were having so much fun they didn’t realize how much they were learning about their classmates.

    Not a Bag

    After reading the book Not a Box and reflecting on imagination and creativity, students were told they would be given a brown bag of materials. Their goal was to take the materials from inside the bag (and the bag itself if they wanted to) and design something that represented them.

    • First we brainstormed a list of ideas.

    • Then every student was given one brown paper bag with the same number of random items (2 paperclips, 2 rubber bands, 2 pipe cleaners, 2 jumbo popsicle sticks, 4 twist ties, a 5" x ½" piece of foil, and a straw.

    • They were given a set amount of work time (20 minutes) to create.

    • When everyone was done, students were invited to present to the class what they made and how it relates to them personally.

     

    As students shared, their peers were able to gain an understanding of who the person was based on their creation.

    By the end of our first week together, students had grown more comfortable with our learning space, connected with classmates, and remembered the excitement of our time together. While there were procedures and assessments entered in here and there, what they remember was the fun they had.

    Use one or all of these activities to energize your students as they head back into the classroom.

    Do you have other ideas that get your students excited about school? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below and share!

    Follow me on Pinterest and Twitter!

     

    Thank you for reading.

    Smiles,

    Kriscia

     

     

     

Comments

Share your ideas about this article

Kriscia's Most Recent Posts
Blog Post
Picture Books That Inspire Student Writing

Finding a starting place to spark student ideas for writing time can be tricky. Here are books I use for idea starters, along with prompts and suggestions to get your students inspired and ready to write at the start of the school year and beyond.

By Kriscia Cabral
September 9, 2016
Blog Post
Showcasing Evidence of Student Learning
It's time again to wrap up projects, clean out work spaces, and show what your students have been up to all year. Creating a showcase where students can provide evidence of learning is one way of doing this.
By Kriscia Cabral
May 13, 2016
Blog Post
Earth Day Public Service Announcements

Introduce your students to the role of public service announcements by creating Earth Day PSAs. Read on to see how you can prep now for a student-created finished product that’s ready to go by Earth Day!

 

By Kriscia Cabral
April 13, 2016
Blog Post
Your Go-To Guide for Close Reading

Read on to see how I took one Scholastic resource and used it to help students find ownership of learning, and promote engaged reading in the classroom.

By Kriscia Cabral
March 9, 2016
Blog Post
Reviewing the Writing Process With Play-Doh!

Here’s a lesson that uses Play-Doh as the writing “tool.” Students go through the process of writing while connecting it to an activity they can’t resist.

By Kriscia Cabral
February 12, 2016

Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
About Us