July 28, 2011

Back to School Ideas

Every year I am look for new back to school ideas to help me get to know my students and help the students get to know me. I have looped with two groups of kids, so I try to change activities each year to keep things fresh and new.  Here are some of my favorites for the first week:

Class Scavenger Hunt:  Students are given a list of tasks that require them to explore the room and use materials found around the room.  I don't give a lot of directions for this activity, I just hand out the paperwork.  I tell kids they must start with #1 (grab a clipboard) and finish with #12 (turn sheet into inbox).  Otherwise, they are free to complete the scavenger hunt in any order.  This has been a great way for students to explore the room, figure out where all the materials are, and work together.  Plus, while they are buzzing around I get all my first day of school pictures taken (#11).

 Friend Bingo:  This is a classic.  The kids have always done it before, but really enjoy it.

Friend Bingo.pdf

Guess Who Teacher?: This is a great way to have the students get to know you.  Using index cards, write down answers to questions about yourself.  For example, the card might just say 2 or blue or reading.  Hand out the answer cards to your students. I tell them to put all their cards in the middle of the table and work as a group.  Then, ask the class a question.  "What is my favorite color?" The kids have to look at their cards and decide if they  have the answer. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.  I always try to put a couple of similar answers in the mix to make things a little more fun.  They always remember what they've learned about you, especially if you are just a little bit silly.

Student Interest Survey:  I think I modify this every year looking for the right balance of fun and information.  Here is what my survey looks like this year:  


Toothpaste Words: This fun activity illustrates how words can never really be taken back.  First, buy several travel size toothpastes (enough for all your groups), toothpicks, and paper towels.  Hand out materials to your groups and tell them to squeeze out as much toothpaste onto the paper towels as possible.  Just go for it! When it looks like they have gotten most of it out, tell them they have a new challenge.  They must put all the toothpaste back into the tube using only the toothpick and their fingers. They should be able to get most of it back in, but not all.  At the end of the activity, pull the class together to discuss how the toothpaste is like the words we use in the classroom.  Even with an apology, the words have still been said and you can't unsay them. Later in the year, I refer back to this activity reminding kids not to use toothpaste words that you can't take back.

I'd love to get some new ideas.  What are some of your favorite back to school activities?


  1. I love the toothpaste activity. When I did this with a previous class, we talked about how we can't undo the hurt we cause with our words but our positive words stick with us too. I could not get you interest survey to open :( As for my classroom jobs, I rotate each week. That way by the end of the year all the kids have done each job. I do let the kids train each other though so I usually only have to train a few kids in their jobs. I am still trying to think about my other 7 Habits stuff. I just try to relate a lot of our read alouds to the the habits. And if we have problems in the class, we use the habits language. It is really about just getting the language out there the first year. I have seen a cute activity with put first things first- big rocks and little rocks. Cut out big and little rocks on black paper and use chalk to write down little things and bigs things. It makes a cute dispaly. As for the owls- they are from Lettering Delights. I am excited to have another Leader in Me Teacher to share ideas with! I added you to my blog roll!

  2. Oh, I love the addition of how kind words stick with us too. It all goes back to filling in the bucket. Great idea!

    The job board is always a challenge for me. I;m terrible about remembering who is responsible for what and my class is too. Together, we're a mess. I'm not quite sure how I am going to work it this year, I think I need to go very simple. :)

    I love the big rock/ little rock bulletin board idea. That would be a good one for the hallway. I saw the activity done in training and wanted to recreate the example with my kiddos. Do you think putting all the habits up at the beginning of the year is too much for the first year? Maybe I should add them as I introduce them. I don't want it to overwhelm and I really want the kids to buy in and know/understand the language.

    Yay! Thanks for adding me to your blog roll. I'm just getting started and would love more readers. :)

    1. Hi Amanda,

      The way I manage classroom jobs is to use my class list. I put the list in a Word document and create a table using 9 grid boxes after each name. At the top, I label each job and if Student 1 had the job of Messenger, I write a 1 next to his/her name in the Messenger column. This way when I look back, I can see that Student 1 was Messenger the first week of school. I change jobs every 2 weeks which helps when we have short weeks due to a holiday. Thanks for all your great ideas!
      Kathy in CT, grade 5 teacher

  3. I love these back to school ideas! I found you through a comment you made on the Once Upon a Teaching blog. I also teach at a Leader in Me school, and we are going into our second year. We are just getting started, but I think it is a wonderful program. I'm excited to see some more Leader in Me teachers out there!

    On the first day of school, I sometimes play the "toilet paper game." I give the students a roll of toilet paper and tell them to take as many sheets as they think they'll need. This always gets a strange look. Then, after everyone has gotten some tissue, we go around in a circle and everyone has to tell one fact about themselves for each piece of tissue they pulled. I've done this at the beginning of the first day before, but I think it would be better later in the week, after the ice has been broken and the kids feel a little more comfortable with eachother.


  4. Hi Amanda! You have such wonderful ideas! Thank you for sharing. Happy blogging!

    Teaching Blog Addict
    ♥Teaching with TLC


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