7 Great Activities for the First Day of School
Get to know your students — and help them get to know each other — by creating time capsules, playing a game of "guess who," and more.
By Jacqueline Clarke
Involve students in the creation of a set of classroom new year resolutions to guide you through the coming months. Work together to brainstorm resolutions, and write them on a sheet of chart paper. If necessary, reword them in a positive manner (such as "walk" rather than "don't run"). These may be resolutions for behavioral expectations (take turns) or class goals (learn our times tables). Each student can write one of the resolutions from the list on a paper bubble cutout. Place the resolution "bubbles" on a bulletin board with the heading "We resolve to..." To celebrate the adoption of your resolutions, invite the students to blow soap bubbles. Students can take turns reading their resolutions out loud while the cheery bubbles fill the air.
Students become detectives in this get-acquainted game, in which they uncover the real identity of a fellow classmate. Give each student an index card and ask them to each record four clues about themselves. At the bottom of their cards, they should sign secret code names, such as Art or Skippy. Gather up the cards and, later on, hand them out randomly. Challenge everyone to find the student who matches the clues on his or her card. In this brain-boosting activity, students move from classmate to classmate asking questions to learn the identity behind the code name. The catch? They must avoid using any of the words on the clue card!
Here's a great indoor or outdoor game to get students actively learning about each other! With the students in a circle, ask an open-ended question, such as "Have you ever been to the zoo?" Everyone who answers "yes" moves to the middle, while the rest of the class remains in place. Invite one or two students to briefly tell the class about their zoo trips. When they finish their stories, everyone steps back into the circle. Continue with new questions such as, "Do you have a brother?" or "Do you like to play baseball?" and once again, ask for quick stories. As the class becomes familiar with the rules of the game, let the kids take turns asking the questions, and you can join the circle, too.
Use these party favors to send positive messages to students on the first day of school. For each student, fill a resealable plastic bag with the following objects: an eraser, to signify that it's okay to make mistakes; a small plastic gem that means each one of us is valuable; a little pack of Smarties® candies to show there are many different kinds of "smart"; a stick of gum so we all stick together; a star because we always shine and do our best; and a heart to show your classroom is a safe and caring place. Hold up the objects one at a time and reveal their hidden meanings.
The Penny Jar
Here's a getting-to-know-you activity that really makes "cents"! Fill a small jar with pennies. Pass the container around and invite students to remove as many or as few coins as they wish. Explain that for each penny they take, they must share one piece of information about themselves. For example, if a student chooses three pennies, she might share, "I have three sisters," "I take karate," and "I am a good builder." Remember to take your turn with the jar, too, and let everyone keep the pennies!
Hats Off to a New Year!
Greet students at the door with party hats and a quick craft activity that will get everyone warmed up and ready for learning. Ask each child to decorate a colored party hat in a personal way. Prepare a pile of magazines and construction paper, and invite students to draw, cut out, and glue on pictures of a favorite food, a sports team logo, a pet, or a favorite star. They can cut out letters for their names, and then add glitter or sequins. Encourage students to check out one another's hats and discover the interests they share.
Create a Time Capsule
Help your students set personal goals by creating individual time capsules for the year! Each student folds a sheet of paper into three columns, like a simple brochure. The first column is labeled "Five Things I Hope For," the middle column "Five Things I Have Accomplished," and the last column "Five Things I Hope to Accomplish in This Class." Ask students to write five things for each column and then to decorate their page with a photograph and their own designs. Designate a special box for your time capsule. Store it until the last day of school, when students can reread and reflect, and set new goals for next year.