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18 Activities for the First Day of School
Kick off the new school year with these fun activities for the first day of school. Since the first days of school are often all about routines, you can easily spread these activities throughout the first week of school.
Throughout the Summer, I asked teachers inside the Teachers on a Budget FB group to share traditions they do with the kids during the beginning of the school year. Their answers, along with some of my favorite things, are listed below.
Beginning of the year activities are a great opportunity to get to know new students and make them feel welcome in your classroom.
Classroom Scavenger Hunt
Give each kid a picture of one item to locate in the classroom. Typically, this is the perfect way for them to get to know where the classroom supplies are kept. Once they find their object, they stand by it, and wait for the others to find theirs. If you have time, switch up the cards, and play again.
Back to School Write the Room
Write the room is on the list of activities for the first day of school (or first week), because it’s an interactive way for kids in Prek, kindergarten, and first grade to feel successful with work.
The back to school write the room below is leveled. It includes levels for those who are simply looking for pictures, and leveled cards and recording sheet for those who are looking for beginning sounds. Level 2 would probably be best for first grade. The first day of kindergarten, most kids are not ready for the beginning sounds level.
Extra Time on the Playground
This seems like an obvious plan, yet it can be underrated. It was best aid inside the Teachers on a Budget group, taking the kids to the playground makes them excited to come to school the next day. If possible, get the kids outside a couple times a day.
Taking Pictures as a First Day of School Activity
Time goes by fast during the first weeks of school. Before it’s too late, take each kid’s picture. You can set up a cute background, or simply take their picture by the classroom door. A first day of school picture validates the kids’ sense of belonging to your classroom community. If the first day is too busy, you can take their picture any time during the first week.
Magic Dough for Students
This magical, homemade, playdough is so much fun make for the kids – regardless of grade level.
Make playdoh without mixing food coloring throughout. Then, after you form a ball of playdoh for each kid, add a squirt of food coloring inside. Tell the students if the dough changes color it means they are going to have a wonderful school year. Keep it simple – give each kid a piece of paper, and let them color it to match the color inside their magic dough. This would also be a great way to lead into a simple and fun color graphing activity.
Don’t forget about your students who celebrated a birthday over the Summer. Take a few minutes to celebrate them with a simple and affordable birthday prize.
Create an Open House Display
Once the kids have spent a day in your classroom, they are eager to bring in their families, and show off all the hard word they’ve already done.
A cute display for open house is a family wall. Read “Our Class is a Family“, read a poem, draw a picture, create a family display. This would look cute on a bulletin board in the classroom, or as a hallway display for parents to see the first time they visit the school.
Cute Name Crafts and Activities for the First Day of School
Nothing means more to elementary students than their own name. If there is nothing else they know, almost all of the young children know their name, and they are eager to share it.
One of my favorite name crafts to hang in the classroom, and later put into a time capsule, are the sensory name posters along with the All About Me posters below.
Have the kids build their name out of small pom-poms, pieces of construction paper, or small squares of tissue paper. Before the first day of school, I write out every kids’ name onto a black piece of construction paper using a white crayon. Then, we do a quick lesson on gluing, and I let them go to create their name poster however they’d like. While they are working, I can walk around and observe who needs extra support with fine motor skills, following directions, and so on.
From Anne to Zach
Read aloud “From Anne to Zach“, and do a name follow-up activity. Invite students to share their name and what they think is the first letter of their name.
The video below shows the printable I used to go along with “From Anne to Zach“, as well as other name writing activities for the first day of school.
First Day Jitters
This is one of my favorite suggestions I read within the Teachers on a Budget FB group. Read aloud First Day Jitters. Afterwards, make special jitter juice to drink. The kids absolutely love it! Take a container of sprinkles and label it jitters. We add the jitters to our juice labeled Jitter Juice.
It sounds like such a fun activity to do as an ice-breaker.
School Scavenger Hunt
There are several picture books you can read with the kids during the first week of school that lend themselves to a scavenger hunt around the school. Whichever book you decide, be sure to show them the office, cafeteria, walk them through the lunch line area, the specials, and bathrooms.
Read aloud Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, then go on a school wide hunt to find where Pete the Cat is hiding. (Hide a stuffed animal of Pete the Cat). This will be the perfect opportunity to show the kids around the school building in a fun way.
School Tour with Chester the Racoon from Kissing Hand. After reading The Kissing Hand, have the kids tour the school following Chester’s pawprints. This, too, would be a great way to tour the school with the kids.
Hickety Pickety Bumble Bee
This is a name game that incorporates turn taking, name recognition, and music. You can read more about Hickety Pickety Bumble Bee on my blog post, 18 Transition Songs for Kids.
Wrinkled Heart Activity for Kindness
Read aloud Chrysanthemum, and do a wrinkled heart activity to teach kids about being kind to new classmates.
Cut a large heart out of construction paper. Ask the kids examples of things that would be hurtful to say to each other. For each example, make a fold in the heart. After several kids share examples of mean things, the heart will be full of folds or wrinkles. Then, go around, and have the kids say nice things and unfold the heart. In the end, they can see that even through they said nice things, the wrinkles are still in the heart. This is a great visual to explain how hurtful it is when we don’t treat each other with kindness. Always be kind.
Sing Nursery Rhymes
Learn and sing a nursery rhyme – Nursery rhymes build the excitement about learning to read, write, and participate in class. How? Because the most popular nursery rhymes are catchy, and typically have a familiar tune kids can relate to. Grab your free poetry guide, and get kids excited to read!
A popular choice for the first week of school is The Wheels on the Bus. This nursery rhyme is great because it incorporates movement, song, and rhyme.
Create a Promise Chart
Read aloud No David, and create a list of 5 classroom rules or a promise chart. When done, have the kids all sign their names on the poster, and hang it in an area they can refer to often during school time.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear Class Book
During the first week of school, read aloud Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle.
Use the first day of school pictures to create a class book that mimics the pattern in the Brown Bear book. Brown Bear activities are always a hit at the start of the school year!
About Me Bag
Send home a brown paper lunch bag with the kids on the first day of school. Ask the parents to help the kids fill it with 5 things to help tell more about themselves. For example, if they love dinosaurs, they can put a toy dinosaur in the bag. An About Me Bag is a fun way to share interesting facts about one another.
This would be a great show and tell activity the second week of school. As a parent, I suggest don’t ask your families to return this on the second day of school. They are already overwhelmed with paperwork, and would appreciate a couple days to help their kiddos with this.
All About Me Poster
Grab this free All About Me poster, and you’ll have a simple school resource that highlights some fun facts, such as favorite food, about the kids. If you have a volunteer, this would be a great activity for them to work on with the kids during the first week of school.
Before you go, here are a few popular blog posts to enjoy: