I remember trying to plan my first day of school my first year teaching, so the kids show up at 8:00am AND……crickets. How do you start the first day?! There are so many things that the kids need to know and according to Harry Wong I had a lot of procedures to teach. But a day full of rules and procedures doesn’t sound very good to me! I have collected a bunch of first day/week of school activities that will help the kids learn about procedures, get to know each other and have fun! I rely heavily on the ideas in the “First 6 Weeks of School” book and ideas from other amazing teachers I have met!
Goals of the First Week of School:
- Get to know eachother.
- Learn, develop and practice rituals, rules and routines in our classroom.
- Have fun!
There is time for content later, establishing your classroom community that first week will effect the entire school year!
First Week of School Bag-of-Tricks
First Day of School Plan View PDF
Here is my lesson plan form the first day of school last year. This is just an example, your day will likely be very different than mine, but I know my first year it would have been helpful to have a template to start from. Also, I always try to plan MORE than enough and then bump some things to the next day if necessary.
1. First Day Letter
- Word First Day Letter (You will need to customize this one, so I didn’t include a PDF)
The first thing my kids do when they come in the room is find their desk and read a letter I have written them. Their first assignment is to write me a letter back about themselves. This is really good because I can deal with first day hiccups (new kids, parents, lost students, school supplies) and I can immediately gauge where my kids are as writers. I print this letter out on fun paper.
**Playing Cards…Several people have asked about the playing card in the corner of the desk. I use packing tape to tape down a playing card on each students’ desk. On the first day of school I hand each student a card (from a second deck) and students have to find their matching card to find a seat. Throughout the first semester I use the cards to create groups and call students. For example: All the even numbers can line up! All the hearts will start at the computer station. Find 4 of a kind for your reading response group. etc…
2. Classmate Scavenger Hunt.
This is not a new idea, but it is a really fun idea for the first day. Easy, nonthreatening way to get your kids to interact and get to know each other.
3. Learning Inventory.
This learning inventory is a questionnaire that helps me understand what my kids like/dislike about school and what their feelings are about themselves as learners. I do this sometime the first week and it is invaluable information for me to get to know the kids as learners. It also is a good springboard to start talking about metacognition, or thinking about learning. Note: You may need to walk the kids through this, or even read each question out loud and let kids fill it out that way.
4. Multiple Intelligence Inventory.
- PDF Multiple Intelligence Inventory
This year I wanted to do a multiple intelligence inventory with my kids, but all the ones I found online were written in language that my 4th graders would not be able to relate to. I adapted several different intelligence tests I found online to work for my kids. Just like the learning inventory, you may need to read these out loud to help your kids take it.
5. Parent Folder. (First day “homework”)
Isn’t it funny how kids always want homework on the first day of school? That sure wears off quickly, doesn’t it?! I use that enthusiasm to my advantage that first day! The first day I send home a file folder with several forms and information for parents. I tell my kids that their parents have homework–trust me they LOVE this, and you will get every folder back! These are the things I include:
- Parent Letter:
- Word Parent Letter (You will need to modify!)
- Student Information Sheet.**I highly recommend sending this home if nothing else! Your parents have the best insights about their kids! I especially pay attention to the question about the child’s fears.
3. Classroom Expectations.
4. Example Homework Sheet
- Word Homework Sheet
6. The Dot Game. Pictures and Description.
This is a really fun icebreaker that The First Six Weeks of school recommends. Helps kids work on non-verbal communication and gives you good insight to who your classroom leaders are.
7. Book Sort. Pictures and Description.
This activity has multiple purposes: introduce your classroom library, categorizing and sorting, working in a group…
8. Reading Book Graph. Pictures and Description.
If you use a Basal or anthology reading book, this is a neat way to get your kids excited about reading this year–and it’s a graphing activity, yay for cross curricular activities! (You could really use this with any textbook!)
9. Science Book Scavenger Hunt.
This activity could be adapted for any content area, I just use it with science! I create a scavenger hunt that goes along with our text book in order to generate excitement and interest in what we will be learning about in Science this year! Mine is pretty generic, but you will probably have to modify it to work with your text book!
10. Classroom Rules.
We spend a lot of time the first week talking about expectations and procedures in the classroom. At the end of the week we work together as a class to make our classroom rules.
11. Paper Doll Kindness. Description and lesson plan.
I don’t have any pictures of this, but it is a powerful activity for the first week to talk about using kind words and how our words impact others. Click here for a complete description of the activity.
12. Decorate Name Tags
This is an activity straight out of the First Six Weeks book. I use the large address labels and give one to each child and have them write their name in the middle in their favorite color. Then in each corner they will include something that describes themselves. For example:
- Top left: Picture of their family
- Top right: Favorite food
- Bottom left: Something they are good at
- Bottom right: Favorite place on earth.
At our second day morning meeting we will share our nametags and then use them to label our pencil boxes for the year. (or writer’s notebooks, or folder or whatever works :)