5 Activities for the First Week of School
We know that the first week of school should be all about teaching procedures and building classroom community – but how can we do that in a meaningful way? With all the things that need to happen at the beginning of the year, it can be hard to come up with activities for the first week of school. Here are some ideas.
Ideas for First Week of School Activities
The first week of school should be focused on getting to know each other and learning about the classroom. Here are 5 ideas of meaningful first week of school activities.
Decorate a Name Tag
One thing that I like to do on the very first day is allow students to create their own name tag or name plate. The use of name tags helps the teacher and students learn each others’ names, while decorating them gives students the opportunity to creatively express themselves.
You can buy adhesive name tags cheap at just about any store! If you use assigned seating in your class, you can also allow students to decorate their name plate that will ultimately mark their desk. You can also do temporary name plates – such as a trifold – that students keep on their desks temporarily.
To make a trifold name plate, fold a sheet of paper length-wise into thirds bend on the folds to make a triangle. Students can write their name on one side, and draw or write something else that describes them on the other two sides.
Create Rules Together
Another activity I like to do during the first week of school is create our class rules. Allowing the students to be a part of the rule creation process helps them to take more ownership of following them. By creating the rules together, students play an important role in setting the classroom environment.
To do this, I like to first talk with my class about why rules are important (to keep everyone safe) so they understand that rules are not meant to be a bad thing. Then we talk about HOW we can keep people safe – both physically and emotionally. I make a list of their ideas as we go.
After gathering their ideas, we go back through the list and talk about common themes we see. Things like being kind, being safe, showing respect, etc. Lastly, we talk about which of these things are most important and create 3-5 general rules based on the themes that we saw.
I highly recommend keeping your rules short and succinct. Having too many rules creates confusion and can make the classroom environment feel a little legalistic. Instead, create just a few rules that are easy to remember and encompass a variety of things. Rules such as “Kindness first,” “Respect property,” and “Make safe choices.” It’s tempting to want to get super specific on rules, but trust me, it’s a lot simpler this way! Keep the rules generic and then talk about specific examples.
If you’d like, you can have your students help with creating a poster to display in the class of your rules. Or, create the poster yourself and leave a space for your students to sign at the bottom. Again, this helps them really take ownership!
Procedure Role Play
One fun way to help your students learn procedures is to act them out! I followed the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching procedures, which involved a lot of interactive modeling. This meant that as I would teach a new procedure, I would first model the procedure for my students. Then, I might call on a few students to ask them what they noticed about what I did. Afterward, I would call on a student to model the same procedure. After they did so, again we would discuss what they did with the class.
I would repeat this as many times as necessary, sometimes doing multiple students at one time. This is a really great way to teach your procedures. If the students aren’t quite getting it, start over by modeling it again yourself.
If you’re feeling really creative, you can have your students practice procedures by creating skits wherein they model the correct and/or incorrect way of doing something. As always, follow these examples up with a class discussion to ensure that everyone is paying attention!
Math About Me
Another one of my favorite activities for the first week of school is to have students complete a Math About Me page. This is a great way for students to get to know each other!
You can start out by modeling your own Math About Me. Challenge your class to figure out things like how old you are, how many years you’ve been teaching, or how many cats you have by giving math equations instead of numbers.
Once students have figured you out, have them create their own! You can have each present it to the class, or simply partner them up with someone to figure out the answers.
You can also turn this into a writing assignment by having them create their “MathBook” profile using the equations they wrote. The template shown in the picture above is a freebie in my store – click here to download it!
Meaningful Read Alouds
Lastly, spend some time during the first week of school reading and discussing some of these meaningful read-alouds! The following books are great for helping build classroom community and setting the tone for your year. Click the link on any of the books to view them on Amazon!
- Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller
- Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
- First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
- All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
- Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
- Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill and Laura Huliska-Beith
- Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind by Judy Finchler and Kevin O’Malley
I hope these ideas have been helpful to you as you prepare for your first week back to school! Remember, the most important thing is that your students feel welcome and loved. If you can accomplish that, then none of the rest of it even matters. Good luck this year!
What are your favorite activities for the first week of school? Share your ideas in the comments!
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