The new school year is right around the corner, so it’s time to start preparing for a successful back to school season. While there are many things we need to prepare for each school year, if we focus heavily on these 5 priority areas, we’ll be in good shape!
Start your year on the right foot by putting work into the categories below.
Learn Names and Faces with Back to School Activities
If there’s one important thing to our students, it’s this…. their names! That’s because our names are a large part of our identity. They hold meaning. Because of that, students want to know that you remember their name and can pronounce it correctly. Here are a few activities to help you practice putting student names with faces.
Have your students sit in a circle on the first day of school. You’ll begin by telling the class your name. So, for example, if I were playing, I’d say, “Ms. Barnett”. Then, the student beside me would say, “Ms. Barnett,” and they’d say their own name.
Play continues around the circle until the last student’s turn. The last student must repeat the name of every student in the class before introducing him or herself. This game gives students a big laugh and provides great practice to help you match faces to names. This activity can be repeated several times throughout the first weeks, with students sitting in different areas.
Heads Up Seven Up
You may remember playing this game in school. It’s perfect for rainy days or a nice little activity to play as your students wait to be dismissed to the buses and car line. To play, you’ll choose 7 students to stand at the front of the classroom. All other students will be sitting at their desks with their heads down and their thumbs up.
Each of the 7 people at the front will sneak around the classroom and put a student’s thumb down. After all 7 students have chosen a student, the people whose thumbs were pushed take turns guessing who touched their thumb. If the student gets it right, they trade places with whoever picked them, and if they get it wrong, play continues for another round.
Name Word Wall (with pictures)
You likely have a word wall in your room. Consider adding student names to that word wall. You could add a photo of each student next to their name. Not only does it help students identify which student is which, but also helps you too!
Even if you don’t add student photos to your word wall, I encourage you to take them that very first day anyway. As the year goes on, I promise you’ll see the great ways you can use them in your classroom.
Wondering what other materials are necessary to have for back to school? Take a look at my post to learn about 10 things you’ll regret not having for back to school.
Get to Know Your Students with These Back-to-School Activities
While we want our students to get to know one another, that’s not what we’re talking about here. Get to know your students’ interests, self-perception, and learning styles. Doing so will help you know how to encourage and motivate them.
Two Truths and a Lie
I love this activity because your students who are really honest will have a very difficult time trying to create a lie, which makes it really fun.
To play, have students share three statements about themselves. Two statements will be true, and one will be a lie. Have the class guess which statement is the lie. This game helps you get to know your students and helps them get to know each other.
For this activity, give your students a brown paper bag which will be their Me Bag and a list of things to put inside it. Students will fill their bags with five things that represent them. Over the next 2-3 weeks, have students bring their bags in a few at a time and share them with the class during the morning meetings. This activity is a great way to build community, which brings us to our next focus area for back to school.
Student Inventory / Self-Perception Inventory
I love these inventories because I can create them on Google and automatically receive the results. Student Inventories and Self Perception Inventories are a wonderful tool to help me know how confident students are in different subject areas, their preferred learning styles, and more about them personally. Having this information on your students early on can be a game changer in presenting information to students.
Build Community with these Back to School Ideas
This is SUPER important. You want your class to be a community that works together and supports each other. You can and should start building that community on day one. Forming connections with your students and between them helps form empathy and understanding. Here are some fun ways to do that!
Getting to Know You STEM Challenge
My STEM to Win activities are favorites in my classroom. I love how versatile they are across subjects. You can even use them to help your students get to know each other better! This resource features STEM cards with getting-to-know-you questions for students to answer.
If the students answer honestly, they earn STEM materials. Once all questions have been answered, students participate in a STEM challenge that must be completed with the only materials they earned. This helps students learn about each other while also seeing how creative their classmates can be. It’s always a hit in my classroom!
All About Me STEM
This one is so fun for students and is perfect to display for Back to School nights or Open Houses. Simply have students create STEM sculptures based on themselves, their likes, and their dislikes. It’s so fun to see the variety of things that students come up with!
Hot or Cold Q&A
This activity involves a little movement, making it even better. I lay a jump rope across my classroom floor and then ask students questions.
For example, “Did you travel outside of the state this year? Students move to one side of the jump rope if their answer is “yes” and the other if their answer is “no”. If they aren’t sure, they can stay in the middle. This is a way to see what students have in common and get them moving!
Build Trust with These Back to School Activities
We want to show students that they can trust us because the willingness to take risks comes with trust. We want our students to take risks with their learning because it helps them grow!
Each year, I have my class set personal and academic goals. I set my own, too, and I share them with my class. By sharing our goals with each other, we are building trust. Sharing our goals also helps us hold each other accountable.
Dot Day STEM
You’re missing out if you haven’t read “The Dot” by Peter H Reynolds. This growth mindset book helps students learn that mistakes are okay. I drive home the point that I won’t shame them or be upset when they make mistakes, but that instead, we’ll learn from them and move on.
My Dot Day resource features two STEM challenges to help build trust.
Read Alouds for Going Back To School
Read Alouds are great for this. I love “A Letter From Your Teacher: On the First Day of School” by my friend, Shannon Olsen because it teaches students how I will support them. It emphasizes that I’ll be their cheerleader in our safe space. This book has beautiful illustrations that help drive the point home.
Teach Rules and Procedures with These Back-to-School Ideas
Teaching rules and procedures can be boring and monotonous, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are three fun ways to mix it up and make learning about them more engaging.
My favorite way to practice rules and procedures is to play Four Corners. To play, ask students questions such as, “how do we ask to go to the water fountain?” Then assign an answer choice to each corner:
- a) stand and run out of the class
- b) don’t tell the teacher where you’re going and just go
- c) raise your hand and ask or
- d) give the water fountain signal and go once acknowledged.
After students have answered, use it as a teaching moment to review rules and procedures with students who may have chosen the wrong corner.
While discussing our classroom rules, I like to create an anchor chart that teaches problems and solutions, what to do and what not to do, etc. Here’s an example of how I do that with our math games. Make anchor charts with students. Teach students what to do and what not to do.
Put a word search on your interactive whiteboard and have students help you look for the words. Some students may have never done a word search before, so this is your opportunity to show them how while teaching rules and procedures. Students will be excited to search for the words and help you find them.
Check out my word search freebie here that features word search topics focused on people at school, places in school, and back-to-school supplies. As you use the school supply word search specifically, take a moment to show students where each school supply is located within your room.
How do you feel about this upcoming school year?
I promise you’ve got this! Put your effort into making these 5 areas solids, and you’ll have set yourself up for a successful school year. You’ve got this!