July 18, 2019

My 8 Favorite Beginning of the School Year Activities

8 Beginning of the School Year Activities

#1. All About Me Posters: This is the most basic idea in the books, but it really works well regardless of the elementary grade level--and I've done this one in at least three different grades. All you do is give each student a big piece of paper (I always used anchor chart paper for this because the students were excited to be using my "big teacher paper"), access to markers, crayons, and colored pencils, and these simple instructions: Make a poster telling me everything you want me and your classmates to know about you. At the end of the time given, we take turns sharing them throughout the first couple of days.

About Me  Posters

#2. All About Me Bags: Much like the posters, only the focus is more heavily on the sharing with classmates and the teacher. Before school starts, either in a letter or at back-to-school night, send home a brown paper bag and tell the student to fill it with up to 5 items that are important to them and be prepared to share why. Often students put in small toys, photos of family members, and souvenirs from their summer trips. Again, students share throughout the first couple of days their bags with the class. (Here's a free instructions template I found that you can staple to the bag when you initially give it to the students.)

You're Finally Here

#3. You're Finally Here: This is an activity packet I picked up from Teachers Pay Teachers by Linda Kamp. The packet has anchor chart pieces, a write around the room activity with embedded math pre-assessment, a goal-setting craft booklet, printable games, and lots of other activities and resources you can use alongside the children's book You're Finally Here. My students really enjoyed working through all the different activities during our first week back to school. The book itself is hard to track down at a reasonable price, so be prepared to do some hunting for it ahead of time. If you have no success finding a physical copy, I'd just use a YouTube video of another teacher or parent reading it (such as this one).

Growth Mindset Flapbook

#4. Growth Mindset Flip-Flap Books: For the first week of science I always took that time to teach the students about their brain and growth mindset. While we do a variety of activities with this, one of the favorites are these flip-flap books from Sam Van Gorp. I have a Pinterest board linking to some of the other activities we do as well here if you want more ideas.

Math in My Life Activity

#5. Math in My Life: I used this activity with older elementary students to assess their writing skills even though it was about math. Each student gets a piece of paper and has to draw where they see math in their life. I always show them my example of a recipe card and measuring cups to show that I like to bake and cook, and I use math when I do so. Then on the back, they have an index card where they have to write a paragraph explaining what they drew, why, and how it relates to math. I also like this activity because, for the students who are not always as enthusiastic, this is a softer way to ease into the beginnings of our math classes and curriculum.

The Day the Crayons Quit Activity

#6. The Day The Crayon's Quit: This activity involves doing a read-aloud of The Day the Crayon's Quit followed up with a mini-response (free TPT download here) where the students draw a picture using only one color crayon and writing a sentence. It's just a simple activity, but I used it as a way to gauge the class's listening and participation skills during read-alouds at the beginning of the year. I'd note what were some strengths and things to build off of moving forward with read-alouds throughout the year. 

#7. All About Me Index Card Houses: I used this activity from TPT when I taught 4th graders, and they loved it! Usually, older elementary students are not quite as enthusiastic about posters (they do them every year nearly... why?), but this is a different take on sharing about themselves and they get to go home with a 3D Tower instead.

Kid President Book

#8. Kid President: Can you ever go wrong with a well-timed kid president video? I think not. Your students think not. Each year I've always shown the video on how to be awesome, then I'd have students brainstorm different ideas on how to make the year awesome in our classroom. I'd make a poster out of their ideas, and then we'd periodically go back and review it throughout the year when we needed the reminder. 

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