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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First Day of School Activities for Big Kids

Every time I mentioned Back to School on my Facebook page at least one person mentions that it can't possibly be time yet!  I know, I know!  It's much too soon...but the fact is that it's coming.  In fact, a district a few miles away from me starts school THIS FRIDAY!

Throughout the summer, I have been compiling some brilliant first day of school activities from around the blogosphere.  I always feel like I hear about the great activities too late--it's either a day or two before school starts or I hear about them AFTER school starts.  So, I hope this post can help give you some ideas of engaging activities for the first days of school...specifically with the older crowd (grades 3-6) in mind.

Update: I now have an ENTIRE free resource dedicated to explaining my first week of school plans!  Click here to read about my first week of school lesson plans.

I highly encourage you to click on each picture or the link below the picture to visit the blog post with more details!

Getting To Know You with M&Ms from She's Crafty
Use Skittles or M&Ms to get to know students!  This would be great to do in rotating groups so that students get talking to all of the kids in the class.
Gallery Walk Consesograms from Gingersnaps Treats For Teachers
This gallery walk is a non-threatening and entertaining way for you to learn more about your students and to let them learn more about each other.  This type of activity is also perfect for setting expectations for a moving around the classroom activity or lesson.  She has several other back to school activities on her blog post, too!

I Am Poems for Runde's Room
Pretty much anything that Jennifer Runde does is amazing, and this artistic activity is no exception.   Your students will love creating these I Am poems, and they will make a great bulletin board display, too.

All Hands in Activity from Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6
This is another activity that requires students to get a little artistic.  Loving it!

Getting to Know You Task Cards
I created these task cards last year, and they were so much fun to use with students on the first day.  Kids loved playing SCOOT and getting to know each other.  They giggled at many of the questions!

One of my Facebook fans shared this idea.  How fun!

Creating the Tallest Cup Tower at Corkboard Connections
All you need are some plastic cups, and you have the perfect cooperative learning activity!

Save Fred Activity from SmartChickTeacher
When I taught 3rd grade, this was always the highlight of the first day of school.  Students are hooked when you pull out lifesavers and gummy worms, but when they learn what their activity is, they are even more excited.  (Bonus: You can use the cups from the cup towers!)

Marshmallow Challenge from Live.Love.Laugh
I used to do an activity like this with mini marshmallows and toothpicks, but I LOVE this version using spaghetti.  Perfect!

Success is Better when Shared Recipe for Success by Traveling Together
What a thoughtful activity to show that success is better when shared.  Love.

Setting Group Expectations with The Science Penguin
This is a wonderful science activity to prepare students for the expectations of working in groups.  (More uses for your cups, too!)

Setting Expectations for using Task Cards with ME at Task Card Corner!
If you use task cards, this free set is a great way to practice the rules and routines of SCOOT!  You will thank yourself later in the year when your class can play SCOOT without a hitch!

Your Job Vs. My Job from Hawk's Nest
I like this for big kids because they can occasionally get a little overzealous and have some issues with boundaries.  This would be a great reminder for students about their job as a student vs. yours as their teacher.

Consequences, Writing, and Learning about Your Students from Mrs. O Knows
This could be a great getting to know you activity, too, but I also love the message it sends about both writing and types of consequences.  So fun if your school will allow these goodies!

Let's Get Physical Scrabble
This wasn't a first day of school activity according to the blog, but I LOVE it!  It would work best in groups, but the gist is that you put a bunch of letters in a central location, give a category or topic, and kids build words.  Perfect for older kids, and perfect for setting expectations about how to work in groups, how to behave appropriately, keep volume low, etc.

  Of course, there are a ton of different activities out there.  This is just a sampling of some of the ones that have caught my eye.  If you have a great one to share, please feel free to share it in the comments!  I absolutely love hearing about your back to school activities.  If you are looking for even more back to school activities, stop by my shop for these engaging goodies!



  1. I love these! I have used some of them in the past but some of them I had forgotten and am glad to have found them once again! :)

    Mrs. Spangler in the Middle

  2. This is seriously a mecca of awesomeness! I can't wait to try some of these out with my new class this year!
    The Texas Teacher

  3. I just learned about the "Save Fred" activity yesterday and I am excited to try it this year. Just as an FYI...the link to the freebie write up papers doesn't work, but I found plenty on Pinterest. Love your list of fun!

  4. This is amazing! Thanks so much for the plethora of fresh ideas to start the year! I am getting excited already!

  5. Thank you for posting this and for including my M&M and 7up activity! I can't wait to add "Save Fred" to my first week of science!

    Mrs O Knows

  6. These are great! I'm with you - I either find the ideas too late to implement for that year or way past the first day of school. Thanks for the timely resources (that I was able to bookmark and read after time in the pool)!

  7. Thanks so much! This was extremely helpful!

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  10. You are such a creative teacher, but I respectfully want to say that more and more kids have food allergies nowadays (50% growth over the last 5-10 years). Having any activities where food is involved can, at the very least, cause feelings of exclusion, and at most, send a child to the hospital or even kill them. Believe it or not, plain M&Ms are still a risk for peanut and nut allergies because the company uses the same machinery to produce them as other treats with nuts. It is dangerous to include activities where food is involved. I love your posts! I hope you take this comment in the spirit it is meant. :)

  11. Great post! I actually appreciate this concept of first day of school activities for a big kids. This type of activity is also perfect for setting expectations for a moving around the classroom activity or lesson. I am so pleased to get this instructions which really so helpful for a learner indeed. Take it up.
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  12. What is on your bulletin board for saving Fred?

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