13 Ways to Kick Off the School Year Right


Our alarm clocks are set, bags are packed, and we are ready to take on the rest of the school year!  To help you kick off the New Year on the right foot, we’ve come up with a list of ways to kick off the school year right.  Best wishes for a great second half of the year!


13 Ways to Kick Off the School Year Right

Way #1 ~ Set the Tone

Be excited to be back!  Let your students know that you missed them.  Be a source of comfort, especially for young learners who may be missing parents and home.  Share some fun units and activities that are coming up.  This will get them looking forward to what this semester has to offer.

#2 ~ Keep Morning Work Easy

Our students will most likely be coming back tired.  Let’s give them a little bit of time to ease back into school mode. The mornings are a good place to start.  Some ideas for possible morning work include…

  • Morning Tubs (play-doh, tangrams, coloring pages)
  • Write/Draw about winter Break
  • Welcome back postcard they can give to a classmate
  • Easy review pages

#3 ~ Schedule “Share Time” into the First Day

Allowing students to share about their winter break now will save you A LOT of time throughout the week.  Of course, they want to tell you and their classmates what they did, so let’s get to it!  Some possible ways kids can share are…

  • Share in small groups (3-4 kids)
  • Whole group with a sentence starter… “My favorite part of winter break was…”
  • Write the teacher a letter about your break
  • Musical Partners (play music as kids walk around the room, the music stops and they share; repeat)
  • Write about your break and share in the Author’s Chair
  • Make it a “mini” party (talk about break over hot cocoa and cookies)

Way #4 ~ Add Intentional “Procedure Practice” into the Week

Just as it takes us time to get back into the routine, our students will need that time and practice also.  They’ve been out of the “school routine” for at least two weeks now, so it’s a great time to practice those procedures again to help regain the management in your classroom.  Begin with those procedures that mostly impact your day (walking in line, bathroom, group time, carpet, etc.).

Reviewing procedures also allows you to set the tone for your expectations and get your class on track to be behaviorally successful for the semester.  Hopefully, it will help any classroom management issues decrease also.

 #5 ~ Zero In On Positive Behavior

Going along with #4, set your expectations in a positive manner.  Start this semester off by keeping you and your students happy by having a positive outlook.  Spend more time pointing out desired behaviors and less time paying attention to the negative ones.  Here are some neat Reward Cards you can use with your students, that won’t cost you a thing!

I know that focusing on the positive and ignoring the negative behaviors is easier said than done, but make it a New Year’s resolution to “smother your students with kindness”.  You will find that it makes you have a better day too!  Having a positive classroom management system is always the best plan.

#6 ~ Take Time to Review

I know that you have a ton of material to cover, especially with today’s world of high stakes testing in the spring.  Take the time to review what was taught the month or so before winter break began.  Going back over that material the first few days will get your students on the right track to learning new material in the coming weeks/months.

Use activities that your students love to review the material.  Play some games (Jeopardy, Around the World, Fact Fluency Challenge), or use activities that get them moving in the classroom (Find Someone Who…, Gallery Walks, etc.).  This is also a great way to know what was retained over the break and what needs to be retaught before moving on.

Way #7 ~ Set Learning Goals for the New Year

Have your students reflect on what they want to learn by the end of the school year.  Students set their end goal (ex. to read at 75 wpm on my fluency test), and then identify small steps needed to reach that goal (complete my fluency passage homework nightly, practice sight words, etc.)  They can write a goal or two for Reading, Writing, and Math.  These goals would be great to share with parents during spring conferences.

#8 ~ Embrace Technology

Let’s be honest, many of our students spent the majority of their winter break on some kind of technology.  So instead of fighting it, let’s embrace it!  Get your students learning by using…

  • interactive videos on phonics
  • math videos
  • Brain Pop
  • Smartboard activities
  • Fluency passages
  • iPad apps
  • Google Classroom

 #9 ~ Over Plan

Just like the beginning of the school year, have some extra easy-to-complete seasonal activities for your students to do in case lessons run shorter than planned.  These can be fun, but academic (possibly a review of past skills).  It is a great way to spiral in old skills, especially in preparation for testing coming up.

Way #10 ~ Use Brain Breaks

With winter comes bad weather and unfortunately, indoor recess.  It is really hard to keep students focused all day when they don’t get the chance to be outside and be “kids”.  We all know that when recess is canceled, our classroom management issues go through the roof.  Schedule a few “brain breaks” into your day to give them time to “get their energy out”.  Some ideas include…

  • Dance party
  • Yoga poses
  • Class game (Heads Up, 7 Up, Simon Says)
  • 5-minute exercises (there are many movement videos on YouTube for students)
  • Board/Card games (limit game time at 5-10 minutes)

#11 ~ Plan an Art Activity

The first week back is an excellent time to freshen up your bulletin boards.  Plan an art/writing/science/social studies/math activity that can be posted on your bulletin boards or walls.  Allowing the students to help decorate the room gives them a stronger sense of belonging to the class community.  This type of activity also tends to be open-ended and a little less structured, which helps students ease back into the school routine.

#12 ~ Clean House

If you didn’t before the break, now is a great time for students to completely clean out their desks, tables, folders, and backpacks.  It’s also a good opportunity to replenish student supplies (pencils, glue sticks, crayons, etc.).  Use this time to create a “supply needs” letter to send home to families letting them know what you will need for the remainder of the school year.

 Way #13 ~ New Semester = New Start

Along with cleaning the classroom, it is time to give students new seats, new partners, and possibly new small groups.  Revisit winter data and reorganize your small groups to meet the new needs they may now have.  New seats in the classroom allow your students to potentially work with different classmates.  It gives them a “fresh start” and a different perspective within the room.

We Want Your Ideas!!!

If you have any awesome activity ideas for getting back into the routine with your students after the break, please share them in the comments section below.  We would love to hear what great Ways to Kick Off the School Year Right you use in your classroom!

Written by: Janessa Fletcher

Thanks so much for stopping by! If you enjoyed this post, we’d love it if you could share Education to the Core with a friend, and BOTH of you can receive $5 off a purchase of $10 or more with the code: FRIEND5.

At Education to the Core, we provide done-for-you curriculum that is simple, fun, and engaging! In order to be an effective educator, you have to take care of yourself first! We strive to make a healthy work-life balance a reality for you each and every day.

If you enjoyed this blog post, be sure to join my email list to get exclusive FREEBIES, exclusive content, updates, deals!


Welcome! I’m Emily, Founder of Education to the Core. We are all about helping K-2 teachers by providing unlimited access to affordable printables for every subject area.