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The Best Activities to Try During the First Week of School

July 30, 2015 by Emily

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.  I would look at teacher books of my aunt’s and I would pretend I was teaching my dolls and stuffed animals.  I would always have the “subjects” sitting in a row.  They behaved very well:)  We all know it takes more than just having your students quietly working at their desks.  We know it takes more than just a quiet line.  If you are like me, you know the first week sets the tone for the whole year.  The first week is tricky, because you have to integrate team-building, rules, expectations, procedures, and curriculum.

The Best Activities to Try During the First Week of School

Well…guess what? I always forget what I did that first week.  I find myself thinking about when I introduced each procedure.  I can’t sleep the night before, because I have everything all mapped out, and I can’t seem to keep things straight.  There is no “flow” yet.  There is no set schedule.  So I polled the Education to the Core community to see what ideas we could come up with.

“I love establishing a strong classroom community academically.  I introduce accountable talk, and I use the sentence frames for building classroom community.”  I also will use the accountable talk stems when going through basic review concepts so the kids understand how to use them when more difficult concepts are introduced.” -Emily Education to the Core

Check out my Accountable Talk Statements to learn more!

Accountable Talk Statements



“I have my kids write me a letter about what a typical evening after school would look like. Gives a sense of their true writing style as well as what their home life is like.” -Kevin L.


“I plan on focusing on building a classroom community through team-building activities. Learning cannot happen if students do not feel safe and welcome.” -Cindy V.


“Parent interviews. And teaching and practicing rules and routines, routines, routines. I teach kindergarten so I must teach them how to be students. There’s beginning content during the day but it’s mainly rules and routines. It’s always hard to remember how specific you need to be in those first 3-4 days but patience pays dividends!” -Nancy M.


“I include a list of negotiable and non negotiable rules. Working in groups can be negociable, interrupting someone is not. This gives them a sense of control and let’s them know I have boundaries but am happy to be flexible to accommodate them. It’s always worked well for my classrooms.” -Julie B.


“Since I teach kindergarten, the first week I have a lot of nervous and scared kids who have never been in school before. To help them feel safe and welcome, I read the kissing hand and do fun activities related to the story. That way if they miss their parents they can remember that their parents love them and will get to see them later. I send home a note about the kissing hand explaining what the story is about. I also send home “kisses” (Hershey kisses) to remind my students that I will always be there for them. Both the students and parents love this Kindergarten tradition!” -Kristina R.


“We do quite a bit of team building activities and establishing a family-like atmosphere as a class the first week of school. However, my favorite individual activity for my 5th graders is for them to write a letter to themselves. In it they discuss their fears, goals, hopes and dreams for the school year. I collect them and give them back to my students the last day of school. They LOVE reading them!!! I enjoy listening to them giggle about what they feared and watching them get excited about what they achieved during the year.” -Lori N.


“I usually spend the first weeks on building a sense of family. After all, we are going to be together from Sept-June! We discuss routines, expectations and their goals for the year. I make a point to share my own goals with them as well! For the first couple of weeks, I have the students complete any math or written homework in class. I do this to help them understand my expectations of homework however, I also use this time to teach them how to use resources and tools independently in order to get it done without any homework battles at home. I do a lot of routine building in the beginning but it always leads to a well run and established classroom where students are active learners and working to achieve their very best. Excited for this year ahead! Have fun everyone!” -Peggy A.


“I’ve done so many things and always looking for something new each year. One year we did a “who done it” Mystery game where they were put into groups of 5, each given a job to help put the given clues about a specific event in order to figure out what really happened. Then there was the name gave from “Capture the Kids Hearts” where they have to give themselves a positive addition to their name that describes them. EX: Magical Melissa. Then we spent about 20-30 minutes each day of the 1st week doing “get to know you” activities along with creating our Social Contract for each class. Not sure yet what I’m gonna do this year, but better get on it since they come back in exactly 2 weeks! gasp emoticon.” -Melissa C.


“I always do a “Manipulative Mash Up” where I give the kids a chance to play with all of the different types of math manipulatives we will use during the year. I allow them to build, play and create and I tell them it is the only time they will be able to use them to play and anytime this year we use them, it will be to learn. Then later when we use them, I remind them that they already had time to play with these, but now we are using them for a specific reason (to tell time, to count etc). I very rarely have kids using them the wrong way because I gave them a chance to get out all of that energy at the beginning of the year. It also gives me a chance to do a quick overview of expectations; don’t put them in your mouth, don’t throw them, pick them up when they fall etc.” -Gina F.


“A few years ago I read about what I call the Bandaid Activity, and I love to do it at the beginning of each year. I ask for about five volunteers for a role playing activity, and I quietly give them their assignments. Each volunteer has a pretend ailment (head ache, broken bone, splinter, sprain, stomach bug, etc., no duplications) and they will come to see me, the physican, for treatment. When we act this out for the class, they come one at a time and explain what’s wrong. I give each one a special (imaginary) bandaid that will make them feel good as new and send them on their way. After about the third time, the class is starting to giggle or protest. Once I’ve treated the last “patient” we have a discussion about what they just saw. I respond to their objections with, “I was fair, I did the same thing for everyone.” and I usually hear, “But you didn’t help them!” This leads to a comparison of fair and equal, which is a great opportunity for students to begin understanding that as learners, they all come with different needs. In order to be fair and try to meet the needs of everyone, they may see me doing different activities with different students. This is a fun way to begin community building and it’s an activity they they will remember throughout the year!” -Fisher L.



“I always do what I call ‘The Toothpaste Activity.’ In groups, I have teams squirt all the toothpaste from a travel sized tube onto a paper plate (we examine it, pretend to be detectives and look for little things-great way to start reading for details exploration). When everyone is done, I challenge students (usually I have a big bag of candy as an prize for the winners), to put all the toothpaste back in the tube, making it look exactly like it did before they started, using only a toothpick and their hands, and they only have 3 minutes. Now of course this is impossible, and kids will become frustrated and messy. After washing up, we sit in a circle and talk about how squeezing toothpaste out of a tube is like saying something mean to someone. And saying sorry is like trying to shove it all back in-you can never get it all back in and you’ll never take all the hurt or pain away by saying sorry. So moral of the activity is to just not squeeze somebody’s toothpaste out of their tube. My kids remember this all year long and when I hear them saying mean things, I just have to say “toothpaste” and they remember.” -Hillary R.


“Mine is twofold. When they first walk in there is a brown paper lunch bag on their desk closed with things inside. next to the brown paper bag is a prediction sheet. On this sheet is who, what, where, when, and why. they are asked to use those Ws to figure out and predict what is in the bag by using those clues. example who gave it to you? My teacher. Where am I? school. when is it? first day of the new year. Why is it sitting on my desk? to help me be successful. And then the last one is what is in the bag? And I usually get things like candy, school supplies, pencils, etc. there are actually school supplies in there so that is a fun way for them to get school supplies and make it a learning activity. The second part is they are to turn those bags into bio bags. They are asked to go home and choose 5 things that represents themselves, whether it be the actual objects, picture, cut outs, whatever they can find that represents who they are as a person. then they present their bags to the class. The main object of this game is yes to get to know them, but it also gives them practice with public speaking, and more importantly understanding the importance of why. as a teacher, they are required to explain, justify, and prove anything they write or do. So this gives them a non-threatening, fun way to do that on the first day.” -Leann C.

If you need some easy and free printables to find out more about your kiddos, be sure to check out my Back to School Writing Freebie from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

Back to School Activities FREEBIE!

I hope you enjoyed this post on the best first week activities from our community!   If you liked it, be sure to pin it for your teacher colleagues! Don’t forget to follow me on InstagramPinterestFacebook, and Teachers Pay Teachers to stay posted with the latest freebies, tips, and ideas.


The Best Activities to Try During the First Week of School