8 Creative Ways to Make the Classroom More Fun on the First Day of School
The first day of school can be stressful for students. They may not know anything about their teacher, they may have classes with other kids they have never met, and if they moved or are entering a new building, the entire school may seem scary.
Back-to-school can be stressful for teachers too! Meeting new kids and learning their names, starting new routines, and getting a head start on the curriculum is a lot to tackle on the first day of school.
Starting the school year off on the right foot is important for students and teachers. The best way to do that is to have a little bit of fun! Here are a few creative ways for teachers to make the classroom a place students look forward to coming to every day. These ideas will make your classroom a place you want to be too!
Set the Stage
As the teacher, you have the ability to set the tone for the first day of school-and the entire year-by creating a warm, welcoming room where kids feel comfortable right from the get-go.
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If you love decorating, this probably isn't a problem for you. Creating colorful bulletin boards, hanging streamers, and using contact paper and washi tape to make sure everything matches comes easily to some teachers. If you aren't one of them, don't fret. There are other ways you can create a welcoming space for students.
Go for something unexpected on the first day of school. For example, students may expect bordered billboards and streamers, but how about balloons scattered on the floor or twinkling lights hung from the ceiling?
There's no need to go overboard decorating the entire room either if you don't want to. Create a cozy reading nook inside a tent, or create a rainforest corner with streamers and monkeys that hang from the ceiling.
One of our favorite ideas involves asking the kids to help! Have them make garlands out of pom-pom balls, tissue paper, or even cupcake wrappers. Older kids can help you hang posters, while younger kids can use stickers, crayons, and other art materials to decorate folders, billboards, and more. Not only will you get help decorating the room, but you will also give your students ownership over their space. This will help them feel more comfortable and more responsible for taking care of the displays they helped decorate.
Go Slow at the Beginning of the Day
Some of the other tips coming up on this list are about being active and interacting, but that can be a bit intimidating for some students at the beginning of the day. Instead of jumping into get-to-know-you activities and cooperative games as soon as the kids step foot in the door, find individual, quiet activities to do first.
Place fun worksheets on desks that students can start on as soon as they find their desk. The worksheets don't have to follow the curriculum or be super educational. Color by numbers, word finds, and other puzzles are a great way for students to relax as soon as they enter the classroom.
Other slow activities you can do at the beginning of the first day include Reading aloud, Writing in a journal, or a Sorting activity.
Make Kindness a Priority
A lot goes into creating a classroom where students can truly learn. It means making sure each and every child feels comfortable and welcome, which can sometimes be a tall order when you have 20 or even 30 kids in your class.
Make kindness a priority on the first day with an activity that encourages kids to be kind to each other. One of our favorite activities is asking students to exchange warm fuzzies.
First, cut multiple six-inch lengths of yarn. Tie them together in the middle, creating a large pom-pom ball. Then, tie a long string to the middle so students can wear them as necklaces. It's best if every student has their own color.
Then, students can pull single threads from their bundle, say something nice to a classmate, and give them a string to tie on their warm and fuzzy necklace. The challenge is for the kids to compliment every other student in the class at least once the first day. You can even ask kids to wear their warm fuzzies throughout the first week.
If all that sounds like a lot of work, but you like the idea, you can use a warm and fuzzy jar full of pom-pom balls instead. Whenever you or another student see a student doing something kind for someone else, one can be moved into an empty jar. When that jar is full, the whole class can win a prize.
This concept is even better if you get other classes in on it. That way, other teachers and students from other classes can hand out warm fuzzies too. It's a great option for grade levels with multiple classes that function as a team.
Host a Q&A
The first few days should be less about learning and more about getting to know each other. One of the best ways to do that is to host a Q&A session!
Very young kids can ask questions out loud, but older kids should be encouraged to write their questions on slips of paper that can be placed in a bowl. That way, they aren't embarrassed to ask what they really want to ask, and you can avoid inappropriate questions.
Have them ask questions about you so that they can get to know you better. If the class is really into the activity, they can ask questions about their classmates. One of the best ways to do this is to ask the students to write their names on an empty notebook or a piece of paper. Then, the notebooks can be passed around the room, and the other students can write their questions inside the notebooks. As the teacher, you can collect the notebooks and then read a few of the questions and ask one or two out of each notebook so that all of the students have the opportunity to share their responses.
Play a Game Indoors
Free Ice Breaker Bingo Printables
Games are always a hit once your students have had a chance to settle in. There are tons of get-to-know-you games out there. Two Truths and a Lie is a popular game, as is Get-to-Know-You Bingo. If you feel like getting rowdy and have a group that can handle it, try the Shoe Pile mingle game .
Who's My Match is also a fun one that can be adapted for many different ages. Pairs of cards are created ahead of time and taped to the back of each student. Then, each student has to figure out what they are and find their match. For example, someone with "Peanut Butter" will have to ask questions to find out what they are and then find "Jelly." Older kids will love culturally relevant pairs, like Justin Bieber and Hailey Bieber or Beyonce and Jay Z.
The weather is still pretty nice in the fall when school begins again-take advantage of it!
Not only can being outdoors be a lot of fun, but it actually has the potential to boost academic performance. One study found children learning outdoors were able to raise their test scores by 27 percent. Get into the habit of taking students outside by going outdoors on the first day of school.
There are a lot of fun activities you can do outside on the first day of school, but don't feel like you have to plan something fancy. Nearly any activity can become an outdoor activity. Read aloud outside, ask students to write in their journal outside, or get together with the other classes in your grade level and simply let the kids play outside for a bit.
It's even better if the teachers participate! Whether you're jumping rope, playing hopscotch, or climbing on the playground equipment, you can start building a great rapport with the kids by having fun with them.
Get Kids into the Competitive Spirit
If you're looking for a way to do a little math on the first day of school but you don't want it to be too serious or intimidating, let the kids have fun by challenging each other to some math games. Whip out the classroom computers and let them go head-to-head. This is a great activity to set up on the first day of school as something you want the kids to do regularly. They can challenge classmates, siblings, parents, cousins, and more, and they can even reflect on their experience by filling out a worksheet to turn in.
Print this Free PDF Printable to get kids to challenge someone.
Think Ahead to the End of the Year
Goal-setting is a great way for kids to get excited about the school year and participate in their own learning. It can be a lot of fun at the end of the year, too, when they see how far they have come.
Set aside some time and have students think about the end of the year. Spend the first week of school creating a time capsule that the class can open on the last day of school. Have them include their thoughts, things they like, or even first impressions of the teacher. They will love rereading what their past selves had to say!
Whether you add it to a time capsule or not, you can also have students journal about goals they have for the year. Get them started with prompts that include:
What's one thing you want to learn this year?
What's something you did last year that you want to do differently this year?
What subject in school do you want to get better at and why?
This could be a fun place to link to some worksheets on the site.
The first day of school can be scary and stressful for teachers and students, but it can be a lot of fun, too! With a little preparation and this list of creative ideas, you can get your class off on the right foot this school year.