As we gear up for the new school year, I want to share what I did for the first week of school last year. I felt like everything went REALLY well and set both me and my students up for a successful year. The first week of school is the perfect time to focus on building a warm and welcoming classroom environment where students can feel comfortable and develop a sense of trust in both you and their peers. So, let’s dive into some activities and strategies that will help us achieve this goal!
Day 1: Introductions & Expectations
To kick off the first week of school, let’s start with some introductions. Take attendance, but go beyond just calling out names. Ask your students to share their preferred pronouns if it feels appropriate for your group, and have each student share an activity they enjoy doing in their free time. This will help create a friendly and inclusive atmosphere right from the start.
Next, let’s break the ice with a fun name game. There are many variations to choose from, but the idea is to get everyone familiar with each other’s names in an interactive way. It’s a simple activity, but it can make a big difference in helping students feel connected.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff – classroom expectations. I know this can feel boring, but it’s extremely important during the first week of school. I like to start with the slide below, outlining “Class A & Class B”. This gets the students intrigued and excited about expectations because it shows them what this year COULD be. P.S., if you’re stuck on classroom routines & expectations, click here to download my free guide!
Review the basic expectations you need (e.g., respect, noise levels, signals, morning entry, etc.). Once you’ve gone over those, read the book “I Promise” by Lebron James and have students brainstorm promises that the class could make to have this year be the best yet (like Class A 😇). Write all suggestions on the board and then as a class, come up with 3-5 that best reflect the major themes. I like to print these out and post them the next day!
In the afternoon, let’s keep the energy up with a game called “Facts About My Teacher.” Create a quick matching activity where students have to match up facts about you, the teacher. This can be a fun way to introduce yourself and build a sense of familiarity.
To ensure a smooth end to the day, engage the students in a Back to School Stations activity. Review the end-of-day expectations and routines, such as packing up, organizing materials, and any dismissal procedures you have in place. This is my FAVOURITE first week of school activity because it covers a lot and the kids love it!
Day 2: First Week of School Community Building
Building a strong sense of community is key to creating a positive classroom environment. Start the day by having students reflect on themselves as learners. You can do this by exploring the concept of left brain vs. right brain activities and asking students to identify their preferred learning styles. This self-awareness activity can promote a better understanding of themselves and their classmates. I used this one off TpT.
Next, let’s dive into a STEM challenge. One of my favorites is the Longest Paper Chain challenge. This task requires teamwork and problem-solving skills. Before diving in, take a moment to discuss group work norms and expectations. This will help set the stage for successful collaboration.
In the afternoon, let’s gather for a community circle. Use an Unlearn poster as a visual aid and conduct a discussion on important community circle norms. Provide prompts to guide the conversation, encouraging students to share their thoughts and experiences. This activity fosters a sense of belonging and emphasizes the value of respectful communication – all important to do during the first week of school.
To reinforce the importance of empathy and inclusivity, I recommend reading a book like “Fly Away Home.” After the read-aloud, engage the students in a discussion about the book’s message and how empathy can be used to build a more inclusive classroom. Encourage them to share personal stories and brainstorm ways to support and understand one another.
Day 3: Diving Deeper
Let’s start the morning with another exciting STEM challenge. The Marshmallows & Toothpick tower challenge is a hands-on activity that promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Take a few minutes to discuss the challenges students may face when working with new group members and how they can overcome them. This helps build resilience and adaptability in teamwork.
Next, let’s delve into identity portraits. This is an activity I’ve done for the first week of school for the past two years and it’s been a hit. Have students draw portraits of themselves that portray both their visible and invisible identities. This activity visually reinforces the idea that there’s more to each person than meets the eye and helps foster a sense of acceptance and empathy within the classroom. It also makes for a very cute display!
To finish off the day, have students write a letter to their teacher. This activity is PERFECT to do after the identity portraits because students have already brainstormed some aspects of their identity that people may not know. In their letter to you, they can share anything they feel comfortable discussing. I always start by brainstorming a list of topics with the class, but some ideas to get you started are: family (e.g., number of people/siblings), favorite hobbies, best memory, birthday, opinions about school, best/worst subjects, pets, etc.
Remember, these lesson plans are just a starting point. Adapt and modify them to suit the specific needs and interests of your students. Here’s to a fantastic first week of school that sets the stage for a successful and inclusive year ahead!
Looking for more?
Check out the following blog posts to get you set up for the first week of school!