31 Activities for the First Day of School To Start the School Year Off Right

The first day of school can come with lots of excitement and, often, a bit of the jitters. It’s the start of a fresh academic year with new challenges and loads of learning opportunities. It’s also time to meet new people, make new friends, and learn different perspectives. These first-day-of-school activities will help you start off the year with a bang as you and your students form your community and begin your journey together.

1. Take first-day photos

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Mark the occasion! These signs for the first day of school are the perfect back-to-school accessory for photo opportunities and activities on the first day of school. Get your Free First-Day-of-School Printable Signs for Every Grade here.

2. Play a round of Classmate Bingo

Play a round of Classmate Bingo
We Are Teachers

Who doesn’t love a good game of bingo? This fun version gets students mixing and mingling as they learn fun facts about one another. Get it here: Free Get To Know You Bingo printable.

3. Go on a school supply scavenger hunt

First Day of School Printables - Classmate Bingo, Back to School Scavenger Hunt, All About Me Printable
We Are Teachers

Spending lots of time gathering supplies for each classroom assignment can be time-consuming. Use our free school supply scavenger hunt printable to send your students on a scavenger hunt to familiarize them with your organizational system. Include the locations of all the supplies they will need for assignments. Then, when the time comes, they’ll be able to get geared up quickly. If the hunt is a hit, take note and download our free printable bundle of 40+ Scavenger Hunt Ideas.

4. Ask your students about their hopes and dreams

Asking students about their hopes and dreams at the start of the school year gets them excited and enthusiastic about learning in your classroom. It helps you get to know them and understand their expectations and also sets the stage for aiming high. Choose a quiet time and have kids write their responses to the question in their journals. Then, once everyone is done, come together as a group and ask students who would like to share to do so.

5. Play a name game

Name games feature
Sarah Cason via We Are Teachers

Playing a name game is a fun way to help the entire class place faces with names and learn proper pronunciation. Plus kids are more likely to feel like they’re part of an inclusive environment when they hear their name pronounced correctly. For more ideas, check out 35 Fun Name Games To Play With Your New Class.

6. Open up with a teacher Q&A

Holding a Q&A session is a great way for your students to get to know more about you. Sit center stage and open the floor to their questions. Or create a multiple-choice quiz about yourself and let students guess the answers. Not only will this establish trust and help your students feel more comfortable with you, it is a great way to model how your morning circle will work.

7. Read first-day-of-school books

Two first day of school books for kids as an example of first day of school activities
We Are Teachers; Amazon

The first days back to school can truly set the stage for the entire school year with students. Get off on the right track with these Perfect Back-to-School Books To Read Aloud on the First Day.

8. Establish first-day-of-school traditions

Over the years, you’ll find a few first-day-of-school activities stand out. Create a tradition and return to them year after year to mark the day as special and help set the tone for a fun year ahead. Check out our list of teacher-touted First-Day-of-School Traditions Your Students Will Love.

9. Break the ice with icebreaker questions

An icebreaker question which asks
We Are Teachers

Sometimes as kids first get to know one another, thinking of questions to ask is hard. That’s where our big list of 300 Fun Icebreaker Questions comes in. Choose your favorites and display them on a screen, or print out the lists to pass around. Pair students up and set a timer and let them take turns asking each other questions. Revisit this activity throughout your first few weeks when you have a gap in your schedule or otherwise need a time filler.

10. Try a few icebreaker activities

Elementary Icebreakers main image
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Icebreaker activities help kids form positive relationships from the get-go and are a great way to build community in your classroom. Check out our 40 Elementary Icebreakers To Start the School Year Off Right and try Classmate Bingo, Spiderweb Questions, All My Friends, or one of many other activities.

11. Use anchor charts to set classroom norms

Setting up your classroom community correctly from the get-go plays a huge role in how your year will turn out. Kids need a clear understanding of the rules, procedures, and expectations in order to feel safe and do their best learning. These Classroom Management Anchor Charts will help you cover everything from basics like good listening and hall procedures to treating each other with respect and more in a visual, interactive way to get you started on the right foot with students.

12. Interview a classmate

Three first day of school activity worksheets as an example of first day of school activities
We Are Teachers

A new school year means so many new friends to get to know! Have students pair up and conduct a short interview of one another, taking notes on our free Interview a Classmate printable. Do this activity a few times, having students switch up partners each time.

13. Put together a group puzzle

Create a beautiful collage of student art with a group puzzle. Hand out one puzzle piece to each student and ask them to decorate it in a way that expresses their personality. Either use a puzzle template printed on card stock, or find some inexpensive puzzles with large pieces and have students use the back sides. Once everyone has completed their piece, give students time to put the puzzle together. Once they’re done, apply clear contact paper over the puzzle and turn it into a hangable piece of art for your classroom.

14. Write “I Am” poems

Flat lays of poetry worksheet bundle
We Are Teachers

“I Am” poems beautifully capture a snapshot of your students at the beginning of the school year. Their poems reveal their hopes, dreams, and fears and help you get to know them a little better. Write your own along with them, and be sure to share. Download our free I Am … Poem printable, then try a few of the other suggested types of poems.

15. Set aside one-on-one time

Spend a few minutes one-on-one with each of your students. Ask them questions. Find out what interests them and what they’re excited or nervous about this school year. Have a laugh or offer words of encouragement. Tell them about yourself too. It’s a great opportunity to help students feel seen and welcome in your classroom. Plus you gain valuable knowledge you can use throughout the year to connect with your students.

16. Create class rules together

Five colorful posters with classroom rules written on them
We Are Teachers

Taking the time to create classroom rules sets the stage for a supportive environment. Asking questions like “How do you want to treat each other?” and “How should we handle conflict?” opens up the dialogue and lets your students know that their needs are important. Plus, developing a structure of rules together gives students ownership of their classroom community. Learn more about What Makes for Good Classroom Rules. Then, help yourself to our free printable classroom rules posters, puppy classroom rules posters, and classroom tech rules posters.

17. I wish my teacher knew …

I Wish My Teacher Knew... back-to-school printable.
We Are Teachers

Sometimes it’s hard to feel seen in a group setting. Many will appreciate the opportunity to quietly and privately tell you more about themselves. Invite your students to share the things they think are important for you to know about them and their lives with this free printable. You may be surprised how much insight their responses will provide.

18. Take on a STEM challenge

Examples of Second Grade STEM Challenges as an example of first day of school activities
We Are Teachers

STEM challenges not only encourage kids to work together to solve problems and challenge their thinking skills, they’re also super fun! Plus, working together will help them get to know one another and hopefully plant the seeds of friendship and cooperation.

Learn more:

19. Just play

Remember that you don’t have to have every single minute of your first day together scripted. Yes, there should be structure and limits. But hopefully, you’ll be able to build in a good amount of free play time. So much can be gained by just giving students time to explore and talk and get comfortable in their new environment. Set up stations with Play-Doh, art supplies, books, blocks, etc., and let students choose.

20. Set goals

A goal setting worksheet for students at the beginning of the school year
We Are Teachers

Being able to set goals is an important skill for students to practice all year long. This fun activity helps students identify some of the things they hope to accomplish and document them in an artful, creative way that becomes a colorful display for the classroom and a great keepsake for parents. Learn more about setting goals with students, and download our free printable goal-setting worksheet.

21. Try a few Kagan strategies

Kagan strategies are play-based activities that help build a positive classroom community. Activities like Find Someone Who, Mix-Pair-Share, Team Charades, and more are designed to not only be fun but also to boost self-esteem, enhance learning, and promote risk-taking. Learn more with our roundup What Are Kagan Strategies?

22. Lay down clear procedures and routines

must teach routines
We Are Teachers

The first days and weeks of school require repeated guided learning in order for students to get the lay of the land. Check out our big list of Must-Teach Classroom Procedures and Routines and learn how to establish, reinforce, and streamline classroom procedures that will really make a difference.

23. Document the beginning

Kids grow so much over the course of a school year. Be sure to capture a snapshot of each student on the first day and do an All About Me writing activity. Then, after displaying them for a while, put them in a safe place. At the end of the year, do the same thing and compare how much they’ve changed and grown!

24. Ask “Would you rather” questions

Picture of
We Are Teachers

A perennial favorite, “Would you rather” questions delight kids of all ages. Funny, silly, and though-provoking, they loosen up first-day jitters and help kids find common ground with their classmates. To help you out, we’ve rounded up over 250 Would You Rather? Questions for Elementary School.

25. Band-Aid game

Here’s a fun activity from one of our We Are Teachers Helpline group teachers, Abbie S. “I play the Band-Aid game to discuss differentiation. The kids usually love this game. I have everyone come up with an injury, and one by one they come to the front of the class and share it with me and the class. No matter what it is, I give them a Band-Aid on their hand as a cure. Broken leg? Band-Aid on the hand! Busted lip? Band-Aid on the hand! Itchy feet? Band-Aid on the hand! Then, when everyone has one, we talk about how everyone needed something different and the same cure doesn’t help everyone so that is why some people will have special things to help them learn. Don’t ask me why, but kids love this.”

26. Take a survey

Feature image of an elementary, middle, and high school student interest survey
We Are Teachers

Knowing who your students are, their strengths and weaknesses, and their likes and dislikes is an extremely powerful tool for building a positive classroom environment. Get to know your class with these free Student Interest Surveys.

27. Set the stage for a great year

The key to a well-planned classroom management system is finding out what works best for you and for your particular group of individuals each year. Here are 20+ teacher-tested Brilliant Classroom Management Strategies and Techniques to help you design and maintain your ideal classroom learning environment.

28. Find common ground with Venn diagrams

Three Venn diagram templates on a blue background as an example of first day of school activities
We Are Teachers

Venn diagrams are not only a great learning tool, they can also make super-fun first-day-of-school activities. Start by pairing students up with one of our free printable Venn diagrams. After their write their names at the top, have them take turns saying one thing they like. For instance, “I like ice cream.” If both students agree, write “ice cream” in the intersection. If just one student likes it, write “ice cream” on just their half. This is a quick and easy way for students to learn just how much they have in common with one another.

29. Use a beach ball

A classic get-to-know-you activity, this fun game of toss comes with a twist. Take an inexpensive blow-up beach ball, and using a Sharpie, write questions in each of the ball’s colored sections. Include questions like “What is your favorite color?” “Do you like breakfast, lunch, or dinner best?” “What is your favorite sport?” “When is your birthday?” etc. Gather the kids in a circle and toss the ball around. When a student catches the ball, they read and answer the question under their right thumb. Continue around until everyone has had a chance to answer.

30. Play a team-building game

Team-building activities are a super way to kick off the first day of school. They give your students the chance to get to know one another, build trust as a community, and, best of all, let them have fun! Try some of our favorites here: Awesome Team-Building Activities for Kids.

31. Give students a preview

Every new year comes with exciting new opportunities for learning, and each grade level’s curriculum includes interesting and important content. Give your students a preview of all the fun and exciting topics you’ll cover together. Include special events like field trips, big projects, and everything that is going to make this year one of the best!

What are some of your favorite first-day-of-school activities? We’d love to hear about them in our We Are Teachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, check out Welcoming Classroom Doors for Back to School.

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