Beginning of the School Year Activities
Summer is over and you need some beginning of the school year activities. Here are 33 activities for preschoolers and elementary kids to start the year right.
During the early days of school year
For School-age to adult.
1. The interview
This is a great beginning-of-the-year activity or beginning of summer programs when many of the kids don’t know each other.
- Have students break into dyads. Each is paired with someone they do not already know well.
- Allow five minutes per interview, the students interview each other.
- Then standing behind the person they have just interviewed, each child tells the group what they have learned about the other, introducing them to the group.
2. Me puppets
Grade Levels: 1-5
- On the first day of school (unlike the remaining days of the school year), the children are usually reluctant to talk about themselves.
- We make “me” puppets using paper plates for the head, yarn for the hair, and construction paper facial features, with a popsicle stick for a handle.
- Upon completion, we stage a puppet show.
- The children hide their faces with the puppets and tell their classmates all about their families, hobbies, pets, etc.
3. Back t0 school memory game and puzzles
- On one of the first days of school take each child’s picture.
- Make double prints and laminate each photograph.
- Make a Memory Game out of the pictures of the kids. (The children would play the game of Memory just like the regular game)
After a few weeks, save one copy of photos for your program ‘Memory Book’ or if this is for a classroom give to parents!
Cut the other set of photographs and make a personal puzzle for each child. Submitted by Ilene/California
4. Getting to know each other with t.p.
- Have kids sit in a circle, with a roll of toilet paper. (If the group is large break children up into a few circles)
- Tell them you’re going to pass around the roll, and they should “take as much as they need to complete the job.” Don’t tell them what the job is though.
- After everyone has had a good laugh over the amount of paper they took, explain that for every square of toilet paper ripped off, they must tell everyone one thing about themselves.
- The last square must be their name! The kids really love it!
Adapted from Jac/yahoo.answers
5. Balloon game
Purpose – To introduce or learn something about each other; to provide physical activity, have fun, build community spirit – Each child receives a balloon (either inflated or they blow up). Children write their names and decorate balloons with a marker.
- Put all balloons in a container, box or bag.
- Release all balloons at once. Play some music as children bat the balloons around and keep them in the air.
- When the music stops the children “capture” a balloon and freeze in their position.
- When everyone has a balloon the leader calls on one child and the child says the name of the person’s balloon he/she has.
- The child whose name is called will then say something about themselves.
- The topic can be pre-chosen such as: What is the best thing that happened to you this week? Or If you could do anything for a day, what would it be? Or My favorite class is________? Ideas are endless.
- If the group is large you can have 3 or 4 children make their statement and then start the music again. This game is actually good anytime of the year!
6. Does your school or center have a mascot?
- A neat idea is to get a stuffed animal of that mascot to play this getting to know you game of: Hot __________!
- Have kids sit in a circle.
- Pass around the stuffed_________ to music.
- When the music stops the student holding the _______ has to say his/her name.
- Continue until everyone has had a chance to tell his/her name.
- You can add features to the game such as: My name is Sara and my favorite things to do is ______.
7. Sticker partners! (Getting to know each other)
- Each student is given a sticker to put on his or her hand upon entering the room, but students aren’t told what the sticker is for until the time is right! Be sure there is a partner (matching sticker) for every student.
- Ask students to find their partners and interview them (name, grade, hobbies, etc.).
- Each interviewer is responsible for introducing each interviewee to the rest of the group.
- You might find that students find it less threatening when someone else shares information about them than when they are asked to share about themselves.
8. Play human bingo!
- Provide each child with a pre-made bingo handout (divided into squares).
- In the squares write things such as “I have blue eyes” or “I play an instrument.”
- Kids go about the room and have others (including you) signing their names in one of the squares.
- Do this until the hand-out squares are filled in._
9. Our favorite Things
Grade Levels: 3-8
- On the first days of school, I introduce myself to the group, and I tell them that they are going to unscramble some words that I have placed on the board. The scrambled words are a list of my favorite things, but I do not reveal that to the kids.
- After the students have worked to unscramble the words, I ask for volunteers to help reveal the unscrambled words.
- After all of the words have been unscrambled, I challenge children to name a category for all the words.
- If the kids can not guess, I tell them they have just discovered my favorite things. They then create some scrambled words of their own. Each child gets a chance to reveal their list during the first days of school.
10. Designing self-collages
In order for youth to build self esteem (and get to know each other), they need to know who they are and what is important and unique to themselves personally. Children also need to have a concrete way in which to express this.
Children can become resident ‘experts’ in the program and this is one way of finding out what the range of knowledge is among a group of students.
- Using pictures, words, or symbols clipped from magazines that represent things they enjoy doing or own, places they’ve been, and people they admire or careers they desire have kids create a collage.
- They place their names on the back and post the collages around the room.
Don’t stop there! Have the other children guess which collage belongs to whom and state why they made that guess. This activity gives youth a chance to reflect on who they are and then to share that information in a fun way with the rest of the group.
11. Truth or lie?
- Pass out index cards to the children.
- The students then write down three facts two truths and one lie (Or two lies and one truth) on the card.
- The youth then read their cards to the group and the group decides which fact is a lie or which fact is the truth.
This activity can be a lot of fun and is also good anytime of the year!
12. Elementary School Time Capsule Ideas
- Make time capsules using paper towel tubes. In it have kids put in a self-portrait and a paper such as “My favorite thing to do is”.
- The tube can then be decorated.
- Attach a note. “Do not open until June 12, 2021, (or whatever the last day of school is.)
- During the last week – give each child their time-capsule.
13. At the begining of the school year
- Start a special journal for each student that will be graduating from your program and moving onto middle school or high school.
- Throughout the year–teachers, parents, community members, peers, and others can write messages to the students in the journals; you can also include activity photographs.
- Give the journals to the students at an end of the year family event or your end-of-the-year program/classroom party!
- Working on these throughout the year will provide a wonderful keepsake for your graduating youth.
Instead of presenting a journal to the students, have the students record their thoughts during the school year in a journal – things they are thankful for, etc. Present the journal to their parents at the end of the year.
14. Joke connecter icebreaker
- Write a joke on one card and a punch line on another. Be sure to mix the cards up. The number of different jokes depends on the size of the group.
- Give each person a card. Explain that they may have a joke or a punch line on the card. On a given signal, they are to walk around the group trying to find the other part of their joke/punch line.
- When they find their other half, you may ask them to get to know their new partner by asking things like favorite ice cream or dream vacation etc.
- When this is done, everyone can return to a circle and, with their partner, tell their joke. Jokes on KidActivities.
15. Whose shoe is this?
- All participants take off a shoe and throw it in a large pile in the middle of the room.
- On the count of three, each person grabs a shoe from the pile and then finds the person with the matching shoe on the other foot.
- The youth then learn the ‘shoe-owners’ name as well as three things about them that they didn’t know.
- After the interviewing process, each takes turns introducing ‘their shoe owner” with name and the three facts.
16. The big measure
This is a different type activity for the beginning and/or end of the year! Perhaps you can adapt it to fit your group
As an extension, it could be started at the beginning of the year and then updated at the end for comparison.
- For starters, add up everyone’s height.
- Write the final total on a left-hand page, then list everyone’s height on the right-hand page.
- On the following pages, let students choose other things to measure.
Everyone’s pet (or favorite stuffed animal), length of hair, favorite book, foot, hand, etc.
- The last page can be a long sheet of paper with everyone’s signature written from one side to the other.
- First, ESTIMATE how long each signature will measure and how long the sheet will have to be! (This is from the Mixing Math with Fun Category)
17. Sharing the summer
- Divide a bulletin board into “window panes,” using white strips of paper.
- Create one windowpane for each child in the program.
- Assign a few children to bring in some object each day, such as a shell, picture, stone, brochure, etc., that represents what they had fun doing this past summer.
- Put the items in small zip-lock plastic bags. After each presentation, mount the plastic bags on each child’s “windowpane.”
- This makes a great back-to-school bulletin board and provides children with opportunities to talk about their summer.
18. Paper dolls!
- Have children cut out paper dolls. Each doll is 2 feet tall, and all are alike in the beginning.
- Then students “dress” their dolls by coloring or making clothes out of fabric, wallpaper, etc.
- Tell kids to leave the face portion blank.
- While students dress their dolls, I use the digital camera to take pictures of all of them.
- We crop the pictures so that we see only faces, blow them up to fit the paper dolls, and students glue their faces to the dolls.
We laminate them and hang them in the entrance to the classroom across from each child’s coat cubby. It’s a colorful display! Students and parents love them! At the end of the year, students take their dolls home.
19. Building new friendships Bulletin Board
I do an opening week activity that also takes care of a bulletin board for the first month or so. I cut several block shapes (like cement blocks) out of brightly colored paper. On each, I write a declarative statement.
I love broccoli. I have broken a bone. I went ice-skating this summer. I have been to another country. I have met someone famous. Be creative with your statements!
Sometime during the first few days, I pass them around and students sign all blocks that apply to them. I sign them also, then circulate them through the rest of the teaching staff, the administrators, the cafeteria workers, custodians, crossing guards, playground aides, etc. It usually takes about a week to get them all back.
I then “build” a wall with them on a bulletin board under a banner I made on the computer that says “Building New Friendships.”
Whenever visitors come into our classroom, I ask them to sign the appropriate blocks, also. This is really a conversation starter and helps the kids find common areas of interest with people they might not have thought of otherwise. Idea of Tami Knight on ‘Classroom Displays and Bulletin Boards’ by Barbara Colvin
Love the above idea! I’ve done something similar in getting kids involved in program planning with an ‘I Like Wall”. This sample board is from one of my trainings. A real ‘I Like Wall’ in a program would look better!
20. The ‘I like wall’
- Early in the program year, put about twenty-five sheets of paper on the wall, with a pre-heading of topic sentences such as: “I like to cook”; “I like to help others”; “I like to play gym games”; “I like to walk”, etc.
- These statements can be incorporated with more specific sentences such as “I have blue eyes.” The children will think you’re doing a survey; however, as well as learning more about each other, the information will be given to you regarding the children in your program. (Interests, activities, outgoing, etc.)
Extension (if this is for a Day Care or After School Program): Program Planning
After the ‘wall questionnaire’ has been completed, use the sheets of paper as a springboard for ideas. You can look at the cooking section and say, “I see a lot of kids like to cook. How would you like to have a cooking club?” You can continue through various popular topics. With this method, it is still advisable to form a “planning committee” using the wall as a source.
This reinforces empowerment in the children. Programs have also used this method successfully well into the school year, to spark children’s input of ideas. It is recommended, however, to do this at the beginning of the school year or at the beginning of the second half of the year.
21. Bulletin board tip
Cover boards with fabric at the beginning of the year! Unlike paper, it doesn’t fade and staple holes don’t show when you move things around or take it down. Be on the look out for sales-and check the clearance tables at fabric stores. It will look good for years!
22. life-size self portrait
We’ve all made butcher paper drawings, where one child traces another, however, Making self-portraits, reflects personality and the way one perceives themselves. A fun craft project is to make life-size self-portraits.
- crayons/marking pens
- large sheets of butcher paper
- Have a child lie flat on a sheet of butcher paper with his or her arms and legs placed slightly away from his or her body.
- Have the other child carefully trace around the outline making sure to include fingers and both feet.
- Then, have the child that did the outlining lie on some paper while the other child does the tracing.
- Have the children decorate their portraits to look like them. Make sure they include the tiniest details such as dimples, curly or straight hair, braces, and any jewelry they like to wear. They can even draw the clothes they’re wearing. When finished, cut out the finished self-portraits.
- They can be hung on walls and doors. You can also glue some long sticks to the back of the portraits and make a life-size puppet or paper doll.
This is a fun project to do at the beginning and end of the year to measure how much the children have grown. If there is no room in your program to hang the “self-portraits” have children take them home to hang in their bedroom.
Tell them to save the project so they can compare them to the next one they make at the end of the school year!
23. Snowball fight!
Grade Levels K-to adult. To get to know each other and have a “ball” at the same time, incorporate a “Snowball Fight” into one of the first days of activities. Give youth a clean sheet of white unlined paper.
Have them write 3-5 unique things about themselves. Tell them not to put their name on the paper. (If they can’t write have them draw a picture)
Next, have them crunch the paper into a ball. Have them stand in a large circle around the room. Then allow them one full minute to have an all-out snowball fight!
When one minute is up, have them locate a “snowball” nearest to them, unfold it, and take turns trying to guess who it is. They absolutely love this activity! It loosens them up real quick and they will remember it always. Many students say it’s the best minute of fun they had all year! (Adapted from Betsy Pollard)
Note: I actually do a version of this in training sessions! If it’s ‘baseball season” instead of throwing ‘snowballs’…we pretend to be throwing baseballs. Always play themed music while balls are being thrown! With baseball-of course it’s ‘Take me out to the Ball Game!’
24. Getting to know each other with candy!
Bring in Skittles or M&M’s. Tell the kids to take as many as they want. Most are pretty apprehensive – it’s the first days of school!
They’ll usually take about 10 to 15 Skittles. You should take some too.
- Next, pick out some fun music.
- For each Skittle taken students must say one thing about themselves while moving to the music. You demonstrate first-
- An option: Each color of candy represents a category students must speak about.
Orange = Scary memories
Red = Great vacations
Green = Something about your family
Blue = Favorite hobbies, etc.
- This activity is a good icebreaker, and the kids love it! After that, they feel comfortable and know some things about each other.
- Note: Before preparing or distributing any food in the room, make sure you are aware of children’s allergies or dietary restrictions and caution children about choking hazards.
25. ‘Getting to know you’ with acrostics!
This example shows the work of ‘BRIA’….
“Face and name”
- Instruct children to vertically spell their first name–letter by letter.
- Children next write a word usually an adjective – that starts with each letter and describes them.
- B = Bubbly, R= Rowdy, I= Intelligent, A=Amazing! It’s completed with a self-portrait!
26. “Start your day with joy!”
At the beginning of the school year introduce rules. For your first rule have… ‘Enter the room with a smile!’
- Discuss how important it is to spread joy and it starts with them.
- Take pictures of students smiling.
- Select different students weekly that are smiling and display them in an area of the hall.
- Do not tell them who will be selected as “Students of Joy!” for the week. You may also have other students take pictures.” (Source: Nell Clark, Computer Teacher at teachnology.com )
27. Welcome bags
- Place the items described below in a brown lunch bag and include this handout:
- The items in this bag have special meaning:
- The cotton ball is to remind you that this room is full of kind words and warm feelings.
- The chocolate kiss is to comfort you when you are feeling sad.
- The tissue is to remind you to help dry someone’s tears.
- The sticker is to remind you that we all stick together and help each other.
- The star is to remind you to shine and always try your best.
- The gold thread is to remind you that friendship ties our hearts together.
- The rubber band is to remind you to hug someone.
- The penny is to remind you that you are valuable and special.
- The toothpick is to remind you to “pick out” the good qualities in your classmates.
- The bandage is to heal hurt feelings in your friends and in yourself.
- The eraser is to remind you that we all make mistakes and that is O.K.
- The life saver is to remind you that you can come to me if you need someone to talk to.
28. Back to school ABC’s or ‘School Age Care’ ABC’s
This is an activity that can be done across the grades! Share with students some ABC books from the school or town library and tell them that they will be working together to create a Back-to-School ABC Book.
- Assign a letter of the alphabet to each student. Brainstorm with students possible words for each letter or allow each student to choose his or her own word.
- Explain that the words must be related to activities associated with school. Of course, the difficulty of the words will vary, depending on the grade level of the students. For example, ‘A’ might be represented by the words art, abacus, attendance, algebra, addition, advisor, athletics, auditorium, alphabet, answer key, apple, arithmetic, announcement, award, A-V, aide, or assistant principal.
- Last, have each student illustrate his or her word. Combine the pictures to create a book. Display the book in the classroom or school library. As an extra challenge, you might limit older students to choosing adjectives; no nouns allowed! (An interesting idea from: educationworld)
29. Self portrait
(A ‘Beginning of the School Year’ and ‘End of the School Year’ Activity)
- Fold the paper in half. Each half is labeled “September” and “June”.
- Children draw self-portraits on the “September” side and store them in their portfolios.
- In June, complete the other self-portrait and the children’s growth in fine motor skills is revealed.
‘Autumn and Back to School’ Display Board Images and Ideas.
‘Pre-k and k’ back to school songs
Be sure to check out the ‘Pre-K to Grade 1’ Song Category. There are songs for almost the entire year!
30. Hello song
(To tune of Three Blind Mice)
Hello, (child’s name),
Hello, (child’s name)
How are you, how are you?
We’re glad you’re here to learn and play.
We know we’ll have some fun today.
We love school every day
And so will you!
31. Hello song #2
(Frere Jacques tune)
Hello, (child’s name), hello, (child’s name).
How are you? How are you?
We’re so glad to have you,
We’re so glad to have you,
Here at school, here at school.
32. Who is here today?
(Sung to tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star)
Let’s see who is here today.
Who has come to join our play?
Everyone sit close at hand.
Say your name and then you stand.
Let’s see who is here today.
Who has come to join our play?
When complete, children stand and say their names.
33. If you’re happy at school
(Sung to: If You’re Happy and You Know It)
If you’re happy at school clap your hands.
If you’re happy at school clap your hands.
If you’re happy at school and you really want to show it,
If you’re happy at school clap your hands.
…stamp your foot…
Get Acclimated During the Beginning Weeks of the Schooler Year
The first few days of school and after-school care – should be spent becoming acclimated to each other, learning the class/ program rules, routines, and what is what and expected in centers.
Activities should not be too long or too complicated until behavior management has been established. This doesn’t mean you should not plan activities. In fact, ‘overplan’ to make sure there is enough material and things to do. Each day post a schedule and refer to it.
Also, make sure everything is prepared so you don’t waste valuable time and lose children’s attention. The first few weeks of school tend to be the hardest for both students and teachers, but remember that with time and practice a routine will be established!
First, establish a sense of community
Consider focusing the ‘beginning of the school year’-on Getting to Know You. Each day, help children develop a sense of community. This can be an extended to a long-range project based on children’s interests and input.
Encourage students to explore the unique qualities of themselves and of others.
Have kids examine their current personal interests such as their “favorite” foods, colors, and activities. Have them think about their family tree and history, cultural backgrounds, etc.
Help children identify similarities and differences between people.
Highlight the commonalities among people and point out how Variety is the Spice of Life. You can do this by using analogies in the natural world; by referring to the numerous types of animals that exist within a species, such as different kinds of dogs (or flowers).
Note: A small number of children exhibit signs of difficulty adjusting to the start of the school year; most of those difficulties are short-lived and come at predictable times in a child’s life at the start of kindergarten or first grade, in a change to a new school, or during the passage from one level of school to another.
Things to consider at the beginning of the school year or beginning of summer camp:
- Do you have a newsletter? If not, get one going and look at the great Tips, Ideas and Content for Classroom/ChildCare/AfterSchool Newsletters!
Categories that are a great resource for the ‘Beginning of the School year’!