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First Day of School Ideas

Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.


The first day of school will set the tone for the entire school year. Get your students enthused about being a part of your class this year through a variety of fun, productive lessons and activities. I have put together some of my favorite first day of school ideas that can be adapted for a wide variety of elementary and middle school classes.

1. Getting to Know You Games

My personal favorite getting to know you game is a scavenger hunt. Every person gets a sheet with items, such as "attended the state fair this summer" or "read at least one non-fiction book." Then every person has to find someone who has done each item on the list. Consider including items of local interest and items that are specific to that age level. Make sure to include at least one way out there item that will keep everyone hunting for a while.

My second favorite game is interviewing another student. This is a less tedious and intimidating activity than many getting to know you games. It will also give students more personal interaction than many games. You can write questions ahead of time and/or let students come up with some of their own questions.

There are lots of getting to know you game options.

Just a Few Ideas

"Take some..." (toilet paper, M&Ms, etc.). Then share that many facts about yourself.

"If this sentence describes you, stand up."

Put everyone in a circle. Ask a question and go around the circle, passing a bean bag or other object, to answer it. Repeat as many times as you like.

Instead of organizing a scavenger hunt, turn it into a bingo game.

Two truths and a lie. Everyone tells two truths and a lie, and the group has to figure out which one is the lie.

A no talking organization game. For example, students have to arrange themselves by birthday month without talking.

Write an acrostic poem or other poem about yourself to share with a partner, a small group, or the whole class.

2. Mad Lib

Mad Libs are fun for students of a wide variety of ages. A back to school Mad Lib can put everyone at ease with a good laugh while providing a little grammar review. There are lots of free school Mad Libs out there online. You can also write your own.

3. Time Capsule

Have students put together a time capsule that they will open again at the end of the school year. You can also work with other teachers within your school or district to create a time capsule that students won't open for 5 years or even 10 years. Here are just a few ideas of items for the capsule.

  • An artifact for a favorite item. Instead of putting in the item itself, consider a photo of it or information about it (i.e. an article about a video game release).
  • An artifact from the summer (i.e. plane ticket, movie ticket stub). If students don't want to include the item itself, they can take a photo or write about it.
  • A drawing of one of the student's hands. Make sure that it includes scratches, scars, rings, etc.
  • A picture of or a piece of writing about the members of their family.
  • An essay about what their life will be like in five or ten years. You can pick the time frame. These writing pieces will be priceless.
  • A survey about favorite items (foods, movies, etc.).
  • Photograph of the student. Students can bring in photos the first week of school or you can take photos of them during the first day of school and then print them later in the week.
  • Mix CD with current favorite songs. This can be a first week of school assignment that students will add to their capsules as they complete it.

4. Write an ABC Book About the Summer

Putting students on the spot write about what they did this summer on the first day of school may not produce high quality writing, as it is not a specific prompt. Brainstorm or research summer writing prompts or consider having students write an ABC book about the summer. Most likely a prompt or the challenge of fitting summer happenings with different letters will provide more inspiration. Before students start to write, work as a group to write a list of different summer associated words for each letter.

Scavenger Hunt - Spiro High School

Tip: For younger students, create a scavenger hunt within the classroom or a contained area of the school (i.e. playground, library).

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5. School Scavenger Hunt

Give students the opportunity to explore their school through a school scavenger hunt. Have students work in pairs or small groups of three or four students. Students can check items off of a list or take pictures of the items. After students have completed the hunt, work through the list together, discussing where each item is located and/or reviewing the photos that the students took. If students took photos, take it one step further by creating a bulletin board or other display of the hunt during the first week of school.

6. Crossword Puzzle or Other Fun Activity for the Classroom Rules or Policies

There are a few logistical things that you have to cover in any classroom on the first day of school, such as classroom rules and emergency procedures. Turning these tasks into a game or other fun activity will make them more enjoyable and possibly more memorable for everyone. A crossword puzzle is one of the most popular options, but you don't need to feel limited to this.

There are lots of free crossword and other puzzle templates online.

7. Fun Getting to Know the Teacher Activity

It can be easy to get caught up in getting through logistical tasks and getting to know the students activities during the first day of school. Take a few minutes to share a little about yourself with the students, too. One of the years that I taught special education I made a book about my summer with photos (pictured above). The students really enjoyed seeing photos of basic parts of my life, such as my cat and my home. Other options to consider include a photo slideshow, PowerPoint presentation, or video. If you have a grade level or other team that you belong to at school (i.e. special education services), you can also work with them to create a group presentation of sorts for the students.

8. Learning Styles Inventory

The first day of school is a perfect opportunity to give students a short learning styles survey. Explain that they will not be graded on it and that it will give you information that will help you plan better lessons for them. A number of the inventories out there may need to be modified for younger grade levels. If questions are confusing for a lot of students, it may be best to work through the survey as a group so you can field questions for everyone at once.

I used famous quotes about reading for those bookmarks.  I covered them in contact paper so that they'll have a long life span.

I used famous quotes about reading for those bookmarks. I covered them in contact paper so that they'll have a long life span.

9. Make a Bookmark

A bookmark is a quick, productive, low stress craft activity that students can complete during the first day of school. This may be a good project for the later part of the day when students are ready for some unstructured time. There are lots of inexpensive materials that you can provide for the bookmarks, such as scrapbook paper, felt, and foam stickers. If you want to get more ambitious, you can set up art stations with messier materials, such as paint and pastels.

Tween Authors Give Back to School Advice | Lisa Gottfried

10. First Day Advice From the Previous Class

I have seen a couple classes do this, and it is priceless. Students really put their heart into their writing and cover topics that never would have occurred to you. It will put a smile on your face pulling out those letters again for your new group of students. When it is their turn to write advice for the next class, they'll be able to look back on those initial memories of your classroom fondly.

First Day of School - Kindergarten

More great teaching resources from the author.


Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 12, 2013:

Thanks, WiccanSage! Mad Libs are definitely a great game for reviewing the parts of speech.

Mackenzie Sage Wright on August 12, 2013:

When I taught 7th grade Language Arts, Mad Libs were such a great way to give the kids a quick reminder about the parts of speech. Great ideas here.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 30, 2012:

Thank you so much! It's always good to have a few new tricks up your sleeve for a new school year.

faithbuilder23 from Pennsylvania on October 30, 2012:

These are great ideas for the classroom. I love the arrangement of your class. I'm always looking for ideas for when school starts in August.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 23, 2012:

That's great, Missy Mac! Best of luck to your sister.

Missy Mac from Illinois on September 22, 2012:

Thank you for this article. My sister is opening a day care center and will need professional development ideas for new teachers. I have retired and can recall the learning inventory sheets. Thanks for the wonderful resources.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 21, 2012:

Thanks, Leah! Hopefully they will. Best of luck to your boys this school year.

Leah Lefler from Western New York on August 21, 2012:

These are great ideas, randomcreative! My boys start school in 2 weeks and I hope their teachers take a look at these fantastic ideas!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 20, 2012:

Best of luck to both you and your daughter!

Rfordin from Florida on August 19, 2012:

Here I sit at 1:00 am my time (EST). My oldest daughter starts kindergarden in 8 hours.... I'm nervous and excited (as I'm sure she is).

Thanks for sharing.


Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 18, 2012:

Thanks, Jamie! I agree that Mad Libs are still fun. There is something about nonsensical sentences that is always amusing. I really like that we can choose which hubs to feature at the top, but I really don't like that we can't include links in the about me description and that the search function for individual users is gone.

Jamie Brock from Texas on August 18, 2012:

I'm not a teacher but if I were I would say you given some wonderful ideas here!! Mad libs is one of my personal faves.. I loved them as a kid and still think they are fun.. some of the things that come out are just so silly and funny. Great hub, voting up!! PS I noticed you changed to the new profile.. how are you liking it?

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 16, 2012:

I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

Lightshare on August 16, 2012:

Thanks randomcreative for a cute hub -)

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 14, 2012:

Thanks so much, Pamela!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 14, 2012:

This is a great hub for the first days back to school. I am sure it will help many who are in that situation. You really showed some clever ways to help teachers and get the children interested. Very useful hub.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 13, 2012:

Thanks so much, prairieprincess! Best of luck with your teaching endeavors.

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on August 13, 2012:

Absolutely wonderful ideas! Creative and different things to try, for teachers. Sharing and voting up and more. I may just be starting teaching, and don't know yet. I applied for a job and should find out soon, so I may need these ideas sooner than later. Awesome hub!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 13, 2012:

Thanks, Mama Kim! I'm glad that some of these ideas are applicable to parents, too. A birthday time capsule is a great idea.

Aloe Kim on August 13, 2012:

Some of these are very cute and usable by parents as well. For instance it gave me the idea of having my children make a time capsule around each birthday. I can then give them back when they are older and have children of their own. My son's 3rd birthday is today so I think when he wakes from his nap we'll make one ^_^ Wonderful hub!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 13, 2012:

Thank you!

soutienscolairefr from Paris on August 13, 2012:

Great Hub !

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 13, 2012:

Thanks so much, eHealer!

Deborah from Las Vegas on August 13, 2012:

I love the time capsule! Great hub, random. You can be my teacher anytime. These are excellent and interesting ideas for kids and parents to have fun and get to know each other. Thank you and voted up!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 13, 2012:

Thanks for the shares, MissOlive! Best of luck getting back into the routine and getting a smooth start with your new school year.

iefox, yes, for sure!

Thanks, Om! Sorry to hear that you didn't have any teachers who did these kinds of lessons or activities when you were in school.

Brent, there are so many different kinds of icebreaker games out there. I could have written an article solely about that topic. I just wanted to present the idea and include a few of my favorites. Teachers can always search for additional games.

Brent Thomas from Vero Beach, Florida on August 13, 2012:

I know many other ice breakers such as the pipe cleaner introduction gift activity, Who Am I? Presentations, and a fun one with dum-dum suckers and beanie babies if you are interested in them let me know.

Om Paramapoonya on August 13, 2012:

All these "first day of school" activities sound great. I really like the time capsule and ABC book ideas. I wish I had had a teacher like you when I was a kid. lol

iefox5 on August 12, 2012:

First day is always fresh for both teachers and students. It would be great to have a successful first day.

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on August 12, 2012:

I have tweeted, shared and pinned this hub. Very helpful. I still have a week and a half to plan. I am looking forward to getting the routine started and these tips have helped motivate me.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 12, 2012:

Thanks, Donna! That's a great idea for a scavenger hunt. How exciting to open that time capsule!

Donna Hilbrandt from Upstate New York on August 12, 2012:

Great ideas here. I have done a scavenger hunt on the first day in my HS classroom so that students could find all the important resources, such as the homework basket, classroom library book sign out, etc. I like the time capsule idea. Our school just opened a time capsule, as the graduating class was the first class in the new building when they were in kindergarten. It was a big event. Voted up and sharing.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 12, 2012:

That's great, Janine! I'm glad that you found both familiar and new ideas here. Best of luck with the upcoming school year. Thanks for the votes and shares!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on August 12, 2012:

Ok as a fellow teacher this article is absolutely awesome. I myself have used the interview one for sure, but so loved some of your other ideas as well and pinned to hopefully try in the future. Thank you for giving some great new ideas and advice for the first day of school. Have voted and shared too.

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