5 Activities for a Positive First Week of School

    There’s nothing like the first day of school. Everything is fresh and new. Expectations are high and everyone’s a little nervous. From day one I want to be sure my new students know that our classroom is a place where everyone is accepted and kindness is normal. The first day of school can be a little hectic. That’s why I make sure to plan activities that not only help us get to know each other but also establish a classroom that thrives on positive energy. 

Here are five of my favorite ways to get the school year off to a positive start. 

1.  Parent Questionnaire 

Before the year starts ask parents to tell you a little about their child.  One easy way to do this is during Meet the Teacher. Set out a short questionnaire for parents to fill out.  Keeping it brief will make it easier for parents to complete during the meet and greet.  You can choose a few of these questions, or come up with your own.

-Tell me one thing your child loves to do.
-My child is really good at ________.
-Tell me about one fun thing your child did this summer.
-My child's most unique talent is _______
-Three words that describe my child are _____, ______, _____.

Not only will this information help you get to know your students, but you can also use it in your first week's activities.  

>One way I use this information is to create a classmate bingo game.  I type in one piece of information about each student.  Then students can mingle and try to find the classmate for each square on their Bingo board.

>Another way to use some of the information is to play "Who is It"?  I choose one of the parent forms and read a bit of the information and see if students can guess who I'm talking about.

>You can use the information to call students to line up.  For example: "Our classmate who is adventurous, loves to do cannonballs in the pool, and has two younger sisters can line up"

First week of school activity, memory jay

2.  Start a Memory Jar

Wonderful memories of the school year begin from day one.  Collecting these memories in a large jar is a fun way to keep all of these memories.  For the first week of school, I like to model how to choose one positive, important, or funny thing that happened during the day and write it on a slip of paper.  In future weeks the kids can start brainstorming ideas of a memory to add to the jar.  Sometimes I give table groups 5 minutes to come up with one memory.  Then the class votes on one to add to our jar.

At the end of each quarter, we pull out some of the memories to share.  It's a fun way to relive some of the best times we had as a class.

Use a simple jigsaw puzzle to encourage positive behavior.

3.  Great Team Puzzle

With a jigsaw puzzle from the dollar store, you can have a fun way to encourage positive behavior.   The puzzles I found have either 24 or 48 pieces.   You can use either size, depending on how frequently you'd like your class to earn the whole-class reward. 

>First, attach a magnet to the back of each piece.  With the magnet, the pieces will stick to your whiteboard as the puzzle is put together.

>Next, set the criteria for earning a puzzle piece.  You can focus on one expectation each day, or leave it open to any positive behaviors you see throughout the day.

>Whenever you see a student or group of students behaving in a kind, respectful, or caring way, let the class know.  Let a student pull a puzzle piece from the box.  If the piece fits with a piece already on the board, they attach it.  Otherwise, it's left on the board, to be attached later.

>Once the puzzle is complete the class can have a special reward.  My kids always loved extra free time, or 5 minutes of extra recess.  

This editable flip book is just what you need for the first week of school.

4.  Class Flipbook

Instead of giving your students a printed booklet with procedures and expectations, let them create one for themselves.  As you present and talk about all of the important class and the school information, students add that information to the flipbook.  By the end of the week, each student will have learned about the routines and expectations for the class, plus, they'll have a personal flipbook to refer to whenever they need a reminder.

Give each student a blank flipbook that you have set up.  You can use this free editable template.  To get it ready, type in the headings and space. Then print, fold and staple.  The complete directions are included in the free download. 

Click here for the free editable template you can use with your class.  (This is a PowerPoint file and will be editable once you open it in your PowerPoint program.  It is NOT editable when it first opens in your browser.) 

Introduce important life lessons at the beginning of the school year with Winn Dixie

5.  Life Lessons with Winn Dixie

I saved my favorite activity for last.  After I read the book, Because of Winn Dixie, for the first time I knew I wanted to share it with my class of third graders.  Not only is it a wonderful story about friendship and acceptance, but it also sparks some really wonderful discussions.  I started using it as my first read-aloud of the year and quickly realized that we were talking about many positive qualities I wanted to see from my students.  So I put together a list of positive qualities and character traits.  Next, I chose 13 of these traits and called them Life Lessons we all need to learn. (honesty and truthfulness, curiosity, compassion, responsibility, courage, teamwork, respect, loyalty, generosity, friendly, self-control, perseverance, and joyfulness), Then I found parts of the book where the characters are showing these traits.  

Now, when I read Because of Winn Dixie, we stop and talk about these life lessons.  I also made small signs for these life lessons that go up on a display so we can refer to them all year.  The kids also have a response journal with a prompt about the life lesson for that day.  I love starting the year with this shared experience.  We talk about these life lessons all year and use the characters from the book as a reference. 

Hopefully, one of these activities is just what you were looking for to get your year off to a positive start.  I'd love to hear about other first-week activities you love doing with your students.

Click on this image to check out this resource in my TpT store:

Because of Winn Dixie, it's going to be a terrific year.

5 Activities for a Positive First Week of School


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