Four Fun Back-to-School First Day Activities

Let students reconnect as they transition from summer to school

Need a fun way to ease into the new school year? One where students can catch up with their friends, get to know you, and share a little about themselves at the same time? I’ve got four awesome, low-tech activities to help your kids reconnect before you start your first unit. I’ve used each of these activities to help students make the transition from summertime to school, so use these with confidence. They’ve worked well for me!

No. 1: Headline poetry

Headline poetry is my “go to” way to start the school year. Students enjoy collecting 75-100 words (adjust that number if it doesn’t work for you) from magazines, junk mail, discarded books, or newspapers. They can talk and socialize while they clip, and when they begin to feel a “theme” or “message” reveal itself in their clippings, the room becomes a little quieter, and students discover the magic of found poetry.

The key: having enough magazines on hand. Scour your library, ask the neighbors, visit a dentist or doctor’s office for castaways, or ask around your building. Try to have one magazine for each student to start. They can switch magazines every five minutes or so to find a variety of words.

I have a toolkit to help you get started in my site shop and on TpT.

No. 2: The Sometimes Poem

This is one of my best activities ever thanks to young adult author Kate Messner, who shared this awesome lesson that transforms a student’s short narrative about a favorite place into a beautiful, expressive poem. Messner’s own poem, “Sometimes on Mountain in April” is used as a mentor text. While this lesson will work well with 9-12 grades, the presentation that you can download free from this post is geared more for middle grades. The lesson incorporates easy revision strategies using highlighters and peer review to add imagery, sensory language, and a theme to student work.

No. 3: Share Your Favorite Childhood Storybook

This activity will resonate with grades 6-12. It’s simple: take your favorite childhood book to school and share it with your students. Show them the illustrations, recap the gist, explain why the book is special to you. Then, invite students to do the same by bringing in their book or just finding a photo of it online. Collect print-outs of everyone’s favorite storybooks and scatter them on a bulletin board. Read more ideas about this activity at this post.

No. 4: Identity One-Pagers

It’s definitely fun learning interesting things about your students. You’ll learn that you have quite a bit in common with several of them with this “all about me” one-pager. Download free one-pager templates from this page at Spark Creativity. Then get out the markers and have students fill in the areas of the template with details about themselves. Here are some things we’ve shared about ourselves in my classes: Favorite Quote, Favorite Movies, Favorite Books, Favorite Places, My Family/Friends, Things I Collect, Favorite Musical Artist, Favorite Hobby.

Another tip for this idea: enlarge the template to 145% and photocopy onto 11″ x 17″ paper. I’ve found the larger size encourages better, more careful work.

Marilyn Yung

Thanks for reading! I hope one of these ideas will work to help you ramp up to your first unit. Giving students a day or two of casual, social activities has always been a great way for me to re-establish camaraderie in the classroom.

Got a question or need more ideas? Drop a comment below or send me a message via my Contact page. I’ll be glad to help.

Have a great first week of school!

Need a new poetry idea?

Enter your email below and I’ll send you this PDF file that will teach your students to write Treasured Object Poems, one of my favorite poem activities. I know your students will enjoy it!

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Treasured Object Poems

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Published by Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

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