5+ Activities for the First Week of School

The first week of school is fast approaching! I know that this week can be stressful as you try to learn your students’ names and establish procedures without droning on for an entire week. Learning names and establishing procedures are super important, but you can accomplish both while building relationships with your students and having some fun at the same time. 

Here are 5+ activities that you can utilize during the first week of school!

(Most of these activities can easily be used and adapted throughout the year as well.)

Syllabus Scavenger Hunt

Although we want to have fun, there is important information that we need to pass on to our students in the first week. Most of this information can be found by having students “search” around the classroom for a Syllabus Scavenger Hunt.

The first thing you need to do is identify the most important information for your students to know. This includes things like: contact information, Remind codes, tutoring hours, expectations, grading and late work policy, plagiarism policy, tardy policy, necessary materials, etc. Once you pin this information down, you can create a one-pager (or even a half pager) that students can use to search for the answers. 

Make sure you have this information posted around the room for them to find. Try to post the information organically so that it helps with the flow of your classroom! I have a “Student Center” bulletin board where I keep this information posted throughout the year.

Have the students hold on to this activity so that they have it all year long. 

Check out my one-pager template for this activity for free on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Grammar Games

One thing I love to do is to utilize games in the classroom! It gets kids physically moving, talking with each other, and interacting with the content. You can also use it as a diagnostic to see what your kids know already, what needs reviewed, and what needs taught.

One easy game to play is Grammar Dice Bingo. Have students break into pairs or teams (3-4 kids). Each team needs a dice. Have students roll the dice and choose a grammar activity in the column that matches the number. They can work together to complete the task before they roll again. Once a team has a “bingo” they can turn it in to be checked! (And maybe earn some candy?)

If a team rolls one, and then rolls another one, they will do another activity within that column. It offers additional practice and makes the game more difficult. 

You can also use this activity with your English Language Learners and Special Ed students throughout the year as scaffolding and low stakes practice. Plus, you can use the blank template to match any subject that you teach!

Download Grammar Dice Bingo from TPT, or create your own using this Free Template!

As the year goes on, I’ll create and share more games for you to play in your classrooms!

Goals and One Word

I really love to encourage students to create goals for themselves, especially related to the content that we will be covering. As an English teacher, I encourage them to think about reading, writing, and what they hope to get out of it.

This year I am also going to introduce the idea of “one word” that can guide them throughout the year. That word for me is purposeful (functional in my personal life). I ask myself if this lesson is purposeful, if this objective is purposeful, if the decorations around my room are purposeful. Not only does my word help me maintain a minimalist and organized life, but it helps me to prioritize lessons that are important and working towards a larger goal. 

Using a notecard, have your students identify one word that they want to use throughout the year to guide themselves. (i.e. Courage, Dedication, Strength, Faith, etc.) On the other side, have them identify a goal for themselves in your class. If you have time, consider having them add a goal for the school year as a whole that is not class specific. 

This is a great way to start off the year with a positive mindset as well as get to know your students and what they are working towards. Just make sure to give the cards back to the students after you have read them. Otherwise, it isn’t purposeful. (**wink**)

Guess who?

This is a spin on the classic board game that gives you time to get to know your students and gets them up and moving. Not to mention, English teachers, this is a great way to start teaching inferences!

On a notecard or half sheet of paper, have students put their name at the top! Then have them put three things about themselves that others may or may not know about them. The students will want to try and “trick” the others into picking someone else. 

Collect all the papers and organize the students into a circle or standing group. They will need to see each other clearly. 

Without saying the name of the student, read one of the things on a student’s list. Have the kids try and figure out who it is and who it isn’t. Those who are “voted off” the suspect list will sit down but can still engage in the discussion. Keep going until you either figure out who the things are about or they vote that person out. 

You can modify this game by having the students write two truths and a dream. Someone told me about this modification and it would help give the students more direction with their ideas if needed. English teachers can also use the student’s dream as a writing prompt.

Material Set up — decoration day

I personally love giving the students time to get their materials set up. I will typically do this on a Friday so that come Monday, the students are ready to dive into the curriculum. 

Whether you do binders, notebooks, or have it as student choice, there are certain things that you will want students to make sure they have. For example, in my student’s notebooks I like to leave a page or two for the table of contents. I did this when I taught math too and it was super helpful! If they are using binders, you might want them to have certain tabs labeled. Think through what you want to see students have and get that set up.

Then, collect magazines, scrapbook paper, coloring utensils, or have students bring pictures. Give them time to decorate the cover of their notebook or binder so that it reflects their personalities. It makes the tool more appealing to them, and hopefully they will have more of a reason to care for it.

Play some music in the background and walk around and talk to the kids. You can continue to practice their names and get to know them. Ask about what they are putting on their notebooks and why they picked what they did! This activity also gives you insight into their personalities. 

Bonus Ideas!

If you find yourself with more time, here is a list of other things that you can include in your first week of school!

  • Have the students take a personality quiz — Either Myers Briggs or Enneagram. Truity.com has a great free site with lots of information. Students can assess whether they think their findings were correct and learn about themselves. 
  • Why do we read? Have students think of reasons that we read both in school but especially outside of school. Every job requires reading and communication of some sort. I have found that after having these talks, the students who are reluctant buy in just a little more to what we are doing.
  • If you like to collect data, have the students do a reading self-assessment. Using chunks of texts, or my resource on TPT, have the students determine whether a text is too easy, just right, or too hard. This will help you get an idea of how comfortable they are with different reading levels. You can use this information for grouping later or just to keep in mind when selecting class texts. I do not share this information with the students.

Get the kids talking and have them do a First Week Speech. As adults we know how important public speaking skills are. As teachers, we do it every day! Give the kids a chance to practice this skill in a low stakes environment on something easy. You can easily have the students bring in one thing that means a lot to them (or a picture of it) and present for one minute on why it is significant to their life. Whatever you have them present about, just keep it short.

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