Ready for back to school?

Here are — activities to get you started on the right foot.

Get to know your students

One of the most important aspects of starting a new school year is getting to know your students.

There are so many advantages of getting to know your students:

  • you can tailor your lessons to meet their needs and their interests
  • you’ll have better classroom management when students know you truly care about them

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Planning Back to school activities

9 Ways to get to know them

  1. I love this back to school writing “Magazine About Me” activity. Super easy and fun for your students to complete and share with each other. Plus, it’ makes a great slide show or bulletin board display.

2. Have students interview and introduce each other.

3. Play a game. Have a scavenger hunt or play Scattegories. Games like these will get students moving around and talking to each other. Plus, they’re just plain fun!

scavenger hunts for back to school

4. Another fun game is “How Bad Could it Be”?

You can play this in a circle, or just go around the room. The first person makes a statement where something is bad, like “I slept through my alarm.” As you move around the room, each student adds to the statement to make the situation worse. Keep going until you call time — or things are really at the worst point!

You can also play “How good could it be?” for a more positive note.

Note: This is a fun game to keep in mind when you are teaching description!

5. Have students complete an interest survey. Do they like to read? What are their favorite books? Do they like to write?

Be sure to have open ended questions that will require more than a yes or no answer.

6. Have your students create Word Art that represents themselves. Start with having them create a list of adjectives that would use to describe themselves. They can fill in a silhouette with words — large words representing qualities that are stronger or more important. Here’s a pin to give you an idea of what the finished product would look like.

7. Give each student an index card.  Have them write their name, email address, parent info,  birthday, favorite candy on it, and something you should know about them. 

You can use these cards to “pull” for groups (here’s a post about how to do that) — or to call on students. 

If you want to put  student birthdays on your calendar, you’ll have them.  If you want (and are allowed to) give birthday treats, you’ll know what they like.

8. If you’re teaching writing, you should definitely get a writing sample from them.  Here’s a post that guides you through that. This is so important for know where your students are as writers!

9. Give each students a playing card — then have them create different “hands” like a full house or a straight. Again, this will get students moving around and thinking.

Create an inviting back to school environment

Especially after the year we’ve had, getting back to school is so important!

Decorating or designing your classroom space sets the tone for how students will perceive the learning that will be happening in that space.

Your students will learn better when they are comfortable. And your classroom can be!

I’m not a designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I love Pinterest.

I created this Zen Classroom Pinterest Board with ideas for how you can make your classroom a calming, stress-free environment. Take a look — many of the ideas are free and easy to implement.

Clean out your library. If you can, replace those ratty torn books (or better yet, save them for blackout poems) — and use space on top of your bookshelves to create an inviting book display.

How to create a positive Back to school experience

Set your policies and procedures in advance

If you don’t set up your expectations at the start of the year, your students will set them up for you! And it most likely be what you had in mind!

Take some time to think, plan, and write down the policies and procedures you want your students to follow.

Be sure to work with your team on this. When you all have the same vision for the year, life will be so much easier!

For example, do you want your students to turn in homework in a certain place? Will you write assignments on the board? Is there a way you want students to check books out of your classroom library, use the restroom, or use classroom supplies?

If you don’t have a school or team policy for absent or missing work, write one.

And don’t be afraid to change policies that don’t serve you or your students. You can always adjust along the way.

Think about this: As you are thinking about your policies and procedures, remember that they should be designed to be easy. You don’t want to create more work for yourself (like chasing down missing work). A simple sign out sheet on a clipboard at the door can be used for students who need to use the restroom.

How to create a Yearlong Plan

Have a back to school plan

In the excitement of setting up your classroom, don’t forget to plan your year.

Your future self will LOVE you for this! Even just a simple quarter-by-quarter sketch will help you know what to teach and when.

Especially in the first few weeks of school, you’ll want to work with students to develop good habits — and make your classroom management more effective.

If you are teaching writing workshop, you can use these 20 Days of Mini Lessons to help your students set up their writing notebook. You’ll also establish your students’ writing habits and how they can use their notebooks.

writing workshop mini lessons for back to school

If you haven’t already read The First Days of School by Harry Wong, you need to get a copy RIGHT NOW!

This book has so many practical, wonderful ideas and examples of how you can establish and set up strong classroom management habits.

Have fun

Of course, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your students!