The first week of school is so exciting! And if you are anything like me, you start thinking about what fun activities for the first week of school you can try out with your new students.
The first challenge any teacher has to overcome is getting these children to start learning about each other. When students know and are comfortable with who their classmates are, they are more likely to share out and contribute to the classroom in meaningful ways. A great way to start doing the relationship-building work is to have students respond to simple, two answer questions. In my “Who are my classmates?” activity, students will read statements on the screen and then move to a side of the room that they agree with. This fun, low stakes activity is great for getting students talking in the first week of school, and to have them learn about collaboration. You can find that lesson by clicking here.
2. Bingo Icebreaker and the gift
Who doesn’t love bingo? Bingo is a great way to get students comfortable in your room. Students put topics on their bingo card in the order they want and then fill it out as quickly as possible. I like to offer rewards for someone who can fill their whole card.
Another activity I love to try out with students is called “The Gift.” Students pair up with a classmate, create questions or ask pre-made questions, and then introduce them to the class with a presentation that can take many different creative avenues like a powerpoint, a video, or even a performed song. You can find this activity here.
Okay, I know a lot of teachers don’t vibe with poetry, but how can you pass up a poem about cheese fries? In “Ode to Cheese Fries” Jose Olivarez reminisces about his childhood, using cheese fries as a vehicle on that journey to the past. I like to use this poem as an opportunity to explore who my students are by having them imitate the format and tell me about who they are. This is a great first lesson for students to explore not only who they are, but to discover what rigor is like in your class. This lesson is jam packed with an anticipation guide, a SMILE (structure, meaning, imagery, language, and effect) organizer, TikTok Response, mentor planner, mentor poem, and a one pager. You can find it here.
I know, another poetry lesson- but trust me, this one is also a great option for starting the school year! Clint Smith’s “Meteor Shower” looks at where people are and where they have come from. It begs the question of if we carry a bit of where we come from with us as we move through the world. Amazing, right? This gives teachers a great opportunity to use the poem to learn how their students perceive their identities. In this lesson, I usually have students break the poem down with a SMILE graphic organizer and then complete a TikTok video and one pager. In the one pager, students explain who they are, where they come from, and where they are going. You can find this lesson here.
It is so important to start establishing routines and structure with new students. This is why one of the activities I introduce to students in the first week of school is First Chapter Friday. As an English teacher, I love it when my students discover new books to read or come to me asking for recommendations on what to read. First Chapter Friday is a great way to engender reading culture in your classroom from the very beginning.
First Chapter Friday is where you feature a book, read the first chapter, and then you have students review the book and decide if they would like to read it. I like to make sure my school’s library has the book in stock or that the book of the week is available in my classroom library. I have put together a toolkit of student notes, teacher presentation, and a curated year long book list: You can find this toolkit here.