Welcome Activities for the New School Year!

Don’t worry, you still have quite a while before back to school. And I’m here to do a little of your planning for you… Below are several different first day activities that are low prep and maximum impact for your students. You’re welcome. 😊

Back to school can be nerve wracking for everyone. I know I could never sleep the night before the first day of school. Many of our colleagues, students and their parents feel the same. Sometimes our students just need a smile and warm and welcome to assuage their anxiety. I always stood at the door with a big smile and shook hands with every student who walked through the door. I asked their name, repeated it back until I said it correctly, and told them I was glad to meet them. Then I sent them to a seat (that I often assigned randomly on the spot) because many kids aren’t sure where to go sit on the first day. Assigning their seat makes it easier on all of them.

Expectations Activity

Have students work in groups of 2 – 4 to brainstorm a list of all the possible expectations they might have of their teacher. This is an awkward ask for many middle school and high school students. And odds are nobody has ever asked them this one before. You may have to provide some examples:

  • do you expect me to be prepared every day?
  • do you expect me to answer questions when you don’t understand?
  • do you expect me to grade your work fairly and give you feedback?

This is an easy activity that takes 5 minutes to explain and all you need is a blank piece of paper for the kids to write their list on. Kids should be encouraged to write at least 4 expectations, but as many as they can come up with. This usually takes groups about 10 minutes. Afterwards, collect the sheets (they don’t need to put their names on them) and turn them into one large teacher chart with all the expectations listed (there will be duplicates so don’t worry, it should fit if you don’t write too big).

One of my students’ lists. Credit: Canva

I LOVE this activity. It is amazing what the kids come up with. Give it a try! I promise you’ll find it interesting and it will set the right tone with you students.

Getting to Know you Scavenger Hunt

This fun activity has students getting up and circulating around the room to get to know their classmates. Each box in the scavenger hunt has a different instruction. Examples include:

  • find a classmate who has a birthday the same month as you
  • find a classmate who plays a musical instrument
  • find a classmate who has a pet

When students identify that classmate, they ask their name and write it in the box. The goal is to find a different student for each box. (You can tell students they can only use the same name twice or something like that if you wish. Add your own spin! I usually tell kids they HAVE to spell the name correctly to get credit.)

Teachers can get in on this activity too! It’s a great way for students to get to know each other, and to find something they might have in common with their peers and teacher!

If you finish with time to spare, you can share out some of the answers as a whole group.

Here’s a link to my Getting to Know You scavenger hunt on TPT.

“What You Need to Know about Me” student survey

This is a simple student survey, as so many of us do. These are independent work that students complete on their own. They include questions like “what’s your favorite food?” or “do you have siblings?” or “do you speak any other languages?”

I also like to ask if there is another language spoken at home, and if their families speak english. I ask about favorite classes and why. I also ask about future ambitions.

These surveys are the perfect place to ask how a name is pronounced or if there is a nickname a student prefers. Now a days, I also ask about preferred pronouns.

Since this activity is done independently, I usually have students complete it as a “do now” on the first day of school while I take attendance.

Stand Up If… Stay Standing If…

In this activity, you prepare questions ahead of time. You want to think of questions that everyone will say yes to, some will say yes to, and few will say yes to. Here’s how it works.

Begin with a question everyone will say yes to. You’ll say “Stand up if you’ve ever … watched the movie batman”. Nearly everyone stands up. Pause and encourage students to look around to see who is standing.

Next, select a question that some will say yes to. You’ll say “remain standing if you know how to cook scrambled eggs”. Some students may sit down and some will remain standing. Again, look around and encourage kids to do the same.

Finally, select a question that few will say yes to. You’ll say “remain standing if you have more than 5 pets”. Many students will probably sit down and you’ll see if anyone remains standing.

It’s important that these questions are all one kids will feel comfortable sharing and won’t mind their peers knowing about them. Better yet, if you pick good questions, you’ll give kids an opportunity to find students they may have a lot in common with!

Potential questions: Stand if you…

  • traveled out of state this summer
  • traveled out of the country this summer
  • have siblings
  • have more than 3 siblings
  • play a sport
  • play an instrument
  • like to read
  • like to swim
  • like rollercoasters
  • like water rides
  • speak another language

Hopefully some of these ideas pique your interest. In our efforts to make students feel welcomed and comfortable in our classes, these sorts of activities can go a long way. And none of them take too much planning time.

Visit my TPT store for other fun class activities!

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