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Monday, August 10, 2015

First Day of School, Part 3: Activities

The first day of school is a lot of logistical stuff, and of course tons of routines and procedures. But there must be fun too! The following activities are guaranteed to put smiles on your students faces and make the nerves melt away, and a lot of routines and procedures can be worked into these activities so you can feel like you are accomplishing a lot.

1. Magic Play Dough

Magic Play Dough is always an instantaneous hit, your kids will talk about it and remember it all year long.

The idea is that each student gets a ball of magic play dough and a poem (A freebie! Written by Yours Truly!). The poem tells students that if their magic play dough changes color, they can make a wish for the new school year!

Of course, all of their play dough will be magic, as you will have loaded it with food coloring to ensure they all get to make a wish!

Some teachers make their own play dough, but I don't have the time or the kitchen skills for that. I ordered this giant tub of white play dough and will put different colors of food dye inside-

You can also buy primary colors of dough and mix them to make secondary colors, it's up to you! The kids will be amazed either way. =)

Have students keep their play dough in the baggie for the first two minutes of squeezing and squishing to make sure they don't get dyed fingers, but then they can take it out (once you've given them the go-ahead) and it does not stain at all. They can play with it, mold it into something that represents themselves or represents their wishes, etc.

Next, the poem can be turned into a fun little flap booklet.

Students simply fold down the center dotted line, then cut on the star lines to make the flaps (Or you can cut the flaps for students in advance if you are not ready for them to use scissors on the first day, I'm still debating whether or not I'm going to!), then students write their responses underneath each flap.

Gotta love Magic Play Dough.

2. Gingerbread Man School Tour

If you haven't read this book, don't bother... ORDER IT RIGHT NOW. It is seriously my favorite for the first day of school, especially because of the activity that goes along with it.

In the book, some students bake a gingerbread man and as he comes to life, they leave for recess.  The gingerbread man panics because he doesn't know where all the kids went, so he searches for them throughout the school, then finally arrives back at the classroom where the kids are ecstatic to see him again!

The author, Laura Murray, has a fabulous (free!) gingerbread man hunt as a follow-up activity -

This is the PERFECT opportunity to do a school tour on the first day of school. You leave the clues out ahead of time, and the clues lead you and your students around to different parts of the school. It's a great opportunity to practice line up and hallway procedures, to meet other staff members they need to know, and to familiarize students with their surroundings.

In the end, the final clue leads you back to the classroom where the gingerbread man is waiting for you!

This guy ( is on his way to me right now, I can't wait! You can also print out a big version of him ( and color him in, or put out real gingerbread man cookies (Little Debbie makes some).

I will be leaving little gingerbread cookies (just small, round cookies) out at each student's desk; a gift from the Gingerbread Man! You will need a partner in crime in order to pull this last part off of course. Someone who can set out the cookies and the GB Man while your class is out and about... so save some cookies for bribery!

3. School Transportation Graphing Activity 

A little taste of math! To make sure that I know how students are going home, I do a graphing activity on the first day of school.

For Meet the Teacher Night, before school begins, I have transportation visual cards in a pocket chart. Parents fill out and sign parent permission cards with the required information about how their child is getting home each day, then they put them in the pocket chart and I collect them at the end of the night for my records.

Then on the first day of school, I do a math activity where I have the students put a name card in the category that describes how they are going home that day. Then they color in a graph to match the transportation data and we talk about which category has the most, the least, etc.


4. School Year Timeline

I have a year-long timeline set up somewhere permanent before school begins. It is a place where we document special events throughout the school year, and kids just love checking out the timeline and reminiscing about our year every once in awhile.

On the first day of school, I take a class picture in the morning. I print it out during my lunch or planning period, and we put the first event on our timeline sometime in the afternoon. Kids just love the nostalgia of always getting to look back on this picture of our first day together. And I start working on those social studies standards right off the bat! ;)


5. All About Me Activity

 Finally, the first day of school isn't complete without an All About Me activity! It's so important to get to know your students, and for them to get to know each other. Relationships are what this whole school thing hinges on; with them, your class will be harmonious and successful, without them, everyone struggles. Take the time, on this first day and throughout the first few weeks, to build those relationships.

There are so many great all about me activities out there, but this is the one I'm going to do this year! It comes from Sparkling in Second Grade, and I fell in love with it the moment I saw her post it!

It's adorable, it's editable, and it's fun. What more do you need? =)

I hope you have found some helpful ideas in this three-part series about the first day of school! If you missed one of the prior posts, you can navigate to them on the side bar ----->

Have a great first day, and a great year!


  1. Wonderful! Thank you for lots of wonderful ideas!

    1. I'm glad you found some inspiration Sandy! It can be so overwhelming at the beginning of the year, I wanted to give folks some ideas to help with planning that first crazy day! ;) Hope yours goes well!