20 Great Activities for the First Month of School

Preparation is key to kicking off the school year to a great start, being in the good graces of your school administration, keeping your stress levels down, and maintaining a great work-life balance.

Since the first month of school is about getting to know your students and allow them to settle into school again, having great activities lined up will help establish the tone for the rest of the year. We’ve compiled a list below of the many activities you can set up for your students while they get to know one another and figure out their team dynamics.

(Note: Most of the activities were designed with elementary students in mind, but many middle and high school students will enjoy them too!)

General Activities

1. Scavenger Hunt. Pair your students up and give them a list of objects to find around the classroom. You can use a scavenger hunt to help familiarize students with the layout of the classroom or to help them find important papers and other supplies they’ll need during the school year. A fun spin on this activity is to have students solve clues that will ultimately unlock a mystery box with a treat inside of it. Depending on the age of your students, the clues can range from mathematical problems, to chemistry questions, anagrams, and more.

2. All About Me. Ask students to bring a photo of themselves to school, or draw a self portrait. Students should write their names clearly and large. This can be pinned up in the classroom so that you and the students can learn everyone’s names easily. A fun extension a few days later is to play a game of “Guess Who” by reading the descriptions of students but hiding the face.

3. A Class Project. If you’ve ever had to pitch a tent, you’ll agree that it’s one of the biggest tests of communication and team work! While you’re not going to go camping in your classroom, you can find other activities that require communication and teamwork, such as constructing a bookshelf, decorating the classroom door, creating a bulletin board or classroom rules poster, or plant a classroom garden. This type of shared activity will help you learn your students’ communication styles and help you all learn to work together. It’s also a great way to spot leaders, and students who shy away from group activities.

4. Find a Friend. After a lot of missed time at school, being in a room full of peers can be intimidating for some students. An easy activity to help break the ice and encourage one on one conversations about shared interests is to create a “Find a Friend” worksheet wherein some interests with pictures are shown, such as hobbies, activities, sports, favorite foods (or worst foods). If two students list ice-cream as their favorite food, have them pair up start talking about the joys of ice-cream – what’s the best brand, topping, spoon or cone, etc. They can then present what they have in common to the class.

5. Bucket Filling. The concept of bucket filling has become popular in many schools. Give each student a plastic bucket to decorate. Talk to students about actions that fill their buckets (being kind, showing respect) and actions that take away from their buckets (not listening, putting others down). Throughout the school year kids can add and take away small stickers, coins, or other tangible objects from their buckets.

Language Arts Activities

6. Readers’ Theater. Take a popular fable or fairy tale and turn it into a readers’ theater piece for the class. Place students into groups and have each group decide how to perform the story for the class. This activity will help students become more comfortable speaking in front of their peers and give them a chance to learn to cooperate with others.

7. Group Writing. Have each student take out a piece of paper and write a sentence or first line of a poem on the top line. Students then pass their papers around the room with each classmate adding a sentence or line. At the end of the activity, every student has a class story or poem to share. Chances are students will think they’re hilarious too!

8. Writing Time Capsule. Give students a traditional back-to-school writing prompt, but add a bit of a twist. Take each student’s piece of writing and place it into a large mailing tube or envelope. Call it a “time capsule” and explain to students that you’ll pull each piece out at the end of the year so they can see how much their writing has improved.

9. My ABCs. Using the 26 letters of the alphabet as inspiration, have students write 26 words or fun facts to describe themselves. They can turn these into small ABC books or simply read them aloud. Use our handy alphabet charts as a template for this activity. You can even emojify this lesson by having students choose five emojis they feel represent them as a person. They should draw these emojis and then explain why, alternatively, the student displays their five emojis to the class and their peers can decipher them.

10. Read a Book. Since the beginning of the school year is so stressful, regularly take some time to sit with students and read a book together. You can let students suggest some of their favorite books to read or choose a fun chapter from the book that the whole class will enjoy.

Math Activities

11. Class Survey. Divide students into small groups and have each group write a summer or back-to-school themed survey question. Each group writes its question and creates a graph for the answers on a large piece of paper hung on the classroom wall. All students then walk around the room and plot their answers on the papers using colored sticker dots.

12. Me by the Numbers. Allow students to blend their artistic talents and math skills with this activity. Give students blank sheets of paper and have them draw pictures of themselves (or use photos) in the middle. Around their pictures, students answer and illustrate number related questions about themselves. For example: How old are you? How many pets do you have? What size shoe do you wear?

13. Find Someone Who… Bingo. Print a copies of the number-themed Find Someone Who… Bingo cards. Ask students get to know their classmates by talking with each other and writing the initials of the student they find that fits each statement in that box.

14. What’s Your Birthday? Challenge students to arrange themselves in a line across the room in order of birthday (day and month). The catch? No talking or writing.

15. Human Knot. This classic team-building activity also strengthens student understanding of special relationships and pattern recognition. Have 8 – 10 students stand in a circle, raise their right hands, and then join hands with someone across from them. Repeat with left hands. Important – students should be holding hands with two different people and not holding hands with a person next to them. Groups must then untangle the knot without letting go of hands. Try combining students into larger groups after they are successful untying themselves in smaller groups.

Science Activities

16. Lost on the Moon. In this exercise, students must work both individually and together to rank a set of items based upon their importance for surviving on the moon. After, teams can compare their ranking to how experts ranked the items. Get started with this online version.

17. Tower Building. Challenge small groups of students to construct the tallest tower they can using only the materials provided in a given time. Simple materials that work well include straws and paperclips, plastic cups, and index cards.

18. Class Pet or Terrarium. Raising and caring for a pet or growing plants in a terrarium can be a year-long class endeavor that helps foster an appreciation for nature. If your school allows small pets like fish or hamsters, students can work together to develop a job share schedule for feeding, cleaning, and vacation care. Another option is to have students design, build, and care for a class terrarium.

19. Classroom Makerspace. Introduce your students to the concept of makerspaces – a physical location to design, collaborate, and build. Designate an area of your classroom as a makerspace, and have the class brainstorm what should go in the space. Working together to design and create the space will get students excited to use it throughout the year.

20. Two Facts and a Science Fiction. In this variation of Two Truths and a Lie, each student researches two interesting, strange, or amazing science facts and makes-up one science falsehood. Students then take turns sharing their three statements and the class votes on which one is incorrect, or a piece of science fiction.

What activities do you use to help get to know your students and build a sense of community in your classroom at the beginning of the school year? We’d love for you to share them in the comments!

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One Response to “20 Great Activities for the First Month of School”

  1. florina says:

    thank you so much. Those ideas were useful enough for me.

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