15 First Day of School Activities for Elementary Teachers

Feeling some nervous excitement when you start thinking about the first day of school? That’s totally normal - and we’re here to help with some ideas to help jumpstart your back-to-school planning! Check out our full list of first day of school activities to get your elementary school students learning on day one.

1. Welcome Stations

On their first day your students may be nervous or may be so excited that they’re bouncing off the walls. Either way, having some welcome stations for them to immediately start their day with an activity is a great way to help all your students hit the ground running.

Consider setting up three to five stations around the classroom that involve a variety of activities including:

  • Finding and reading a book from the classroom library
  • Working on a group art project
  • Playing with math manipulatives
  • Learning about your classroom learning center

However you want to organize these activities make sure you have a variety of task types to keep your students engaged while they get settled into your classroom.

2. Classroom Scavenger Hunt

Another great first day classroom activity for elementary students is a scavenger hunt to help them explore all the different areas in your classroom.

For example you could have students try to find…

  • A book about outer space
  • The lost and found area
  • A classroom plant
  • The classroom supply closet
  • Their personal cubby or locker
  • Classroom technology
  • Pencil sharpener

Depending on your grade level, you could also turn this scavenger hunt into a bingo game to encourage students to not only find different areas of the classroom, but also practice problem solving skills by thinking about how to get five answers in a row.

3. Kodable Back-to-School Coding Challenge

Giving students an engaging activity to dive into on day one is a great way to get students excited about learning all year long. If you’re looking for an activity students are sure to love, look no further than Kodable!

Kodable is an educational game for elementary students that introduces readers and pre-readers alike to the basics of computer science. Self-paced lessons, unlimited creative activities, and helpful hints when students need them all help young learners get excited and prepared for their digital future. 

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to introduce your students to Kodable because starting in September, Kodable’s back-to-school coding challenge begins! These four weeks of coding challenges will introduce your students to the wide world of Kodable, build logical and critical thinking skills, and help kickstart their coding journey. Plus did we mention students get a fun prize after they finish all four tasks? 

Signup for your free Kodable account today to get your class ready for their first day of coding.

4. Review Classroom Rules and Procedures

While this may not seem as fun as the other items on this list, the first day of school is a great opportunity to explain to your students how they are expected to behave in the classroom and to clearly lay out the rules they’re expected to follow all year.

Taking this opportunity to implement your classroom management system doesn’t have to be boring but instead can be a part of another exciting activity like coding your back to school procedures!

5. Names Games

For older elementary grades, your students may already know most of their classmates. But for kindergarten and other younger students, playing a name game is a great way to get students to know each other better (and it helps you remember everyone as well).

You can play this game a number of different ways but really it boils down to having your students stand in a circle and say their name along with an accompanying gesture, movement, or another word that begins with the same letter as their first name. Each student then takes a turn trying to repeat every student before them. For younger students if this is too challenging you can limit the number of students each student has to remember.

6. Friendship Bracelets

Provide students with materials to create friendship bracelets for themselves and to share with a classmate. This activity can help encourage collaboration and communication skills among your students while also fostering a sense of community among your class. Who knows - you might end up with a few friendship bracelets yourself before the day is over!

7. Collaborative Art Project

A collaborative art project can help your students work together while also helping you decorate your classroom. This project could be a mural, collage, or small individual art projects that you piece together to display a full class full of young learners. Need some inspiration? Consider letting your students all sign off on your classroom rules or all draw a self portrait to hang on a bulletin board.

8. Choice Board Exercise

Similar to our welcome stations example, choice boards give students the freedom to decide what activities interest them while still adhering to our overall learning goals and objectives. Choice board examples can range from completing a tic tac toe board, a bingo board, or a virtual makerspace.

9. Learning contracts

Learning contracts are agreements between you and your students that outline specific learning goals and expectations that can be made between you and individual students or a whole class. By doing this at the beginning of the year, you can help set your expectations of your students for the year and refer back to these contracts throughout the year as necessary.

10. “Get to Know Me” Activities 

A crucial part of building a positive classroom culture is getting to know your students. And there’s no better time to start than the first day of school! Consider having your students fill our printables to tell you their favorite food, color, friend, or other information. Students can either use these to give the class a brief presentation about themselves or simply turn them in at the end of the day for you to get to know your students better.

11. Summer Show and Tell

Another quick and easy way to get to know your students better on the first day of school is to have them all give a short presentation on what they did over the summer. Students can stand in front of the class and talk about something they did this summer or you can give them a quick printable to draw or write a summer memory.

12. “Guess Who?” Game

This activity is a great way to jump start gamification in your classroom! Have students write down three things about themselves and collect the responses. Then, quiz students on their classmates by reading a fact at a time and having students guess who the mystery student is. When students answer correctly, you can give them a small prize like a sticker or pencil eraser.

13. Reading Time

Need a first day of school activity that will give you a quiet moment or two during the day? Either pick out books ahead of time or have students pick their own books from your classroom library to read for a specified period of time. You can also use this as a quasi-transition activity to set up another activity once reading time is over. If you are working with pre-readers you can use this time to read aloud to students instead of having them read themselves.

14. Brain Break Activities

While you likely want to have a full first day of school planned to keep your students engaged and learning all day, don’t forget to make time for brain breaks! These can include short physical activities, mindfulness exercises, or simple stretches to help promote concentration and well-being throughout the day. If you plan on having brain breaks on a regular basis, be sure to emphasize your transition routine in and out of breaks to reinforce your desired behavior.

15. Letter to Their Future Self

Have your students fill out a worksheet or a blank piece of paper with a letter to their future self to be opened at the end of the year. If your students need help with this activity your worksheet can help prompt them or you can give more specific instructions on the board about what to include in their letter. If you are working with pre-readers you could also have students draw a self-portrait instead. Whatever your students create, put them in envelopes and label them accordingly and store them safely. Then at the end of the year you can send your students home with their letters as a fun way to close out what we’re sure is a great year of learning!

Ready to look beyond the first day of school? Check out our holiday STEM calendar for a full school year’s worth of exciting STEM opportunities!