*Sighs in teacher voice* Summer is coming to a close. But having a solid plan for back to school activities for elementary students will make the transition from couch to classroom much easier!
That’s what I’m here to help with! In this post I will provide you with teacher-tested, kid-approved activities to incorporate into your classroom at the start of the new school year. The focus of these activities is to build classroom community from the very beginning. Check out this blog post all about building classroom community!
Here are some of the must-have activities I use with my new students year after year to promote a strong classroom community (and don’t forget to grab my FREE First Day Plans at the bottom of this page!):
Getting to Know You Activities
Bio Poems: Get to know your students and use this time to teach & practice expectations for painting! Yes, painting in the beginning of the year is something you can definitely handle! This is one of my favorite back to school activities for elementary. Students fill out a template (there are a ton on TpT, I’ve used this one before), then transcribe their poem onto final draft paper. Students draw a self portrait then, using watercolors, paint it! Conduct a “gallery walk” when all projects are finished, by hanging the poems around the room. Let students explore to learn about their classmates. Tip: This is always my first bulletin board display 😀
Classmate Quest: My first day favorite! This is such a fun way to get kids up and moving around, mixing and mingling with their new classmates. After students roam the room to ask each other various questions, they can share out a couple things they learned about each other. Most of the questions are silly or simple “get to know you” type, but some are super helpful for the teacher to understand how their students prefer to learn! Win-win! Grab it here or get the bundle.
Slam Dunk School Year: This one is fun and serves as another “get to know you” back to school activities for elementary that will also help get the wiggles out in the first week of school. Channel your inner basketball coach and get your team talking and bonding, start building that classroom community early on! Grab it here or get the bundle.
All About Me Flipbooks: These are a gold mine of useful information to help you better understand your students as learners and humans. One of the most important pages in this flipbook is the Reading Interest Survey! This is vital information that will help you help your students build a positive reading life this year! They’re all those important back to school forms, in one cute little package. When the kiddos are done filling out each flap, store them in individual student folders for reference throughout the year! Grab it here or get the bundle.
Activities to Build Classroom Community
The 5 P’s and Behavior Scale: Start here. Introduce the 5 P’s, one at a time, and explain that these are the guidelines we will live by in, and out of, the classroom. Students need to understand what each word means, and they need the chance to practice examples and non-examples. Turn this into something fun by assigning one of the 5 P’s to small groups of students. Have them brainstorm examples and non-examples of the word, then give time for them to act it out for their classmates! Grab it here or get the bundle. The Behavior Scale is an everyday staple that you can read ALL about in this blog post!
Classroom Jobs: This isn’t exactly an activity, but it is an important part of classroom community and should be incorporated into your daily routine early on. I have a whole blog post on classroom jobs, plus a fun freebie, HERE! The beginning of school is all about modeling, modeling modeling. Demonstrate each job, focusing on a few at a time, and assign the job to small groups of kiddos. Then, once students have had the chance to see each job in action, and you’ve covered expectations for all of them, students are reading to take on the jobs independently. Grab it here or get the bundle.
Behavior Focus Meetings: The concept is simple but the impact is huge. Incorporate this into your Morning Meetings, or make it your morning meeting. Behavior Focus Meetings bring mindfulness into the classroom and help your students take ownership over their choices and actions. Introduce the focus topic on Monday, check in throughout the week, and give time to reflect on Friday. You’re going to love this. Grab it here or get the bundle.
Here’s an excerpt from a longer blog post I wrote about behavior management and classroom community:
“Behavior Focus Meetings call attention to a specific action you want your students to complete/reflect upon during the week. Posing a driving question on Monday such as: How will you show kindness this week? or Which expected behavior will you focus on this week? sets students off on a mission to be purposeful in their actions throughout the week. This is a great way to build community, reinforce expectations and incorporate social emotional learning on a weekly basis.” Click here to read more.
Save Fred: This STEM activity is seriously the best. It’s so hard to do and will open up the conversation about having perseverance, teamwork, and accepting that we aren’t perfect at everything. I use this resource from TpT to prep and explain the activity to the kids. I recommend letting them try this twice, because, from my experience, most of them won’t be able to do it if they’re adhering to the rules. The purpose of this is to have an open discussion and help your students realize, early on, that they can do hard things!
ENGAGEMENT TIP: Have some fun and really “hook” your students in! Draw blank lines on the board and when you see a student exhibiting model behavior, call on them to shout out a letter. This can be done for anything and can make almost any task more exciting. Try it out! 🤓
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Setting a solid foundation for a classroom community is the best thing you can do for behavior management in the long run. The resources above are what help me get started on the right foot year after year, and I hope they help you, too! Which back to school activities for elementary students will you try this year?
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