6 FREE First Day of School Activities for Elementary Students


As the new school year approaches, you may be feeling the pressure that comes with starting off on the right foot. You want to create a positive and engaging learning environment from day one, but where do you start? That’s why I’ve compiled a collection of FREE first day of school activities and resources that will help you build classroom community, promote positivity, plan your first day with ease, and much more! These exciting projects and activities are perfect for your elementary students in grades 2-5.

All of these back to school freebies, plus many more resources, can be found in my Free Resource Library! Click here for access.

Brown Bag Project for Back to School

One of my favorite first day of school activities! This print-and-go project helps build classroom community from day one. The Brown Bag Project is a great way to get to know your students and give them the opportunity to talk about themselves and their interests. Classmates will make connections with each student, and new friendships will be formed.

This activity asks students to find 5 items that represent them. Students will share their items with the class, all with the goal to make connections with their new classmates! This is a great project to assign on the first day of school. Students can gather their items throughout the week and plan to share with the class on Friday. 

Promoting Positivity Project

This makes the perfect back to school (or yearlong!) bulletin board. This is what I’ve displayed on my bulletin board titled: When We’re Here We’re Family. Start by taking each student’s picture. Then, have them complete the accompanying prompts found in this freebie. Students will be asked to share a word that best describes them and a quote that will motivate them through challenges they face this year. Lastly, put each student’s picture into PowerPoint, Google Slides or Canva, add their word on top and their quote on the bottom.

I encourage students to talk about this project with their families at home. It’s one of those quick first day of school activities that makes a big impact. Students love reading what their classmates wrote, and you ultimately end up with a wall of encouragement for the whole class! Doing this in the beginning of the year serves as a bit of a time capsule to reflect on at the end of the year. Whether you display the photos all year long or for a short period of time, they make a great keepsake for families.

Idea: Repeat this project at the end of the year to show how students have grown and changed! 

First Day of School Plans

Let me check this off your to-do list for you! Your first day is planned from start to finish. How great does that sound? These activities can be used throughout the week if you’re required to do certain procedures on the very first day, but it’s a great starting point to help you avoid those first day jitters!

I like to incorporate a mix of activities throughout the day. I focus on “getting to know you” activities, procedures, and movement. Students are fresh off of a summer high, so it’s important to keep their attention span in mind! Try not to keep them sitting still for more than 15 mins at a time. The first day plans provide lots of ways for you to get them up and moving, talking to their classmates, and they give you time to cover the important procedures they need to know.

Back to School Meaningful Decor

Bring some back-to-school spirit into your classroom or hallway bulletin board with Meaningful Decor reading banners! This is one of those perfect first day of school activities. It incorporates reading, writing, coloring, and being creative. It allows you to share your students’ love of reading and practice important literacy skills and standards, all while creating themed decor. These banners can be used with any fiction or nonfiction book or text. This freebie is great for the first week of school to pair with any of your read alouds! 

Show off your students’ awesome work and creativity (and get some fine motor practice in with cutting out shapes) with reading banners all year long. I have these reading activities for each holiday and season, so you never have to worry about what to put on your bulletin boards again!

These reading banners cover: story elements, summarizing, main idea and details, sequencing, nonfiction reading skills, and more. See the bundle here.

Behavior Focus Meetings for Classroom Community

These meetings are part of my 3 step system to ultimate classroom management (read more about that here). They use read alouds and discussion topics to foster a sense of classroom community through good choices and upstanding behavior. This is the perfect first day of school activities to build classroom community from day one. Students learn to take ownership of their actions through modeling and positive reinforcement. Behavior Focus Meetings are the key to creating an engaging and accepting learning environment.

Here’s How it Works:

1. Select a focus prompt (there are 16 weeks of meetings in the full resource and they can be used in any order)

2. Determine if you want to provide behavior options for students to choose from or brainstorm collectively on the spot, then input them into the editable bubbles.

3. Introduce the behavior focus for the week by reading one of the suggested stories aloud. Utilize the story events and suggested discussion points from the Teacher Guide to help students choose their focus.

4. Check in with students throughout the week to monitor their progress. Seize teachable moments to reinforce opportunities for goal achievement. Consider additional read-aloud sessions.

5. Wrap up the week with a Friday reflection. Commend students for their good choices and hold a mini-celebration. Encourage sharing of successes, emphasizing increased mindfulness in daily decision-making and lessons learned from the experience.

Classroom Organization File Box Doodle Labels

Need a little organization to start the school year? These file box labels are helpful to organize student information, teacher information and all the projects and activities you’ll use throughout the year. 

I like to save samples of the completed projects to use as examples year after year. Some of them I make myself, other times I’ll ask students if I can keep theirs! This is always one of my top tips for not having to recreate the wheel. Personally, I’ve found success in sorting out projects by first half and second half of the year. Plus, when it’s time to transition to that second half box, you know you’re that much closer to summer 😀

You can find more classroom organization tips and tricks in this blog post, and if you’re interested in ditching the bins in your library, check out this post and these library labels! 

All of these back to school freebies, plus many more free resources, can be found in my Free Resource Library! Click here for access.

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