First Day Themed Lesson Ideas: Part 1
I am getting ready to have my 9th first day of school as a third grader teacher! The butterflies, anxiety, and excitement all still show up every year as I prep for the first day. I always used to worry about what kind of activities to do and how much to introduce on the first day to make it the perfect mix of fun, welcoming, and routine. No child wants to sit through a whole day of procedures; and an entire day of “fun” or team activities might be overwhelming for new or introverted students. So, I came up with a way to balance the best of both worlds.
(Click here to read about my 10 First Week Must-Do lessons, including Data Wall set-up)
A couple years ago, I came up with the idea of splitting my get-to-know-you and team building activities throughout the first week with a different theme every day. My students LOVED the different theme days and the purposeful spacing out of activities gave me just the right balance of community building with setting firm expectations.
The themes and activities can be used in any order. There are some years I only did two or three days instead of a full week. (Click here to read about how I use this resource the rest of the week.)
This year, here are the different themes I will use everyday:
1st Day: Summer
2nd Day: Sports
3rd Day: Sweet Treat
4th Day: Superhero
5th Day: Emoji
The themes lend themselves to mini-room transformations if that is your jam! For the first day, “Summer” Theme Day, I like to have beach balls on hand and the beach background fadeless paper to use for first day pics! I will roll it back up and save it for end of year pics as well with an “It’s Almost Summer” theme day!
First Thing on the First Day
As students trickle in, they work out of their work folder that I already placed on their desk so that I can deal with all the morning craziness. I like to have multiple things in their folder so that they have choice. They can work in what ever order they’d like, we will be working from this folder all week long whenever I need a time filler.
In their work folders, I have:
-“Flip-Flop Favorites”: They cut out a flip flop shape and then write their favorite things in the spaces. This makes a cute bulletin board and portfolio piece.
-Summer Writing: I like to have students write without any direction from me initially, to see how much writing and what kind of writing they will produce. This is a good baseline for me. I simply tell the students to write as much as they want about whatever they did this summer. I
remind them that staying home, watching movie, or spending time with family is something they can write about to (some of my students think they have nothing to write because they did not go on vacation).
-Student name word search puzzle: I make this quickly online here. It’s a simple activity for students to do independently on the first day and it is a good way to learn classmate names.
-Coloring Bookmark: On white card stock, I print student names in an outline font for students to color and use as bookmarks. I saw on Social Media somewhere (not sure where) that another teacher leaves these out on parent night for parents to write notes on the back and then laminates them for the kids to continue using. I will definitely be doing this this year!
Getting to Know Each Other
Once everyone is settled, I go through my “About Your Teacher” PowerPoint to share more about myself with my students. I’ve found that students love to see pictures of my family and learn little things about me that they can connect to, like that I love Chipotle! I end by sharing my “Flip-Flop Favorites” with the students. I tell them that I want them to share their “flops” to get to know each other as well. I make random small groups using the Class Dojo grouping feature and have students meet to talk through their favorites. I usually mix it up with about 3 different groupings, giving a couple minutes each time.
Closing Out the Day
During the first week of school, I like to do a Closing/Afternoon meeting in addition to our morning meeting. This provides an opportunity to wrap up the day and incorporate one more team exercise. On our “Summer” theme day, our exercise is a sandcastle STEM activity!
We are really using our imaginations here, because I do not use actual sand or kinetic sand. You can have the kids use whatever materials you have on hand. In the past, I’ve used square tiles, plastic cups, 3D objects, playing cards, base ten blocks, dominoes, legos, etc. It is a great time to allow them to “play” with the math manipulatives to get it out of their system so that when you start using them for lessons, you can reinforce that it will know be used as a tool because they already had time to play with them.
Sometimes I will give awards to group for the tallest castle, the most unique castle, the best teamwork during the activity, etc. I also like to take pictures to post on our Class Dojo timeline for parents to see.
So, there you have it! That is my day one of fun for going back to school with a theme a day. Come back tomorrow to read about the themes days I incorporate throughout the rest of the week! (Read Here)
Talk to you soon,