It’s that time of the year again – back to school! While some may feel sad about the end of summer (hey, it’s ME), there’s plenty of excitement ahead as we embark on a new learning journey. This year, I’ll continue to make going back to school an unforgettable experience for my students by combining learning with fun. Hopefully, you’ll find some fantastic ideas today to kickstart the new school year with games, activities, banners, and flip books – ensuring that every student is motivated and ready to conquer the academic and social challenges that lie ahead.
Students are fresh off summer vacation where – regardless of what they’ve been doing with that vacation – they’ve had lots of freedom. When they come to school, most of them are having a hard time sitting still and paying attention for even very brief periods of time. Incorporating interactive games into the day can make the learning process engaging and enjoyable for students of all ages.
Games and Activities
Here are some ideas for classroom games and activities that promote community building:
- Four corners – This game is easy to implement and can be as low key or elaborate as you would like. Historically, my students enjoy running around the classroom (safely) as much as anything. Sometimes, they play it like hide-and-seek where one person is “it” and everyone runs (as quietly as possible) to one of the 4 corners of the room while the child who is “it” closes their eyes and counts. Then, the person who’s “it” calls out “Corner 1” (or one of the other corners) while their eyes are still closed and everyone in that corner has to go sit down. The last child standing becomes “it”. If you’re looking for something more organized and elaborate, check this out.
- Roll-and-Share – This game is exactly what it sounds like and can be played with partners, in a small group, or in the whole group. Students have simple game boards with “get to know you” questions and they take turns rolling a die and sharing. This simple game helps students who may (or may not) be friends or even know each other connect on new levels. It’s always a hit.
- Word Searches and Writing Prompts – Being a word nerd, I love word searches. I find that my students always love them, too. I also love the idea of USING those words in context by writing about the topics. Have you ever asked students to write a short piece after they complete a word search? It’s a great way to take learning to the application level with an easy step. If you’re looking for some FREE word searches for back-to-school, here are some options.
- Find Someone Who… – This is a classic. It’s so ubiquitous that you can find 5,200+ versions on Teachers Pay Teachers and MANY are free. The reason this activity is so popular is because it allows our wiggly young friends to get up, move around, and do what they love best…talk!
- Getting to Know You Fortune Tellers (Cootie Catchers) – If you’re students love making fortune tellers (mine sure do), they’ll LOVE this getting to know you freebie. Join my email list to get yours.
Creative Responses and Displays
Next up, I like to get those creative juices flowing by having my students create a display that showcases their personalities and creativity at the same time. Here are two of my favorite options:
- All About Me Banners – Students can choose a banner with a character that looks them or a banner with just boxes to write about their favorite things and then decorate to their hearts’ content. I like to display the final products in the hallway for the whole school to see and let my students do a gallery walk to learn more about their classmates.
- All About Me Flip Books – I’m going to be honest. Flip books were never my favorite UNTIL I found this foldable template (NO CUTTING INVOLVED). With these flip books, students can write and draw about themselves then simply fold and staple for a ready to share or display flip book. (Template by Jillian Fernandez, if you’d like to make your own.)
Hands-On and Minds-On Math
Finally, I know I’ve talked about these sites before, but they’re worth mentioning again. For me, excitement increased exponentially when I started using Jo Boaler’s free materials on YouCubed. You can find hands-on math activities for number sense; patterns and generalizations; shape, space, and measures; data, probability, and statistics; and data science tasks for kindergarten through 12th grade! I’m not kidding. My students also LOVE Steve Wyborney’s estimysteries (estimation challenges) and subitizing and math talk (including “Which One Doesn’t Belong?”) slides.
I sincerely hope that I’ve inspired you to try some new (or revisit some old) strategies for engaging your learners during the first week of school. With these exciting ideas for games, activities, banners, and flip books, heading back to school will become a thrilling adventure for your students and for you. Let’s make this academic year one filled with learning, laughter, and unforgettable memories. Wishing everyone a fantastic school year ahead! Let me know what questions you might have in the comments!