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The First Days:

Opening Activity Ideas

The First Days is a collection of tips and ideas. These pages are not geared for any specific grade level. Please pick and choose what works for you. Feel free to copy and use the sample activities, and to copy these pages to share with others.

What to do...

  • Pair up the students in a clever way and have them interview each other. Prepare a simple interview sheet for the students to write or draw the responses. Model how to use the interview sheet to get to know a classmate. Use another adult so you don't take a possible partner. You might also need to be a partner if you have an odd number of students. After the interviews are completed, have the students sit with their partner and model how to introduce their classmate using the interview sheet as a guide.

    Sample Interview Form (feel to copy, adapt, and use this form!)

  • Have the students draw a self-portrait on one half of a piece of manila paper and attach the interview sheet.

  • Have the students write an autobiography in their writing draft book.This could be one of your first writing lessons. Do a lesson on how they could use the interview sheet to write their autobiography. Model how you take a one word answer, for example, fireman, and turn it into a complete sentence. This autobiography can be edited, recopied, and glued onto a second piece of manila paper. Have the students share their portrait and autobiography with the class. If you have a large class, you might want to have four or five students share each day so by the end of the week, everyone knows each other better. This work sample can be displayed in the room for Back To School Night or can be used as the beginning pages for a book about themselves.

  • Plan some safe humor interactions for the students to build a comfort level and relaxed environment. One terrific source is The Laughing Classroom by Diane Loomans and Karen Kolberg, H. J. Kramer, ISBN 0-915811-44-8. They have a section called "Warm-ups" which are designed to breakdown those uncomfortable feelings of being new to each other.

  • Conduct a Social Studies lesson on maps reading. Obtain a copy of the floor plan of the school and make a copy for each child. Make an overhead for yourself. Use your overhead to help the students understand the location of the library, cafeteria, art, music, gym, and fire escape route in relation to their new classroom. Have the students use their crayons to color in the room on their floor plan while you use overhead pens. Example: "Let's find the library on our map. Put your finger on the library on your map. Let's shade the library red..."

  • When the map lesson is completed, take a tour of the school. Begin with the fire drill route and school grounds, and then tour the inside of the building. During the tour you will notice certain behavior which might not be what you expect, which leads you to the need for the next lesson. Find this lesson in the next section "Some Management Tips!"

    Personal Scavenger Hunt: Prepare a sheet for each student. Students move around the classroom finding others who match the question.

    Sample People Scavenger Hunt  (feel to copy, adapt, and use this form!)

    People Hunting: Prepare a sheet for each student. Students move around the classroom finding others who match the question.

    Sample People Hunting Sheet  (feel to copy, adapt, and use form!)

  • Graphs are a great way to get to know each other and integrate math, storytelling, social studies, health, and develop social skills.

    Graph suggestions:
    Birthday graph: display this graph on the wall throughout the year so birthdays are recognized. Have the students decorate a birthday cake to be used as part of a class birthday graph. While the students are decorating, walk around and write the birth month and date on the cake. When everyone is finished, have the students sort them by months, arrange them in order of the months, and then by date in the month.

    Pictographs: Getting to Know Each Other
    Use index cards or construction paper cut into squares. Choose a characteristic which can be graphed. Example: Eye color. Each child draws and colors their eye. Categories for the eye colors are determined and written on paper squares. The eye papers are sorted and put on a piece of butcher paper using a glue stick or on a bulletin board for display. If you have a large bulletin board, it can be divided and used for several graphs. (Other examples: left or right handed, hair color, number of siblings, pets...) When the cards are removed from the bulletin board or paper, they can be glued on a sheet of manila paper and the students can write some information on the bottom of the page. These pages can be added to the self-portrait and autobiography done earlier in the week to create a book.

  • Have each student make a cut and paste portrait of themselves. Hang them up in the room labeled with each child's first name. These are excellent for parents to enjoy on Back to School Night.


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