How To Make Back To School Engaging For Kids With Fun Activities

Back To School Fun

Using fun activities will make back to school more engaging and exciting for kids and they will probably participate more in the activities. The types of activities that you choose will depend on the age and composition of your class, but there are some that can be used in most situations. The key is to get kids participating and enjoying their time back at school.

Getting To Know You Activities

Getting to Know You activities and ice breakers are great ways to get started. How many times have you been to workshops where you do activities like "Find Someone Who...." These activities are meant to get you moving around and interacting with others instead of staying with one or two familiar people. It may not always feel comfortable for some, but they may meet someone with common interests in the process. A fun twist to this might be to have the four corners of the room as meeting places and then ask questions that require the kids to choose one of the options and move to the appropriate corner. For example: Do you have brothers? Go to corner 1. Do you have sisters? Go to corner 2. Do you have brothers and sisters? Go to corner 3. Are you an only child? Go to corner 4.

If you are interested in some ice breaker mixer cards, check out this freebie.
Learning about your students' interests will help with planning and preparing activities that will engage them in their learning. Just like us, kids are more likely to want to do something if they are interested in the topic. 

I always started the year with different interest profiles or activities that helped me to find out more about my students. There are several kinds of activities available, but these are the ones that I used most often.
This is Me booklet (this is part of my basic vocabulary activities booklet)
My passions (likes and hobbies that are later used for writing prompts. It is part of my using five senses and details writing packet)
Shield (this can be used for displaying talents)
T-shirt (another form of all about me)

Team building and classroom management activities

Another crucial piece of my start up was creating a great community. Team building is important if you want the kids to work together to have a successful year. They become each other's cheerleaders and they encourage each other when things get tough or when behaviors need to be improved.

​I did many different activities to make this happen, and I also incorporated classroom management techniques. One of the techniques I started using before retiring was Whole Brain Teaching. This worked well with my kids and I was amazed at how quickly they latched on to the strategies that I used. I didn't get to use it fully, but I was very happy with how the parts I used worked. If you want to learn more about this, you can check it out here. I also created some posters of the rules to use in my classroom. You can find out more here.
Bucket filling activities and Acts of Kindness activities were also part of my lessons during those first weeks of school. These were instrumental in helping the kids to think about others instead of always focusing on themselves.

Positive Self Esteem And Growth Mindset

By now, you probably know that developing positive self esteem is one of the most important things that I focus on with kids. Positive self esteem is so important when developing self confidence and a positive outlook on the world. It is our job as teachers to help kids see that they are valued and important and that they have much to contribute to the world around them. 

Having a positive attitude is key for this to happen. In recent years the focus has been on social emotional learning and developing growth mindsets. This has a direct impact of learning. Helping kids to see that they "can" do things and that they are moving forward encourages them to keep trying and they begin to experience more success and their self confidence grows.

​You can find several resources in my self esteem category and you can read more about optimism and pessimism activities here.

Communication is key

Communication is a key component for a successful year. This communication involves parents, students, and colleagues. All of these types of communication are necessary. Students need to know what is expected of them and they need to know they are accountable for their actions. They also need to know that there will be communication between you and the parents. This communication should be positive and should not be restricted to problems or concerns that have occurred. Successes should be communicated too. It is very exciting for a parent to hear what is going right with their child. Most parents are used to calls being for negative situations. A positive call can make their day too.

Communicating with colleagues is helpful for many reasons. Collaborating on common units, getting familiar with concerns about other students that  you may encounter when on duty or field trips, sharing of materials and other resources, and agreeing on some common rules and routines are some examples.

Back To School Forms

​One of the first things I did each year was send home a Getting Acquainted form. I remember being told once by my administrator that kids are precious and parents have entrusted them to us. What better way to acknowledge this than to ask for their input about their child. The Getting Acquainted form also provides valuable information from the parents' perspective which can be helpful during future communication.

The other form that I send home is a Home Reading letter. Many parents want to be able to help with their child's learning, but aren't sure what to do. This letter provides different strategies to use when reading with your child. It also helps parents to see that this is something that should be positive for both the child and the parent rather than stressful and a struggle to do.
Many teachers have sharing times or special helpers or stars in the primary grades. I used to assign certain days for sharing for small groups of children so that it was consistent and not to time consuming during the morning start-up. This routine also helped children to prepare ahead of time when they knew that their sharing day was coming.

For the star or special helper, I changed the person each day. I know that some teachers keep the same person for the week or do some other variation of this, but for me, daily changes worked well. If someone was absent, it was easy to see who was next and make adjustments as needed.

I created a set of start up forms for back to school that include star of the day, sharing day schedule, and some criteria forms and examples, as well as the Getting Acquainted note and the Home Reading letter. You can check it out here.

First Week Of School Resources

I have created several first week of school activities that can also be done virtually, if necessary. These activities are an easy startup to math and language skills after summer break. They can be done in any order, and you can select which ones to do. They are available individually, or as a bundle.
This is only a sampling of what can be done the first week of school that will provide engagement for the kids and set you up for a successful year.

Some Final Tips

Here are a few final tips to think about.
• Simple management things will help you keep your sanity. For example lining up routines, how to walk in hallways, rules for working in small groups, etc.

• Focus on the positive, not the negative. It can be exhausting to constantly redirect those who choose to misbehave or distract others. When you focus on those doing what is expected, often it will encourage other to follow suit.

• Everyday is a fresh start. This goes for students and for YOU. 

• Have fun with your students and share stories, anecdotes, etc. with them. Enjoy your time together.
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