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First Day of School Activities for 1st or 2nd Grade

Back to School, Fall, Seasonal

Written by: Mary Kate Bolinder

Wise teachers know this saying to be true – “You only get one first day of school.” Luckily, we’ve sourced some of the best first day of school activities from experienced and enthusiastic teachers across the country. Make the first day of the new school year count with these meaningful and easy to implement activities to do with 1st or 2nd grade kids on the first day of school.

There are so many ideas to organize and accomplish on the first day of school, that it may start to feel overwhelming. Add in some first-day jitters (for you and the students!) and what is a teacher to do? Keep the following four main goals in mind and you’ll ease anxiety, make students feel comfortable, and keep your lucky little learners happy and busy all day!

  1. Teach rules and expectations
  2. Get to know each other and start learning names
  3. Learn the organization of the classroom
  4. Make students feel part of a new classroom and school community

1. Classroom Rules and Expectations

When it comes to classroom rules and expectations, repetition and modeling are keys to success. We like to say “Go slow now to go fast later.” Take the time to set our students and classroom up for success for the whole year by concentrating on rules and expectations from day one!

five classroom expectations posters

These affirming classroom rules and expectation posters are the perfect addition to any classroom!

Teacher Tips for Teaching Classroom Rules and Expectations:

Use Brag Tags to promote positive behavior. Students love to collect these, and they can be a game changer in managing classroom behaviors.

Team Lucky Little Learners

“I have “STAR rules” Safety, Thoughts, Attitude, and Respect, but I let the students define what that would look like in the classroom. I have used the same system every year since I started teaching and it has been very effective. When you give them the power to define the “rules” it makes them feel like it’s really their class too but it also puts the responsibility back on them. I would say all the time…remember you said safety is sitting in your seat correctly or you defined respect as listening when someone else is speaking. It keeps them accountable for their actions.”

E.W. Lucky 2nd Grade Teachers Facebook Group

“In my district, we do PBIS, so we have school-wide rules. I create a ‘looks like/sounds like chart’ in my classroom for each of the rules. The students come up with how the rules look & sound in our classroom. For example, what does “BE SAFE” look like and sound like in our room.”

Team Lucky Little Learners
what does being included look like, feel like, and sound like anchor chart

Have students act out correct/incorrect behaviors for each rule as a collaborative class skit.

Team Lucky Little Learners

“We always study the constitution in September and created our own based on the class rules we established on the first day. The kids all signed it and it was displayed for the rest of the year.”

Team Lucky Little Learners
class constitution with student signatures

2. Get to Know Your Classmates

Did you know that when students are given the opportunity to positively engage with their peers, their overall learning outcomes improve? It’s true! Help students get to know their new classmates and future friends with plenty of get-to-know-you activities during the first few days of school. This “Find Someone Who Likes To…” scavenger hunt is a way to get students talking to each other, learning names, and sharing common interests.

getting to know you activity "find someone who likes to..."

Teacher Tips to Get to Know Your Classmates:

“Something I do on the first day of school, is print out all the kids’ names using the font “doodle gum”. I have the kids color their name, and draw pictures all over the page that represent them. This gives me time to coordinate supplies, and get my their desks in order.”

Anonymous, Lucky 2nd Grade Teachers Facebook Group
doodle gum font page with a students name to color

“Play Meet Me in the Middle – Students stand in a large circle around the room. The teacher calls out an activity or interest, and all students who agree with the statement meet in the middle of the circle and high-five (ex: meet me in the middle if you like pizza. Meet me in the middle if you have a sibling, etc. )

T.S. Lucky 2nd Grade Teachers Facebook Group

3. What’s in the Classroom?

You’ve organized your library, your seating, and your supplies. Now it’s time to show your new class exactly where everything is and how to basically function in the classroom. Sounds easy, right, right? The best way is to let students experience it for themselves! Get your students up and moving to explore their new classroom. With this Back to School Scavenger Hunt, students must find the clues and items on each list. BONUS – this Scavenger Hunt List is editable, so it can be adjusted to fit your needs.

classroom scavenger hunt activity

Teacher Tips for Classroom Organization:

“Label everything! These editable labels are an organizing lifesaver!”

Team Lucky Little Learners

“If you have Open House before school begins, make the most of it! Use this helpful meet the teacher checklist so students and families have a head start in learning where to find everything they need in their new classroom.”

Team Lucky Little Learners

“Assign classroom helper jobs to help manage supplies.”

Team Lucky Little Learners

DOWNLOAD THE SET HERE


4. Welcome to a New Classroom Community

Nothing reaches a class like the magic of a great book. Connect with your new students with a meaningful classroom read aloud about the first day of school. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite back to school read alouds, and activities to match. You can check them all out here.

cozy read aloud spot

Teacher Tip for an AWESOME First Day Read Aloud & Activity:

“This year we read Alma and the Worry Stone on the very first day.  Each student got to pick three colors of clay and blend them together.  They put their thumbprint into it and I took them home to bake!  I had kids that kept that stone ALL YEAR LONG.”

T.S. Lucky 2nd Grade Teachers Facebook Group
Alma and the Worry Stone first day of school read aloud
worry stones created by each student in class

We’re here to support you on the first day of school, and every day after that. Check out some of these helpful blog posts that will set you up for success on the first day of school and beyond:

2 Comments

  1. Tiffany Anderson

    Where did you get the different colors of clay?

    Reply
    • Jess

      Hello Tiffany! The clay was purchased at Amazon. Here’s the link: Baking Clay. Let us know how this goes with your students!

      Reply

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Welcome, I’m Angie!

Hello there! I’m Angie Olson- a teacher, curriculum developer, educational blogger and owner of Lucky Little Learners.

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