First Day Fun: Ideas for an Epic Start

The first day of school sets the tone for the entire year. It’s a chance to create a positive and engaging atmosphere that promotes excitement about learning and fosters a desire to be in school. Whether you’re welcoming a classroom full of wide-eyed kindergartners or seasoned teenagers, a well-planned first day can make all the difference.

In this blog, we’ll explore creative ideas to ensure an amazing first day of school for both elementary and secondary students as you embrace their uniqueness and build awareness. If you need strategies around cultural awareness, we have a Free Resource that can help.


Elementary School:

  • Welcome Wagon: Let the fun start before they even enter the classroom! Decorate the hallway or doorway with colorful streamers, balloons, and a welcome banner. Play upbeat music to create a festive atmosphere. You, along with any classroom helpers or volunteers, can greet students with bright smiles and a friendly “hello.”
  • Firsthand Fun: Ease first-day jitters with engaging activities that get students moving and interacting. Prepare a “Find Your Name” scavenger hunt around the classroom. Hide student names on objects or pictures for them to discover. This gets them familiar with the classroom while fostering a sense of accomplishment.
  • Innovative Introductions: Instead of the traditional “stand up and say your name” routine, opt for more interactive introductions. Play a “Would You Rather?” game with questions related to hobbies or preferences. Another fun option is a “Guess Who?” game where students write interesting facts about themselves on cards displayed around the room, and classmates try to match the facts to the person.
  • Story Time Surprise: Kick off the year with a captivating read-aloud session. Choose a story that promotes themes of friendship, kindness, or the joy of learning. For a twist, invite a guest reader – a school administrator, librarian, or even a parent volunteer.
  • Collaborative Creations: Nurture a sense of community with a collaborative art project. Provide students with materials to create a large mural or collage that reflects their hopes and dreams for the school year. This collaborative activity allows students to express themselves creatively while getting to know their classmates.
  • Reward Racetrack: Introduce the reward system you will use and explain how they earn them. If you need specific ideas for student rewards, visit our free resource document that gives you 50 simple ideas.
Culturally Responsive Instruction 1.4 Product Image

Secondary School:

  • Mystery Motivation: Spark curiosity and get students thinking with a “Mystery Photo” activity. Project an image related to a theme you’ll be exploring throughout the year, or a concept you’ll be introducing. Have students brainstorm questions, predictions, or connections they make to the image. This ignites interest and sets the stage for future learning.
  • Bell Ringer Bonanza: Ditch the traditional bell-ringing routine. Instead, place thought-provoking question or quote on the board or screen. As students enter, give them a few minutes to ponder the prompt and jot down their thoughts about it’s meaning and application to their lives. This quick activity gets their minds churning and promotes active participation. You can mention how this will start class each day to focus their thoughts.
  • Elective Exploration Stations: If your school offers electives, set up stations in the classroom or hallway for each elective course. Staff these stations with teachers or student representatives from each elective. Students can rotate through the stations to learn about different course offerings, ask questions, and get a glimpse into what each elective entails.
  • Icebreaker Olympics: Facilitate social interaction and teamwork with a series of quick and fun icebreaker games. Games like “Two Truths and a Lie” or “Human Bingo” allow students to mingle, learn fun facts about each other, and break the ice in a lighthearted way.
  • Yearbook Challenge: If your school has a yearbook, consider incorporating a yearbook challenge into the first day. Provide students with a list of creative prompts that encourage them to capture a photo representing themselves or their goals for the year. This jumpstarts the yearbook process and allows students to express themselves creatively.

As we wrap up, here is a final idea that will work regardless of student age-levels. That idea is to hand out Goodie Grab Bags! This practice may require a little work from some sponsors to help you accumulate the age-appropriate items to go inside. Yes, this is a small gesture, but it shows students that you care, will welcome them into your room, and help create a fun, first-day experience.

  • NOTE: put something in each bag that is personal and from you – like a hand-written note. That does time more time, but highly improves the personal nature of it note. If you have more students – as a secondary teacher – think of great message that would benefit all students and type it out. The key is to keep it short and “dress it up” a little bit with a unique cut-out, sticker, or your signature.

By incorporating these ideas and tailoring them to your specific grade level and student population, you can ensure a fantastic first day of school that sets a positive tone for a successful and engaging. As one last tip, make sure you offer parents some ideas for them – at home – to prepare students for that first day. If you need resources to provide to them, here is a helpful link to share with them: How to Prepare for Back to School.

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