17 Awesome First Day of School Activities for Elementary

Make the first day of school a success using these engaging first day of school activities for elementary students.

Embracing the start of a new school year is an exhilarating experience, especially for elementary students.

That’s why it’s important for teachers to set a positive tone on that all-important first day of school.

They can do so by creating a memorable and engaging environment that encourages both academic and social growth.

The following first-day activities serve the purpose well. They reduce jitters, encourage dialogue among classmates, set the tone for a solid classroom management system, and help students break the ice.

So pencil into your back-to-school lesson plans a few of these fun and memorable first day of school activities for elementary students.

Related: first day of school checklist for teachers

First Day of School Activities for Elementary Students

1. Play Icebreaker Games.

Use icebreaker games to help students get to know each other.

For example, in “Two Truths and a Lie”, each student shares three statements about themselves, and the others have to guess which one is the lie.

A few more icebreaker games include …

  • Five Nouns – Students use five nouns (or verbs, adjectives) to describe themselves.
  • Mystery Bag w/a Partner – After being provided clues by the teacher, learners, in pairs, try to guess the object in the bag.
  • Interview and Introduce – Students interview and then introduce a classmate.
  • Make Up a Story – While sitting in a circle, start a story with an introduction such as “Once upon a time…”. Clockwise, the next student adds a few more words to the story. The third strings her words along with the previous ones, and the sequence continues as such until everyone has added a brief part to the story. No repetition of events allowed.
  • The M&M Game – One of the best get-to-know-you games, this fun icebreaker eliminates those first-day awkward moments.

2. Create an All About Me Collage.

Ask students to create a collage or poster that represents themselves, including their favorite things, hobbies, and family. They can share these with the class.

3. Collect Artifacts for a Time Capsule.

A time capsule captures moments in time.

Instruct students to collect artifacts about themselves such as the following items:

  • Current photo
  • Recent writing sample
  • Copy of grade level S.M.A.R.T goals
  • Height (Students love to see how much they’ve grown in a year!)

They place these artifacts into a shoebox, putting the boxes away for the remainder of the year.

In the future, students revisit these mementos, analyzing the before with the present.

See how to do time capsule activity.

4. Decorate Reader Response Journals.

Before officially launching reader’s workshops, provide students an opportunity to decorate the covers of their reader response journals and/or writer’s notebooks.

5. Complete a Morning Work Packet. 

To lessen the chaos during the early morning, provide a morning work packet (along with a pencil) of grade-level appropriate worksheets that students can complete independently.

Doing so prevents them from asking you too many questions as you’re assisting new arrivals or chatting with parents.

Suggested worksheet ideas include basic math facts, simple fill-in-the-blank exercises, and crossword puzzles.

6. Estimate Grains of Rice.

Include this fun math exercise as one of your first day of school activities for elementary.

All that’s needed is a mason jar, measuring spoon, and rice.

On a sticky note, students write their guess as to how many scoops or spoonfuls of rice it will take to fill the jar.

Now fill the mason jar with rice using the measuring tool. Discuss the results as a class.

7. Explain Classroom Jobs.

Underscore the importance of teamwork by having each student apply for a classroom student job

8. Explore the Classroom Library.

Take time during the first day of school to review with students the type of books in the classroom library, the procedure for checking out books, and how to choose a “just right” text.

9. Draft S.M.A.R.T Goals.

This list of first day of school activities for elementary students would not be complete without a growth mindset activity.

With guidance from you, students write 2 to 3 S.M.A.R.T goals.

Consider mounting their goals on a back-to-school bulletin board or have them place a copy in a time capsule. (See earlier explanation about how to do time capsule activity.)

10. Do a “Foldables” Activity.

Foldables™ enliven teaching by transforming topics into hands-on projects.

As one of your first day of school activities for elementary, consider using Foldables to teach virtues such as kindness and respect.

11. Organize School Supplies.

Putting away backpacks full of supplies is a big task all on its own. It takes time to label, strategically place, and store everything.

So weave this first day of school activity into your elementary students’ first day of school schedule.

Discuss expectations for storing materials in desks, cubbies, backpacks, etc.

12. Plan a School Scavenger Hunt.

In pairs, guide elementary students in learning about or revisiting important areas of the school using this fun first day of school scavenger hunt

13. Review Rules and Procedures.

Discuss the classroom rules and expectations in a positive and interactive manner.

You may want to involve the students in brainstorming the rules, which increases their ownership and understanding.

14. Share Back-to-School Read Aloud Books.

Choose a captivating and age-appropriate story to read aloud to the class.

This can be a great way to introduce the joy of reading and create a positive atmosphere in the classroom.

See 2nd-grade first-day books, 3rd-grade first-day books, and 4th-grade first-day books.

15. Take Student Headshots for Class Décor.

Snap headshots of each student on the first day of school. Place the photos on a bulletin board, and caption each with their respective names.

Throughout the year, showcase work samples underneath students’ pictures.

16. Create Name Tags.

Have students create their own name tags along with a simple drawing or decoration. This helps them feel comfortable interacting with each other and the teacher.

17. Make a Class Agreement or Pledge.

Collaboratively create a class agreement or pledge about how students will treat each other, the teacher, and the learning environment with respect and kindness.

Final Thoughts On First Day of School Activities for Elementary Students

First day of school activities for elementary students play a crucial role in setting the tone for a successful and enjoyable academic year.

By incorporating such tasks, you will help students feel welcomed, comfortable, and excited about the learning journey ahead.