Make Back to School Special

Just the phrase itself, "Back to School", sends shivers. Doesn’t it? Do you still get so nervous and excited on the night before the first day back that you have a hard time sleeping? I think the reason most of us are a bundle of nerves is because we want to make sure that we cover every detail that first day. Will you remember to go over fire drill procedures before they ring the fire drill? Will you remember to turn in attendance on time? And the most dreaded question…will you send every child home the correct way on that first day of school? Will they get home safely?

Sometimes we, as teachers, are so excited, nervous and filled with anticipation that everything goes “just right” that sometimes we lose what I feel is the most important goal for day one: Does every single student feel loved and appreciated enough to want to come back the next day?

Years ago, I made this my number one priority for day one. What about lesson plans? I didn't keep any for that first day. I simply created a list of the essential items that need to be discussed or completed.
  • Fire drill procedures
  • Transportation details
  • Bathroom procedures
Really, those are the only three things that have to happen. I used to fill the day going over every single procedure: properly writing in agendas, how to have homework on desks in the morning, how to line up for lunch, how to ask to sharpen a pencil, etc. You get the idea, right? BORING. I know that we want to set these procedures in place, but it can wait for another day. Not every little detail needs to be covered on day one. It took years for me to realize this.

I found a way to make my life a little easier by doing a few simple things. First, I found that each student came in with a million school supplies. Some students have their supplies labeled, but most do not. My solution was to grab gigantic, sealable plastic bags (already labeled with each student’s name) and dump all supplies into them. Then I gather them all and put to the side for another day. I allowed my students to use my supplies on day one.

Most students have stories they want to tell you. Let them. This is how you are going to be able to achieve the goal of having them want to come back the next day. So, how are you going to have time for this? Have students create an “All about Me” poster. I had my students partner up for this activity. Once they created the poster, they would share with their partner, and then, if they wanted to, they could share it with the class. Not all students want to share aloud. So, keeping my number one goal in mind, I didn't make them. I did, however, take the time to ask each student questions about his/her poster.

Finally, the first day should be fun. Fun? Yes, fun. One of the fun activities that I loved was our snowball fight. Students filled out a simple questionnaire and then crumpled up the paper to make a snowball. They were always puzzled and confused about why they had to crumple up their paper. I would them tell them that I had a big secret. We are going to have a little fun, but that they had to keep that a secret or other people might get jealous! Then, I would throw the first snowball high into the air and yell “Snowball fight!” It was pandemonium, but so fun. Then, I would blow a whistle and the students had to race to pick up the nearest snowball and read the questionnaire aloud to the class. We would have a blast learning a little bit about each other.

Enjoy the first day of school and remember to make sure your students are happy enough to want to return for day two. Then, you can hit them with all of the rules and procedures. :)


  1. Thank you Elizabeth, this was very helpful to read. We start school next week and I always like to try some new ideas on the first day and, thanks to you, I can!

  2. The snowball fight is my fav. I didn't do it this year though! haha

  3. I've done the snowball fight too, and it's always a HUGE hit! Having an attitude of work hard, play harder has served me well in the classroom. I'm glad you do that too! =)
    ~Heather aka HoJo~

  4. I completely agree with you! I teach middle school and never go over the boring stuff on the first day- since most other teachers do, it makes my class stand out as the "fun" one and I don't go home with a sore throat!

  5. I did the snowball fight at the beginning of last year. I completely forgot about it until the class was talking about their favorite memories of the past year. Funny what kids remember!