Whether you are a veteran teacher or a brand new one, planning for back to school is a feat to behold! In this post I’ll share how to make first day of school lesson plans with lots of free downloads to help you do it!
The key to having a stress-free first day is to plan ahead, plan a lot, and then plan some more. Plan much more than you think you will need because it’s always better to push something into the next day than scramble to find ways to fill time.
How to Make First Day of School Lesson Plans
In this post you will learn:
- what to plan for the first day of school
- getting to know you games
- first day read alouds
- procedures to teach
- a fun math about me craft
- tips for managing supplies
- community building ideas
You can download in the post:
- free first day lesson plans
- planning checklist
- icebreaker activity page
Set Up Your Desk Arrangement with Name Tags
Consider assigning student desks in alphabetical order. This is helpful for several reasons. You have probably looked at your class list dozens of times for labeling and such and it is usually in alphabetical order. Assigning students to their desks in this same order will help you to quickly remember everyone’s name. You can always change desks later.
Plan a “Settle In” Activity
Prepare a simple morning work page that is ready to go on students’ desks when they arrive. Choose something fun that students can complete on their own without help as they settle in and put away their supplies. Back to school word searches, color by number math pages, word scrambles, or a back to school mystery picture are all good examples. Provide something for students to work on independently so that you can meet parents who didn’t make it to Meet the Teacher Night, take attendance, manage supplies, comfort a student, etc.
Choose a Creative Way to Introduce Yourself
Show students a short PowerPoint presentation to help introduce yourself and let students get to know you better. If you made a slideshow for Meet the Teacher Night or Curriculum Night use that! There is no need to reinvent the wheel! Show students pictures of your family, pets, vacations. Tell them more about yourself so they can make a personal connection to their teacher.
Click HERE for customizable PowerPoint templates.
Click HERE for Meet Your Teacher editable letter and templates.
Plan Plenty of Getting to Know You Activities
Icebreakers and team-building activities are a great way for students to get to know each other. Plan two or three so you can do them throughout the day. Remember, you might be nervous for the first day of school but many of your students are definitely nervous and don’t know what to expect. This is a great way for them to interact with their classmates without being put on the spot. Some ice-breaker challenges to try out: building the tallest tower with shoes, alphabet name games, introducing a friend, musical shoe match up, find someone who…, etc.
Allow Time to Organize Supplies
Allow time in the day to label and organize supplies. Most students will have a desk full of supplies and they are eager to use them! Model your desk expectations, how to stack things neatly inside, and provide time to label notebooks, folders, etc.
Click HERE to read a fun post about teaching students to stay organized and tidy desk procedures the desk fairy will love!
Begin Building Community
Play Getting to Know You & Team Building Games
Give students more opportunities to get to know their classmates and their classroom. Plan a “Find a Friend” game where students have a list of things they have to find a friend to match. It’s a fun icebreaker that gets kids up and moving. It’s also an opportunity to learn each other’s names. Students find friends then write their classmates’ names. A classroom scavenger hunt is another fun way to help students get to know each other and feel comfortable together.
Download a copy of the Find a Friend Icebreaker HERE.
Choose First Day Read Alouds
Spread 2-3 different read alouds throughout the first day of school. Pulling students to the carpet in close proximity and reading aloud to them is calming. Depending on the book, it can also be a fun and engaging ice breaker. My very favorite book for the first day of school is Melanie Watt’s, You’re Finally Here! It is the MOST perfect book back to school book ever.
The book can be hard to find, so I made an adorable, animated read aloud video on YouTube. The You’re Finally Here video is a first day favorite and you won’t believe the premise I set, or the fun you can have, with this book!
Additional first day of school books
- Louder, Lili by Gennifer Choldenko
- The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson
- Our Class is a Family, by Shannon Olsen
- Butterflies on the First Day of School, by Annie Silvestro
- Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School, by Herman Parish
- A Letter from Your Teacher, by Shannon Olsen
In addition to this priceless anchor chart for You’re Finally Here, consider making charts to go with other first day books for teaching your class rules, including others, manners, and being kind. Anchor chart topics could include “How to Make a Friend”, “How to Be a Friend”, “Using Kind Words”, “Including Others”. etc. Tailor this to fit your classroom and grade level.
The Bored Game is one of my favorite first day icebreaker activities. The responses are priceless and students are giggling and getting to know each other!
Establish Classroom Rules
Decide how you want to communicate your classroom rules to students. You might have 3-5 rules you decide on, or you may have students decide the rules they should follow. You might also decide to do a classroom contract. Whatever option you choose, keep it positive! Always try to phrase rules in a positive tone. For example: “Walk in the classroom” instead of “No running” and “Use inside voices” instead of “No screaming”. Consider having all students sign their classroom rules or contract. This can help with discipline later in the year and help to keep kids accountable.
Teach Important First Day Procedures
Teach and practice the procedures that students will use daily. Procedures you will need to teach the first day include:
- what to do when they come into the classroom every morning
- raising their hand
- voice levels
- lining up to leave the classroom
- cafeteria rules & procedures
- transitioning from their desks to the carpet
- using the restroom
- sharpening their pencil
Allow plenty of time in the day to practice, practice, practice! It is so important to start training your students on the very first day, and the time you spend now will pay off all year. Explain your expectations for every procedure and practice daily until students meet them.
Get to Know Your Students Through Math
Fit in some math the first day with a fun math craft. Math About Me is a fun way for students to get to know each other using math! With second graders, I send this math about me page home with parents on Meet the Teacher Night and have students bring it back the first day of school. The finished projects make a wonderful back to school math display or hallway bulletin board.
Plan a simple math assessment. Giving students a quick assessment on numbers, addition, subtraction, skip counting, etc. will be useful to determine where each student is academically. Of course you will more formally assess them later, but I like to give students something easy, that is a review of the prior year, to build their confidence and fit in a little review. This doesn’t need to take a lot of time and can also be spread out throughout the first week.
Take a Writing Baseline
I like to get a quick writing baseline assessment from my students on the first day or week of school. This could be a journal prompt or a few sentences telling how they are feeling. Tailor this to fit your grade level.
Since I use the book, You’re Finally Here! the first day of school, I have students answer the prompt, “You’re finally here! How’s it going so far?”. Click HERE for an entire first week of activities using You’re Finally Here!
Set Back to School Learning Goals
I don’t always get to goal setting the first day of school, but I make sure to do it during the first week. Have students set goals for what they want to accomplish this year and write them inside a booklet that looks like them! I hang these up and leave them all year. I take them down and we revisit our goals during the last week of school. We add gold medals during an Olympics year!
Click HERE for the goal setting craft templates.
Teach Your Dismissal Routine
Plan enough time at the end of the day so that you can demonstrate your Pack Up and Stack Up routines. This might include filling out a behavior chart, collecting papers from their cubbies, packing backpacks, and where to stack their chairs. Allow plenty of time so this is not rushed.
Free First Day of School Lesson Plans
Here is a sample schedule of what your first day of school might look like. Most importantly, take the time you need to teach procedures and build community. It will pay off later!
8:15am– Students come into the classroom and start their morning/bell work. Quickly introduce yourself to parents you didn’t meet on Meet the Teacher Night and make sure you know how their child will go home. Show students where to store supplies until you are ready to organize them.
8:30am- Welcome students and introduce yourself using a PowerPoint Presentation. Share some fun facts and pictures with your students.
8:50am- Icebreaker #1
Have students work together as a table group to see which group can build the tallest tower out of their shoes.
9:10am– Establish classroom rules or a classroom contract. Make sure to discuss the importance of rules and why we have them. Provide students time to collaborate with each other. Have each student sign their name as a way of making a promise to their classmates and themselves.
9:35am- Practice quietly lining up to leave the classroom by being specific with your expectations. Ensure that students are held accountable. Make sure to repeat this if expectations are not met.
10:35am- Bring students to the carpet to read You’re Finally Here. Complete an activity that goes with the book. There is also a great writing activity for you to get a baseline from your students.
11:20am- Have students come back to their desks to organize and label all of their supplies. Have labels ready for each notebook, folder, etc. Model your expectations for student desk organization. Ensure that each desk gets organized in the proper way. Let students help each other! This is also a great time to practice transitions to the carpet or student desks.
12:00pm- Lunch and Recess
12:40pm- Read Aloud or Icebreaker #2 Birthday Line Up-Students line up in birthday order. Time your students to see how long it takes them to line up in order of their birthdays. See if they can beat this time tomorrow!
1:00pm- Math About Me
Provide students time to start their Math About Me Project. Model this with your personal information (age, number of siblings and pets, bedtime) Older students can probably complete this on their own or with minimal help. For younger students it might be a good idea to send home this planning page on Meet the Teacher Night. The goal for today is just to start the project. Plan on taking 3-4 days to complete the whole project and display in the classroom.
Have students complete some simple math assessments. This could include basic addition and subtraction or number writing to 100 or 200.
2:00pm- Find a Friend Icebreaker
Allow students time to share something they learned about a classmate with the whole class. Model this first for students.
2:25pm- Model your dismissal routine. Have students practice and help each other. Allow plenty of time so this is not rushed.
2:50pm- Line students up for dismissal. Organize your line for what best fits your after school expectations. You might consider grouping the bus riders together, car riders together etc. Make sure to state your expectations for when students leave. Maybe they have to give you a high five, point out their parents, or some other way to let you know they are leaving the class.
Click here to download the first week lesson plans.
When all of your students are gone for the day, sit down, relax, and breathe! Congratulate yourself on getting through the first day of school and know that it will get easier every day!
Free First Day of School Planning Checklist
Get set to plan your first day of school. Grab a handy checklist HERE to help!
Be sure to pin this post so you have it when you plan!
Would you like to see the first day of school in my classroom? Click HERE to read the post.
Do you need help decorating your classroom? Click HERE.
Learn 10 steps to an organized classroom HERE.
Happy first day of school! You’ve got this!