Student walking to school on the first day of school

9 creative back to School Activities For Upper Elementary

There’s so much to be excited about when it comes to a brand-new school year!  Sweet Back to School activities are high up on my list of why I love the first week of school! Whether it’s how I want to welcome my new students, what activities will help me start getting to know them, or what fun ideas I can come up with to help everyone come together as a school family, I enjoy spending time those last few weeks of Summer thinking about these things!

A teachers' lesson plan book with back to school activities for the first week of school.

Even though I’m always a bit nervous the day before our first day of school (yes… even after 20 years!), I feel fine after I get the first day out of the way. 

But for some students, the first days of school are a difficult transition. I know that it will take more than one day for them to settle in. 

And that’s exactly why I make sure the entire first week is filled with as many creative Back to School activities as possible! 

If you’re looking for a few new ideas to shake up your first week of school routine, keep reading!  I’m sharing 9 of my favorite student-loved, easy-to-use Back to School activities for upper elementary grades!

1. “Me on the First Day of School!”

When a student walks in on the first day of school, they are going to be nervous- even if they’ve been excitedly counting down for this moment all Summer long! They need to know where they are supposed to sit and what to do when they come into your room.

Be at the door to welcome students and show them where to sit (assigned seats are fine or you can let them choose). 

My First Day Memories page helps students feel calm on the first day of school.

Have a clean sheet of paper waiting on each student’s desk and ask them to draw and color a picture of what they look like today! 

Students should also write their name, date, and a sentence about how they are feeling on the first day of school.

Choosing easy, low-stress, back to school activities that include drawing keep students busy so they won’t be nervous waiting for the day to start.

Asking students to write just a little bit will give you a quick look at handwriting and how they write a sentence which can be indicators as to if that student struggles in writing or reading.  Students staying occupied with drawing also frees you up to welcome incoming students. 

If this activity sounds like a winner but you were hoping for something a little more fancy, grab the done-for-you “First Day Memories” page seen in the image above. It’s FREE in my First Week of School Mini Survival Pack

2. Student “Letters to the Teacher”

Quick, no-prep back to school activities make the first week so much easier because that’s one less thing to prepare! For many years on the first day of school, my students used a simple piece of notebook paper to write “A Letter to my Teacher”. 

In this letter, students can write about anything they want to tell you but specifically encourage students to share:

Writing letters to the teacher are excellent Back to school activities.
  • how they feel about school
  • what they love and dislike about school
  • what they wish they could change
  • anything important they want to tell you
  • any questions they want to ask

This is a great activity because these letters will tell you important information such as who needs encouragement due to low self-esteem, potential issues that were present last year that might carry over to this year, or what your students are interested in. Students can ask questions they’re too shy to ask aloud.  

If you would rather not be so open-ended and want to use a page that already has questions ready for you, check out my First Week of School Survival Pack in my TPT Store! You’ll find a “Here’s the Scoop on Me!” page perfect for learning more about your new students! 

3. “My Dream Teacher” Drawing

Another easy, no-prep drawing activity where students use a plain piece of paper to draw and color is drawing what their ideal teacher would look like! Encourage your kids to add cool details like wearing glasses, carrying specific school supplies, holding books, or even having something cool next to them like a pet or piece of furniture!  Students can even write a sentence or two describing their dream teacher’s personality and the things they do while teaching!

Teacher listening to students talk on the first day of school.

Once the drawings are complete, have everyone bring their paper and sit together on the floor. Allow each student to share their picture, explain the cool details they drew and why they added them (“Why is your teacher carrying a magnifying glass?”), and explain why their dream teacher is so amazing!

Now here is where this activity gets a bit silly…

While your students are sharing, be sure to interact with them.  Ask questions about their drawings and explanations and be very obvious that you are “taking notes” but trying to hide it! Grab a clipboard or notebook and pretend to copy down what they say. 

“So, your dream teacher ‘tells dad jokes’?  Hmmm… ok… And they would ‘have Fun Friday at the end of the week if students had all of their work done’?  Interesting…”

The key to this activity is to kind of introduce yourself a bit by sharing things about yourself that are similar and different to the qualities and aspects of the “dream teacher”. And of course, at the end after each student has shared, you’ll have this huge list of everything that every kid wants and there’s no way that one teacher could be all of those things at once!

And this is where you get a bit serious!  Look those sweet kids in the face and say something like this…

Teacher making a heart with her hands.

“I loved hearing all about your ‘dream teacher’! You have some wonderful ideas of what an amazing teacher should be and I’m so glad you shared them with me! I wrote down everything you all said and…WOW… that’s a lot for one person to live up to!  

So how about we make a deal?  I promise with all my heart that I will be the best teacher I possibly can be for you!  I will love you, believe in you, protect you, and teach you everything you need to know this year…

And you promise that you will understand when I have a tough day, forgive me when I make mistakes, and work your hardest for me every day! Deal?!”

Then raise a pinky or shake a hand in the air and say, “DEAL!”

4. “Name Shout!” Memory Game

It never fails! Six weeks into the school year, you’ll have a kid come up to you and refer to another student as “that kid in the blue sweatshirt” because they have no idea what their classmate’s name is!  

Proactively fix this problem during the first week of school with the loudest idea on my back to school activities list. Play “Name Shout!”!  It’s super easy and only a little bit rowdy! Ha!

On the first day of school, ask each student to introduce themself by saying their name. When a student says their name, you say, “Hi, ______!” and repeat their name.

A student raising her hand excitedly.

The next morning before instruction/work begins, introduce your students to the game “Name Shout!” (and the concept of a loud whisper!).  You will point to a random student and loudly whisper “Name!”. 

The student you’re pointing at will jump up/stand up and do something silly like throw their hands in the air, dab (is that a thing still?), or give a “Ta-da!” flourish like Vanna White. It’s ok if they’re shy and don’t do much other than just stand up. 

The rest of the class will point at that person and “shout” (really a “quiet yell” or you’ll freak out the classroom next door!) their name. The student will sit back down.  Continue going around the room table by table until everyone has had their name “shouted”! And that’s all it takes!

Fair warning though, the first day you do this, the kids will probably still be shy or not know some names yet so you’ll have to be the one to guide them.  But after playing this game each morning for a week (and really getting into it!), by Friday they’ll know each other’s names and have had fun learning them!  

5. “My Teacher is a Monster” Class Expectations

When it comes to back to school activities (and really, activities all year long!), I love to incorporate lots of drawing.  Here is one activity that gave my students the chance to draw a ridiculous picture of me while clearly communicating my expectations for student behavior for the year.  You may want to leave your ego at the door on this activity…

My Teacher is a Monster read aloud for back to school activities

Start by reading the book “My Teacher is a Monster” by Peter Brown. It’s a funny story about a boy named Bobby who thinks his teacher is a giant, green monster until he meets her in the park one day. They spend an afternoon together, and he realizes she is pretty cool and begins to see her as a real person (her appearance slowly changes on each page as well!). 

When you discuss with your students why Bobby might have seen her as a “monster”, they will most likely realize that she fusses at him quite a bit because his behavior in class is not the best.

This will lead to an excellent conversation about the kind of behavior you love seeing from students in your class!  Give examples of how you expect them to behave and ask students to share examples as well!

After discussing the behaviors you love, tell your kids that you have a few “pet peeves” that cause you to figuratively “turn into a monster” (like Bobby’s teacher!).  Then let them know the student behaviors that upset you: name-calling, students excluding other students, pushing and shoving to get to the front of the line, etc…

If the conversation starts to get a bit too serious, end on a lighter note by sharing something funny like having to pick used tissues up off the floor or finding your library books put away upside down. 

Student drawing teacher for back to school activities

Now on a plain piece of paper, students will imagine what would happen if “bad student behavior” tested your patience and draw and color a picture of you turning into a literal monster!

Students should write at the top of their drawing “These things make  ________ very upset!”, adding 3-4 examples of student behaviors they think would make you “turn into a monster”.  Feel free to make a list on the board during your earlier discussion so students can copy ideas off the board if they need to.

Your kids will love drawing a crazy picture of you with claws, horns, sharp teeth, and more! Just have fun with how terribly they draw you and have a good laugh about it! And the next time your class is super chatty, ask them if your skin is starting to look a little green to them…    

6. Silly Teacher Quiz

The back to school activities aren’t just about getting to know your students, they’re also about students getting to know you as well!  A fun way to do this is to give your students a “quiz” where you ask them to answer questions about you!  

Get to know your teacher with a digital quiz back to school activities

You can type and print copies of the quiz or simply ask questions out loud while students write down their answers on plain paper.  You could make a quiz asking only True/False questions, short answer questions, or multiple choice questions. The questions could be as normal as “What is my favorite color?” to as silly as “What is the craziest activity I’ve ever done while on vacation?” 

The whole point is that kids don’t know you yet, so everyone is going to have to make wild guesses because they have no idea what the answers are!  

When the quiz is finished, “grade” it together by sharing your answers aloud with the class.  You can even ask students what they thought certain answers were!  Back to School activities don’t get much more fun than this!

While a teacher quiz is hilarious, it will take time to create and type questions.  If you love the idea of a “Teacher Quiz” but don’t see how you can pull one together in time, then I have the perfect solution for you! 

“Meet the Teacher Editable Quiz and Get to Know You Activity” is exactly what you need to help your students get to know you in a fun and creative way! This resource includes a Google Slides Presentation with 10 Question Slides (1 question per Slide), a Directions Slide, and Answer Slides to show when “grading” the quiz. While the questions are not editable, every answer choice is!  

This quiz even comes in a fun Farmhouse theme or a Chalkboard Glitter theme and looks beautiful when displayed for your students! All the fun of a “Teacher Quiz” without the stress of having to make it yourself? That’s a Back to School win!  Check out more information in my TPT Store!

7. “End of the First Week” Prediction Letters

If you love zero-prep back to school activities because they make your Teacher Life easier, then be sure to add this idea to your first-week lesson plans! It’s good old plain paper to the rescue again as your students will write prediction letters for this new school year!

On Friday of the first week of school, ask your students to think about all that they have experienced the last few days: their new teachers, all of their classes, the other students they have met this week, etc… Based on what they thought about all those topics, ask students to think about what might happen this school year. 

Back to school activities allowing students to talk to each other in groups.

Then, allow students to get in partners or simply talk to the other students sitting at their table about their predictions on topics like what they might learn, field trips they may go on, or how the teachers will be.

Give students about 10 minutes to share and discuss ideas with each other, then ask each student to write several formal predictions they want to make. They can even illustrate their predictions if time allows.

Take up the papers when students are finished and put them in a folder marked “Beginning of the Year Predictions”. Keep this folder in a safe place, and add a note in your planner or calender reminding you to share these at the end of the year!

Pull these predictions out on the last week of school and read them aloud to your class (anonymously or with names)! It will be so fun to hear what everyone thought was going to happen and see if any predictions came true! Back to school activities that double as end of the year activities? Sign me up!

8. Substitute Expectations

When it comes to needing a substitute, you never know when that may happen. Illness and emergencies don’t care that it’s only the second week of school and that you’re not ready for a sub just yet (and no, they will not reschedule for a more convenient time!). 

Cover of Substitute Creacher

While this idea technically doesn’t fall under “back to school activities”, it’s a good idea to go ahead and share “Substitute behavioral expectations” now with your students. This way, students will know exactly how to act the first time (or any time!) you’re absent. 

A really fun and easy way to do this is by reading the book Substitute Creacher by Chris Gall.

The story is about a monster-like substitute who works with a horrific class of students. The substitute “creacher” shares stories of past students who behaved badly so that they will learn from those children and change their ways before it’s too late. The examples are pretty funny and at the end of the book, there’s a surprise twist about the “creacher” that’s very sweet.

While reading to your class, talk about the students’ behavior and why it’s inappropriate. After reading, have your students brainstorm a list of behaviors that are the opposite of what they saw in the book.  

Make a class poster entitled “When a Substitute is here, I will:” and add the student suggestions as well as any you want to add as well. While writing on the poster, discuss why each good behavior is important and how the opposite behaviors effect the substitute and the other classmates. 

Hang the poster somewhere visible in the room so when a sub does come, everyone remembers your expectations!  The first time you call a sub, you will be so thankful you already handled this!  For more help preparing for a substitute, check out this Substitute Folder: Editable Sub Planning Templates resource in my TPT Store!  

9. “Awesome Classroom” Banner

Students bonding as a class family.

Every year, your new class is unique because the students in your class are unique!  Celebrate the many ways your students will contribute to making your classroom a special place by showcasing how awesome they are!

Create a simple pennant banner in Google Slides with the title “Our Class is Awesome Because of ME!” and give a copy to each student. If you’re short on time, use the already-done-for-you pennant in my First Week of School Survival Pack or give students plain white or colored paper and they can draw the title themselves.

Regardless of which option you choose, students should write words or short phrases on their banner that describe things they are good at and what makes them a wonderful person! Encourage them to draw pictures and add lots of color to make their pennants eye-catching!

Student Drawn Pennant Banner

When students are finished with their pennants, gather everyone together to share what they wrote.  As each student shares, make a big deal about one specific thing they said and how that part of them is going to make “our classroom” a better place for everyone!  

Before moving on to the next student, have everyone cheer in unison, “Our class is awesome because of ______!”- saying that person’s name while pointing to them and clapping! 

After students have left for the day, tape each pennant to a sturdy line or length of yarn and create a class banner(s) to hang up in your room. Your students will love seeing their pennants all together showing off how awesome everyone is! 

Of all the back to school activities that I have shared, this one may make the most lasting impact on your students!  

Need more Back to School Activities?

I hope I have given you some fresh “back to school activities” ideas that will help you make the first week of school a wonderful and welcoming experience for your new students! 

Back to School Activities for the First Week of School

Even though it’s exciting, preparing back to school activities for the beginning of a new school year is a lot to handle! If you would love to use some of the ideas in this post but need time-saving, already-made-for-you print-and-go resources, check out my First Week of School Survival Pack!

Included in this pack, you will find printable back to school activities and resources designed to calm nervous students, allow students to make memories of their first week, and build classroom community all in one easy resource! 

Printable pages for several of the activities mentioned in this post are included as well as:

  • Pages to make a Memory Book
  • Student Reward Punch Cards
  • First Week of School Student Encouragement Notes
  • and more! 

The print-and-go back to school activities in this resource will make your first week of school so much less stressful. I wish you a wonderful school year filled with lots of learning and laughter!

Pin These Back to School Activities

Save this post of Back to School Activities to your favorite School Pinterest Board so that you can use remember all of these amazing ideas for the first week of school. 

Pinterest Pin Back to School Activities for Upper Elementary

If you have any questions or want to bounce any ideas off a colleague, I’m here for you! Teacher Sparkle always grows when it has other Teacher Sparkle to share in the excitement!

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