Monday, July 29, 2019

Back to School Made Easy

I've rounded up a few of my favorite things for Back to School for all of you! All of the physical items you see in this post are from Oriental Trading, which is awesome because they come in large sets/packs so they are basically already ready to be handed out to the whole class!

To start off the school year, I love to have a little something on the students' desks for "meet the teacher" day. You already spend so much on your classroom, so it is always hard to decide what to have for them as a gift. I used to do little snack bags, but it was a lot of prep making the snack mixes and ended up costing a lot more than I would have liked it to. This year, I found an easy and low cost way give a gift to each student to start off the year!

All of the paper gift tags you see below are available FREE to print if you click here :) I hope this makes your life a little easier! I also have linked every item you see in the photos, to make shopping easy for you if you like what you see!

"I can't wait to celebrate all of your success this year" tags with fringe blowouts attached.
You can get the fringe blowouts HERE

"Our class ROCKS! We will have a great year!" gift tags with carabiners that say "Our Class Rocks", which you can purchase HERE

"Mistakes are proof that you are trying" gift tag with erasers.
You can find these striped eraser sticks HERE.

"In this class, I will always help you get a grip on your new skills...but remember, it is okay to make mistakes" gift tags with a pencil gripper and eraser. You can find the pencil grippers and erasers in a combo pack HERE.


Now that you have that little gift idea taken care of, your mind will be on those "first day of school" activities. I always say, it is wayyy better to over-plan for the first day of school than to under-plan!

"Get to Know You" activities can be super repetitive each year for the students. I found a few I had not seen before that leave a lot of room for you to create a game out of them, do a simply "Q&A", or pass out for group conversations! 

This first set of cards goes with a dice game you can also find on their site, but the cards don't "need" the dice game! You can do so much with these cards by just handing them out or randomly choosing one. You can even allow the students to choose them and ask a friend the question. Maybe some interviews of one another? Soooo many ideas! You can find this card set HERE.

Similar to the card set above, but this has a little box where they can go once you use them! They have totally different questions, so having both games would also be great in your classroom! You can find this icebreaker owl set HERE.

Everyone loves conversation cubes! All six sides have different questions and would be great for interview situations you set up with your students! You can find these conversation cubes HERE.

In addition to the straight forward "get to know you" activities, I also ALWAYS want something that allows my students to work in groups, but without needing my help (in case I need a moment to organize papers and things). The first day is alway so hectic. The kids love a group work activity and it helps them get to know each other. They also won't notice that you are getting a few things done while they work ;) which is always a nice little trick of mine! 

Below, I am going to go through a few different activities that can be done in a cooperative setting. For example, if you already have your class desks set up in groups, you can just put one activity at each group. You can then choose to rotate the groups so that everyone tries each activity! The students will have so much fun, all of them have an educational component to them, and you can free up some time to walk around and get to know your students in a different way OR grab a few minutes to organize some of those "first day" things that pile up on your desk. 

Station 1: STEM stick structures
This pack comes with the sticks and the shape/challenge cards. You will need to supply your own Play-doh (or something else like marshmallows or gumdrops). This game lends itself well to group work because different kids can work on different cards at the same time, or they can all work on one together. Groups can use their own methods! You can also bring these cards back out during your geometry unit later in the year!

Station 2: Ladders Balancing Game
This one is so fun! The directions explain how to set up the "start" of the game, and then from there you simply take turns adding a ladder to the structure, trying not to knock it down. Once someone does knock it down, though, you can just start again! Take the competition out of it by having the students work together to simply create the biggest structure they can with the ladders. This way, they aren't competing and can work together for the greater purpose. 

Station 3: STEM Design a Playground Activity
I am not going to lie, when I first received this, I built the playground myself! It was so much fun! The cool part about this is that the cards have you build smaller structures, and then take them apart and build more smaller structures. Through this, the students will learn how the pieces work and attach to one another. They can then go on their own and create a playground of their dreams! There are even little people who can "play" on it! Maybe they can even try to create the playground you all have at your school! 

Station 4: Melissa and Doug Suspend Stacking Game be honest...this one is HARD! Haha! It was sooo fun, but it can get a little frustrating, so make sure your group gets along well before they do any sort of "group work" with it! Hahaha! I can imagine frustrations running a little high with this one. As a competition, it is very similar to the ladder game I already mentioned. But like that one, you can also turn it into a stacking game and take the competition out of it, which might be a good idea here. The directions also give you three different ways to play, which is super fun and great for those kids that move through things quickly and get bored. 

This first day activity is MAYBE...just of my favorites EVER. Sorry for all of the caps...but it truly is making me so happy. The "classified" cards on the right in the photo above have secret "kindness missions" on them. The one on the top tells the student to pick up trash on the playground, for example. You can only read the tasks with the red, "top secret" decoder. 

The idea: hand out the "top secret" handheld notebooks and pencils to each student. Now they are ready for their mission! Each student gets a kindness task card, as well. They can share the red decoder to secretly decode their mission for the day or week (however long you'd like to do this activity). So, now that each student has a kindness task they need to try to do throughout the day or week, you let them record it in their journal and then leave them be to try to execute their mission when the opportunity arises. To continue with our example from above, they pick up trash while they are on the playground. It doesn't have to be the whole time, but maybe just some trash that they see when walking to lunch or when running around outside. 

While each student is trying to execute their mission, they also are trying to find out what each other student is up to! Isn't that fun!? So maybe Jimmy is picking up trash at recess and Joanna sees him! She can log it in her TOP SECRET notebook, because she has a hunch that picking up trash is his kindness mission. At the end of the day or week, see how many students were caught doing their act! This time, being "caught" is a good thing....don't tell them this from the start, but they WIN if they were caught! That means they did their kindness task and others noticed! This is awesome! You can have a prize for them, but I usually just send home happy notes for things like this! 

Click on the link for the Kindness Mission Items:


What comes later, after "meet the teacher" and first day activities are all done and over? 

This is always a huge stress of mine each year. There is so much to go over with parents, but you also want to show them something their child has learned in their time with you so far. These little, blank puzzles and baggies are super cute for this purpose! 

The Idea: 
Have the students decorate/illustrate something that they have learned so far this school year on their puzzle. You can have a big group discussion about ideas for this in class so that the kids don't all end up drawing the same few things. Then, have them rip it up and put it in their puzzle bag, which they can write their name on so their parents know it is theirs. 
When the parents come in for open house, they can work on their child's puzzle to see what their child has learned so far this year! Leave a post-it note and a pen on each desk so the parent can write a note about the puzzle to their child, also! The children can come in the next day to a completed puzzle and a note from their parent on their desk! How fun!? 

These baggies can then be tossed in a larger bin and kids can play them as a game throughout the year when they finish their work early or when you have indoor recess! 

Grab these blank puzzles HERE and the baggies HERE

I am an affiliate of Oriental Trading, so the links seen above are affiliate links. At this time, this is actually the only store I affiliate myself with. I truly trust this store and everything I have ever received or ordered from them has been perfect and exactly as advertised. Things come in high quantities, which is great for teachers or parties, and I have never been disappointed. All of these items were chosen by me for the purpose of back to school. I chose these specifically because of the ideas I had for them and they were not chosen for me.  I really hope you find everything useful! Let me know if you have any questions about anything!

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