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First Week of School Tips: 3 Essentials for Student Success

Hey there, let me spill the beans on what I've learned over the years about kicking off the school year right. These insights aren't just about having fun; they're the secret sauce for laying the foundation of a successful school year. These back-to-school tips are more than just strategies – they're the heart and soul of creating a strong classroom community. I'll share how blending in a bit of Social Emotional Learning (SEL), connection-building activities, and teaching procedures and routines creates an environment where things jive, flourish, and set you up for an amazing year ahead.

Tip 1: Easing Back-to-School Anxiety with SEL Activities

The first days of school can be overwhelming for students. The nervousness, anxiety, and uncertainty are emotions teachers are all too familiar with. This challenge calls for a proactive strategy to ensure students feel supported, connected, and comfortable in their new learning environment.

With this in mind, try to incorporate Social Emotional Learning (SEL) activities that create a safe space for students to address their feelings. Starting with a supportive approach can make all the difference.

Emotions Survey

Explain to students that you're interested in understanding their emotions and experiences during the first days and weeks of school. An emotions survey encourages students to recognize and articulate their feelings, fostering emotional self-awareness from the start of the school year and throughout.

Gratitude Circle

To begin with, you'll want to do is to have students sit in a circle. Then, explain the concept of gratitude – feeling thankful for the positive aspects of our lives. Next, give each student a chance to share something they are grateful for. It could be something simple, like “I saw my friends today,” “I liked our story today,” or something more significant, like “I made a new friend.” Also, encourage students to explain why they're grateful for those things. This activity helps foster a positive outlook, cultivates mindfulness, and encourages students to focus on the positives in their lives.

Positive Notes

Undoubtedly, this is probably my favorite first-week-of-school tip – send a positive note home with students! Sending home positive notes help students' social and emotional learning (SEL) needs. These notes provide a powerful avenue for reinforcing not only positive behavior but also their achievements. The notes validate students' efforts and boost their self-esteem by acknowledging their efforts and celebrating their achievements. Plus, the smiles on their face are priceless.

12 students notes displayed

You could write your own message, but I have some prewritten notes for you! The easiest way to use positive notes is to grab bright and colorful paper, make a few copies, and keep them handy and ready to fill out!

Tip 2: Building Connections with Get-to-Know-You Activities

Get-to-know-you activities during back-to-school time are important in setting the tone for a successful school year. As unfamiliar faces gather in a new classroom, these community builders break down barriers and foster a sense of community by creating a comfortable environment where students can express themselves and discover common interests. These activities set the stage for open communication, collaboration, and a positive classroom atmosphere.

Foster connections among students through engaging in get-to-know-you activities.

All About Me – “Cell”f Phone

Instead of the usual ‘All About Me' activity, let's give it a fun twist using the idea of a cell phone. Imagine each student drawing a cell'fie – a picture of themselves – and then creating a pretend Instagram account on paper. They can fill it with cool drawings and doodles that showcase their summer adventures. It's like sharing their vacation stories with friends but in an artsy way. Students can also write about their favorites and some positive affirmations about themselves. This activity encourages students to express themselves and is a fun way for students to learn about each other. It's a fantastic icebreaker for the new school year!

Two Truths and a Lie

In this game, students will first think of two truthful facts about themselves and one lie. Then, their partner tries to guess which of the three statements is a lie. It's not just a game but a chance for students to unveil intriguing facts. Usually, this builds curiosity and sparks conversations.

Partner Interviews

This activity propels students to interact, digging beyond the surface. Students enjoy getting to know their classmates through these fun questions. Students can interview different students for each page! Above all, these student-to-student interactions create camaraderie, making the classroom an inviting space.

Letter to the Teacher

Have your students write you a letter! Reading what they consider important to share with you is so fun. While some might be silly, most will be insightful! More than just paper and words, it allows students to express themselves. Writing a letter nurtures a sense of belonging as students realize their thoughts and feelings are valued within the learning community.

Tip 3: Establishing Routines and Procedures for a Smooth Start

This first week of school tip is key! Teachers must prioritize establishing routines and procedures at the start of the school year. By teaching students clear and consistent daily routines, teachers can create a sense of predictability that helps students feel secure. The goal is to streamline classroom operations and minimize disruptions. Make sure to take the first two weeks to set the tone for a smooth and productive learning experience. It makes things smoother for everyone—students know what to do, and teachers don't have to explain things over and over again.”

Teach New Routines

Teaching students new routines isn't just about telling them what to do. It's about showing them, step by step, how things should be done. This modeling helps kids feel more confident because they know exactly what's expected.

  1. Explicit Explanation: Begin by clearly explaining the new routine step by step. Use simple and concise language, supported by visual aids if possible, to ensure students understand each part of the process.
  2. Demonstration and Practice: Model the routine, demonstrating how it's done correctly. Then, have the students practice the routine together as a group. This repetition helps them internalize the steps and become more comfortable.
  3. Gradual Independence: Slowly release control as students gain confidence. Let them perform the routine with less guidance and monitor their progress. Offer positive reinforcement and constructive feedback to reinforce their efforts and ensure they do the routine accurately.

Use Review Skills when Practicing

When instructing students on routines and procedures, providing them with an activity that offers achievable success is beneficial. The purpose of these activities is not only to instruct but also to enable independent work, freeing up the teacher to concentrate on procedure practice.

review skills - phonics, addition facts, and opinion writing

Offering a review page that practices skills from the prior year permits you to emphasize the procedure being practiced rather than being preoccupied with assisting students with the tasks. This way, students can manage two things at once, practicing a prior skill but being aware of the procedure they should be learning.


Incorporate these first-week-of-school tips to craft a thriving classroom community and pave the way for a successful school year. Embrace Social Emotional Learning, foster connections through engaging activities, and establish routines for a smooth start. Set the stage for an amazing year ahead!

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