Ahhh, August…. we all know what that means. Back to school is upon us! As teachers, August is by far the busiest month in the classroom. That means it’s time to get back to basics, teach your new crop of kiddos the ropes, and ease into your routines. If you’re looking for fun and engaging back to school activities to help set the tone for a fantastic year, I’ve gotcha covered!
Choosing Back to School Activities
My best advice for choosing back to school activities is to keep it simple. As you’re preparing your August lessons over the summer, choose activities that are easy to explain, don’t require a ton of independence, and are fun for students. And when it comes to skills, focus on those that would be review from the prior year.
You’ll also want to think about how you want your daily routine to look and try to build your back to school activities around that. For example, here’s what I always tried to include in our routine:
- Some kind of morning work is an absolute MUST in my book. Morning work helps sets the tone for the day and calm the morning chaos.
- Fast finisher and no-prep activities are always a good thing to have on hand. These really come in handy in August since your schedule is likely to be a bit wonky as you settle into the new routine.
- Opt for low-prep centers to lighten your load. This is key all year long, but especially during the month of August! You already have enough on your plate, no need to spend hours prepping centers too.
Aside from the practical component of choosing activities that align with your desired schedule, you’ll also want to choose some fun, community-building activities to welcome students to their new classroom. Having a mix of basic math and ELA review activities, along with other activity types, will help set the tone for high engagement in your room. If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve got 6 ideas to help you begin your planning!
1. Back to School Morning Work
As I mentioned, morning work is a must if you want to develop a calm and consistent morning routine in your classroom. I’m a big believer in helping students learn the routine early on to help tame the chaos and set the tone. That’s why we would start the very first week of school.
Morning work is also a great time to review concepts you’re teaching and allow students a moment to get their brains turned on for the day. My favorite morning work uses a spiral review of essential math and ELA concepts throughout the year. In August, some of the things we focus on include:
- writing numerals
- word families
- short vowels
- correcting sentences
Students used the printable version of these worksheets first thing in the morning. When the year started out, I helped students learn the format of these activities by projecting the digital version on the Smart Board. We read through each question and completed the first week of morning work together. Once students got a feel for how this worked, they were able to complete their worksheets independently.
Then, we went through and corrected our morning work pages together using the digital version. This is a great way to start the day and allows for a few minutes every morning to get settled! Grab a free week of morning work activities here to see how they’ll work in your room!
2. Low-Prep Centers
Center time is usually a student favorite. Young children love having the opportunity to move around the classroom, work with hands-on learning materials, and interact with each other. Knowing this, center time was always a priority, but it also caused a pain point for me too! All.that.prep!
When I was in my early years as a teacher, I’d spend hours every month prepping center activities. I quickly learned that just wasn’t going to work.
My time was super limited, and I needed to be selective about how it was spent. This is how my low-prep centers were born!
Low-prep centers offer opportunities to play games during center time while utilizing a format that is essentially “print and go”.
Any cutting required is highly minimal, so you don’t have to spend hours getting things prepared. I loved being able to offer my students some fun activities they truly enjoyed, without having to sacrifice my whole prep period!
3. First Week of School Writing Activities
I loved to have special writing activities for the first week of school. These make great keepsakes, and always helped to make the students feel welcome! Every year, we filled out this fun little writing booklet during the first week. We’d work on a page or two per day in independent or group settings. The included prompts discuss things like:
- All About Me
- My Teacher
- My New Friends
These come in handy you have a few extra minutes, before a transition time, or while you’re trying to pull students to assess. When they’re finished, this booklet is great to send home for students to share with their families! Sometimes, instead of the booklets, we’d use these graphic organizer writing pages instead. These activities are similar, except they have children work on brainstorming about their topic prior to writing.
Included in this resource, there are a few graphic organizer options for each of the 3 writing topics. Students will work on filling out the page, and then when they’re ready they can use their graphic organizer to complete the related writing prompt page. Either option offers a fun way to work on writing during the first few weeks of school, and they make for a super cute work sample to save for student portfolios!
4. No-Prep Back to School Activities
No prep printables are a must when it comes to planning back to school activities. Inevitably, there will always be times when things don’t go quite to plan, and you’ll need a quick and easy activity. For this reason, I always kept a stack of these August worksheets on hand during the first few weeks of school. They require minimal effort on my part and are filled with introductory math and literacy concepts for the month of August. Some of the things students will focus on include:
- writing numerals to 20
- count and match to 10
- tracing tally marks
- color words
- rhyming words
- CVC words
- and more!
These no-prep printables are a great way to begin introducing some of the important concepts you’ll cover throughout the year and see where your students are at. Many of these pages will serve as a review from kindergarten, while some of them include brand-new concepts. This variety allows you to differentiate by skill level and make sure everyone is getting the practice they need to start the year off right. These also make fantastic homework assignments too. Try a free sample of these no-prep pages this August in your room!
5. Back to School Graphing Activities
The primary classroom is a place of community. As a teacher, it was always my mission to foster that sense of community in my classroom and help children feel welcome and valued. For this reason, I’m a huge fan of whole group activities that encourage students to learn a bit more about each other. One of my absolute favorite back to school activities to support this is our Transportation Graphing.
This activity serves as an introduction to data and graphing, an important first-grade concept, while also bringing your community of firsties together.
This resource helps students learn to represent and interpret data while also learning about how their friends get to school. There are picture cards, number cards, and axis labels to create a large classroom graph together.
Afterward, students will fill in their own graphs on a recording sheet and get the opportunity to interpret the data. This is a fun activity for the first week of school and a great way to introduce this math concept!
6. Color by Code Back to School Activities
Color by code is a fun and engaging way to practice a variety of skills. During the month of August, I liked to use fun back to school themes to get kiddos excited and review math facts.
Students love these activities because the element of coloring makes them feel low pressure. When you’ve got a bunch of brand-new firsties, it’s important to make them feel welcome and relaxed. Color by code is a great way to do just that! Plus, they’re a great option to have on hand during the month of August for a quick, go-to activity!
Since they’re no-prep, you can just print a bunch of them and have them ready in a drawer for fast-finishers, or to fill a few extra minutes in your day.
I also used these for simple center activities to get students used to working independently. No matter how you use them, having these on hand is a great idea for the month of August!
Bonus: Classroom Decor
While this one isn’t exactly a back to school activity, it’s still a must for the month of August!
If you haven’t quite decided how you’d like to decorate your classroom this year, be sure to check out this post that covers all of the essential elements of classroom decor.
Choosing the right classroom decor will help you target specific educational goals, create a welcoming environment, maintain classroom order, and keep yourself organized!
If you’re still trying to find a classroom decor set to fit the bill, try browsing here for a bit.
These classroom decor sets come with everything you need to make your classroom both beautiful and functional. You’ll find labels, editable posters, calendar items, center signs, and more!
Start Planning Your Back to School Activities!
I hope you found some fun and engaging back to school activities to add to your lesson plan this August. No matter what you decide to focus on during the first month, don’t forget to keep your desired schedule in mind!
Training those littles on routine and classroom structure early on is key to making for a smooth transition into a new year! If you’re looking for even more inspiration, be sure to check out my shop for low-prep, first-grade resources that your students will love!
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