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6 Low-Prep January Activities for First Grade

Ahhh January… winter weather and a fresh new start to the year! I love the wonder and possibilities that await us in January. As a classroom teacher, January also means coming back to school after winter break. While we LOVE our vacations, I encourage you to view this as an opportunity to “reset” with your students too. What I mean by this is that January will allow you to spark new engagement for learning, and reinvigorate your classroom. Check out this roundup of January activities to kickstart your planning!

Use these 6 low prep January activities for first grade to get your students excited about winter holidays, ELA, and math learning.

Returning to the Classroom After Break

Most teachers and students in the U.S. get two whole weeks off to celebrate Christmas and other winter holidays with their families. This vacation is a much-needed break for both parties that allows everyone a bit of time to rest and recharge. And while this break is lovely in every way, it’s also important to point out that when you return from break, you’ll likely need a couple of days to get back in the swing of things.

Returning to the classroom after break doesn't have to include chaos and prep intensive lessons when you include these low prep January activities in your every day learning.

As a long-time first-grade teacher, I found this to be especially true with my grade level. For the primary grades, vacations mean that students will need some extra time to review the routines, remember how the daily schedule flows, and hit “refresh” on learning material. My best advice here is to treat the first week back just like the very first week of school.

Coming back from break with this mindset removes the dread, and helps align your expectations with reality. Plus, something about expecting things to be a bit out of whack helps me personally when it comes to my patience. If I know that students will need a few days to get back into the routine, I’m much more calm and willing to work through the tough moments! Check out this post for tips and reminders when it comes to setting routines in the classroom.

Choosing January Activities

Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s chat about a key element in a smooth return to the classroom…. engaging January activities! Yes, it’s true that the more engaging your lesson plan is, the more likely things will return to “normal” quickly. With this in mind, I recommend considering what types of centers and activities your students like best. In my classroom that usually meant things like:

Choose January activities that are hands-on, fun, seasonal, and include review to get the most out of your January learning.
  • hands-on learning centers
  • fun classroom games
  • whole group activities
  • seasonal themes and lessons
  • engaging worksheets with a twist
  • holiday activities

Every classroom is different, but if you can manage to pull a few things from this list, I’d say you’re in excellent shape! And if you’re not sure where to begin, don’t worry – I’ve got you covered! Here are the January activities I would add to my lesson plan for high engagement and learning made fun!

1. January Morning Work

If you only plan one thing, let it be morning work! Of course, we can’t only do morning work, but really what I’m getting at here is that morning work routines will make or break your day in the primary classroom. This is especially helpful after a long vacation like winter break, so I always recommend including this in your January activities plan. Re-establishing your daily rituals with morning work right off the bat will help those little learners settle in!

When it comes to January morning work, it’s a great idea to choose activities that focus on a spiral review of math and ELA skills for your grade level. In my first-grade classroom, we used these pages for a well-rounded review that helped to “remind” everyone where we left off before the break. These pages cover topics like:

  • fact families
  • time to the hour and half hour
  • word problems
  • representing numbers with tens and ones
  • ABC order
  • using the correct verb tense
  • using pronouns
  • identifying correctly spelled words
  • writing sentences with correct capitalization and punctuation

I loved that these printable pages were no-prep, easy for students to follow, and helped to start the day off on the right foot. This resource also comes with a digital version which is great for using with your whole group after everyone has finished to go over the answers. It also comes in handy for homework assignments and children who have been absent.

2. Low-Prep January Center Activities

Centers are an essential component of a successful primary classroom. We all know that hands-on learning through games and activities is far more meaningful and fun for students than endless worksheets!

Embracing this with daily center time is a great way to generate enthusiasm for learning. Plus, center time offers a fantastic way for you to work in small groups with a handful of students, while keeping the others occupied and learning.

One of the only drawbacks to centers is that they often require lots of prep work! Right after winter break, this is less than ideal, so I recommend going with a low-prep option. All of the games and activities in this resource are either “print and go” or only require a few minimal cuts to prepare. This means you can have all of your centers ready to go in minutes!

These January activities focus on important first-grade concepts such as sight words, CVCe words, 2D and 3D shapes, addition, subtraction, and more. Best of all though, these low-prep centers are super engaging for students as well! With fun, seasonal themes on every page, your students will love using them!

3. Martin Luther King Jr. Activities

If you’re hoping to help your students learn about Martin Luther King Jr. in a meaningful way, I know you’ll love this next idea on my list of January activities! In my classroom, I’m a big fan of weaving history and social studies topics with other subjects. This is such a great way to practice important skills like reading and writing while learning about a new topic.

In preparation for MLK Jr. Day, I loved to use this resource during whole-group learning and with my small groups. Students are always fascinated by the details of MLK Jr.’s life! There are tons of activities in this unit, so you can pick and choose which ones to use in each setting, and even assign some for center time as well. Included you’ll find:

  • readers
  • timeline
  • interactive journal
  • instructional PowerPoint
  • graphic organizers
  • comprehension questions and more!

My students especially loved the “bag of facts” and crown craftivities in this unit. The bag of facts activity has students writing down interesting points about MLK and add them to a decorated brown paper bag. The crown activity has them state their own dream for the future and decorate a picture of MLK Jr. These creative activities are a fun way to finish out this unit!

4. No Prep Practice Pages

If you’re like most teachers, you probably have a few random times during your day that pop up unexpectedly and need to be filled.

This might happen when students finish assignments faster than expected, a change in the schedule occurs, or inclement weather prevents recess.

If you can relate to this, you need some engaging no-prep printables to add to your January activities.

These no-prep pages focus on important math and ELA concepts for first grade through plenty of fun activities. Since there are over 60 pages, you can easily pick and choose which ones to use and differentiate by skill level.

Use select pages for fast finishers, homework assignments, instant centers, or meaningful time-fillers. Just because you’re filling time, doesn’t mean it needs to be fluff! These pages will help your students practice important skills and come in handy when you need them.

5. Winter Color by Code

Next on my list of January activities is another no-prep, classroom hero! I loved using color by code activities for many reasons. First off, they are super engaging to students. If your kids seem a bit out of sorts and need an activity to refocus, this is a great option! I always found that activities like these came in handy after the break for this very reason.

Another reason to love color by code is because they are super versatile! They can be used for all kinds of skills. We used them often for math facts, sight words, and CVC word practice. Some of my color by code pages are editable too. This means you can fill them with literally anything you want for instant practice! Here are some of my favorites for January:

I also love that these can be quickly printed off and stored in a drawer for quick and easy access. It’s always nice to have some no-prep, go-to activities on hand and ready!

6. New Year’s Resolution Writing

Last on my list, I’m sharing one of my favorite activities to kick off the year! Grab this New Year’s Resolution Writing activity to use when you return from winter break.

Included you’ll find an interactive flap resolution printable, writing paper, hat decorating, and a coloring sheet for early finishers.

There are multiple options to choose from, so you can pick what works best for your students. It’s updated every year, so you can use it for years to come!

This is a great activity to start the new year and get those kiddos thinking! Plus, you can even use the writing page as a bulletin board display to replace the holiday ones in your room.

Have Fun Planning Your January Activities

I hope you found something inspiring to use in your classroom this January! And don’t forget, with the right activities, coming back from winter break doesn’t need to be a drag! Use this month as an opportunity to fire kids up about learning and set the stage for a successful second half of the school year. You can find all of the resources mentioned here and tons more in my TPT Shop. Happy Planning!

Oh, and if you want to get a head start planning for upcoming months, be sure to check out these posts too!

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