Back to School ideas (rerun)

by becky on July 30, 2012

Hi, everyone! Well, it must be nearing August, because this teacher officially can’t sleep. Why does this still happen??? This will be my tenth year teaching. The same grade. In the same school. In the same room. Why do I still fret myself so much? I am literally sitting here right now with a pit in my stomach thinking about the upcoming school year and ahhh, the nerves! I know it’s because I’m a control freak and this part of the year is all about the unknown. Such as, “When will I get to set my room up?” “What will my new class be like?” (and more scary) “What will my new set of parents be like?” “What will my new team and teammates be like?” Please tell me I’m not the only one who unwillingly loses sleep over these things?? Please. Anyone, anyone?

Well, since I can’t control so many things right now, then I’ll focus on the things I can control. Such as the first few days/weeks of school. I have been organizing my files so that I can send them to our digital printing center to be copied. For this post, I thought I’d re-post the ideas I had last school year. To those of your who have seen these, hopefully they will remind you of something you  liked and for those of you who haven’t seen these, I hope you find some that are helpful. Enjoy!

I don’t know about all of you, but the one day of the school year I will NEVER miss is the first day.  I have learned through trial and error, that the first day is going to be crazy. No. Matter. What. So, to make my morning a little less crazy, I took a tip from one of my teacher partners and when my students come into my classroom on the very first day of school, the first thing(s) I instruct them to do is find their desk, read the note, and follow the directions in the letter. Here is an example of what a student’s desk has looked like before on the first day of school:

They have two “notes” from me. The first one welcomes them to our classroom and instructs them where to put their belongings. Most materials I have them keep at their desk and then as I take attendance I collect their kleenex, clorox wipes, index cards, etc… Underneath the welcome letter is a getting to know you survey. It is pretty lengthy and I let them know that if they don’t finish it today they can work on it tomorrow as well. I have found that when they are “busy” on the very first day, it allows me to take attendance, organize supplies, and slow down the craziness of the first day of school. If you’d like a copy of my form, feel free to click here and download a copy for yourself. I have made it a bit generic so it can be used at various grade levels. (** For some reason, when you view it in Google Docs, it might look like there aren’t lines next to the questions. No fear, they are there. 🙂 **)


I thought I’d share my Birthday Balloon jar that I made. I was inspired by so many members on ProTeacher and also from my blond twin (just kidding, but seriously, sometimes I think we were separated at birth) Christie at Teaching in Flip Flops to create my own set. Here you go:

Part of me wishes I had made the balloons with polka dot or zebra patterned paper like Christie did, but I had to have a talk with myself this week. I told myself that even though I LOVE so many ideas, I am not a millionaire and I need to start using the supplies I already have. In fact, I won’t let myself go to Dollar Tree or any teacher stores  until the end of September. By then, most of the back to school crazy cute items should be gone. Sigh. It’s been hard, but my motto right now is, “If you can’t make it yourself, you don’t need it.” It’s been a daily struggle, lol.

The best part of my balloons is that I didn’t need to cut anything except the ribbon. My cricut came with the most boring font cartridge but I scored big time when I realized that there was a balloon shape on it. Can you say, EXCITING? I was very happy. I like the jar as it is, but may add black letters saying Happy Birthday. We shall see.

Since, I am a BIG supporter of Cooperative Learning, I have my students create partner clocks so that they will always have an assigned partner. In the past, I’ve used Mrs. Van Dyke’s version. But, this year, I made something more fun for my kiddos to use. If you visited me the first few weeks that I started my blog, you may have snagged a copy of my Partner Phone. I decided to take it off Teachers Pay Teachers and put it on Google docs instead. If you would like a copy, click on the picture below.

After my class and I discuss partnerships, one of the very first activities they will try is a Classroom Scavenger Hunt. I found this suggestion on ProTeacher and really don’t know why I haven’t tried it before. What a great way for students to work together to find items around the classroom. I made a version for my classroom, a blank version for you to write your items in, and numbers 1-20. Feel free to use my version with your students. I figured everyone’s class is way different but I included mine in case you need some ideas. The numbers are for you to put around the classroom. That way instead of just checking off that they found the items, they need to record which number was by the item. It also adds to the “hunt”. If you’d like a copy for your class, click on either of the pictures below. Hope you like it. I’m always looking for new ideas, so if you have any back to school ideas, please share them! THANKS! 🙂


In the past, I’ve had my students fill out a form during the first few days that talks about their favorite things. I decided that this year, I still want to do a time capsule activity but I want to beef it up by adding a picture book to the lesson. To introduce the history of time capsules, I’m going to read part of this book to my class. (Thank you public library!) Does anyone know of any other kid-friendly titles that discusses time capsules? If so, please let me know!!! 🙂

Then, after we discuss the importance and significance of creating time capsules, I’m going to have them fill out the form below. I’ll collect them, put them in our class time capsule (a decorated shoe box),  and then return them to each student during the last week of the school year. They LOVE seeing how things have changed or stayed the same. If you’d like to snag a copy of my time capsule, click on the picture below.


One project my family doesn’t know they are helping me with this weekend are my “Welcome Back Sacks”. I have been using the same format for my sacks for the past 8 years, tweaking it here and there.

Here are the players:

Lifesavers, Starburst, Mechanical Pencils, Erasers (cute crayon shaped erasers I found at the Target $1 spot, smiley face stickers, ribbon, plastic baggies, and the sack forms.

Here is what the forms look like:

Here is what the final product looks like… They will be on the kiddos desks when they come in on the first day!

If you would like a copy of the Welcome Back Sack form, click here.  🙂

And finally, as promised, I finished my back to school game. I hope you like it. If you have any suggestions for games/activities you’d like me to make let me know and I’ll see what I can do. Here is a rundown of what you’ll get for free:

I created this game to be used during the first few weeks of school. It is meant to be used after school and class procedures have been taught and practiced. Make 1 copy or make several copies. In this download you will find:

  • 24 “general” classroom and school procedure questions
  • 6 blank question cards for you to create questions based on your personal class procedures.
  • 1 game board
  • 1 blank answer key for you to write the correct answers in.
  • directions to prepare and play the game

As the year begins, our kiddos are bombarded with class and school procedures. In an effort to see what they’ve learned and remembered I created this game. Not only will it help you to see what they don’t understand but it will also help build classroom bonds as they answer the questions and help each other. Use some, all, or none of the questions I created. I made them general so they can be used at various grade levels. Let me know what you think! Enjoy! 🙂

Click here to download

 Well, Friends, I hope you found something you can use!!!  I think I’m going to go enjoy this very pretty Monday with a walk, a cup of coffee, and the ladies of The View! I’ll be back soon with more back to school ideas and updates! 🙂

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

suzy July 30, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Love your partner phones! Have used partner clocks forever, but this catapults us into the new millennium! (But, the agony of getting second graders to fill it out properly…)

Thanks for a bunch of great ideas!


Lori G July 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Your not alone on sleepless nights. Mine started the day I accepted my new position. I am moving up from 4th to 6th. Super excited and nervous all at the same time. I believe those sleepless nights confirm my dedication to teaching and reminds me that I am a good teacher.

Thanks so much for the great idea for starting the year off. I have used your school rocks game last Jan. The kids loved it,


Shannon Moyer July 31, 2012 at 1:39 am

You were one of the first blogs that I found last summer! I love your blog. It is definitely one of the blogs that inspired me to start my very own! This past school year I used the classroom scavenger hunt with my second graders after they learned about my procedures and routines. They LOVED it! They wanted to do it every day that week! Your school rocks game looks fun and I can’t wait to try out! Thanks for all the freebies!
Right now over at my blog I am hosting my very first linky party and would love for you to check it out! Thanks so much!


Amy Maher August 4, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Wow! What great ideas!! I am heading back to the classroom after staying home with my children for the past 10 years and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. Your back to school ideas are wonderful! Can’t wait to use them in my new 4th gr. classroom. 🙂


Amanda August 6, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Now that I know you’re looking for slave labor this weekend for your little bags….


Laura August 17, 2012 at 3:02 am

Hi Becky,
Just grabbed your student info sheet,(Love getting them busy right away to take care of “housekeeping” on the 1st day!) and was wondering about the other Welcome letter. Do you have a copy you can send me, I’d like to see how you organize it and what your procedures are as a template for my own… Getting kids unpacked on the first day, (or, ahem, every day) can be a challenge for me! Thanks!


Jennifer August 18, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Thanks for sharing all your cute and very useful ideas! I am going to use your Scavenger Hunt this year for my classroom but instead of putting up the {super cute} numbers I’m going to put up different flash cards around my room and they will record the answer on their paper. I’m hoping to see what my kiddos are capable of as they look for the items in our room.

Again, thanks for all the great ideas! Love the “look” of your blog too!


Lauren July 6, 2013 at 12:27 am

Could you explain how to use the partner phones? Thanks!


Michelle July 11, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your fabulous ideas! I have always used “cooperation clocks”, but love the idea of phone partners. Also, I’m very excited to use your “School Rocks” game the first few days of school. Thanks again! 🙂


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