Teaching Strategies for Welcoming Elementary Students Back to School

With students coming back to school, it’s up to you to employ specific teaching strategies to make the transition easier, especially for elementary students.

The first days of the year can be a little challenging, especially for kindergartners and first-graders who can be frightened by the notion of going to a big school with all those other children around. It’s even a bit daunting for those in the upper grades who are acclimated to being in a school environment.

Scholastic Magazine recently compiled a host of back-to-school teaching strategies submitted by its readers. Here’s a quick look at some of those suggestions from working teachers:

Mystery Postcard

Students receive a postcard over the summer with a picture of the teacher’s current location. They need to figure out where the teacher is and report back on the first day of school. The teacher will be in some location in the United States near a tourist spot or monument. It makes the students feel special receiving mail, and it’s a great icebreaker for the first day of school.

Time Capsules

The teacher gives each student a time capsule made of a paper towel tube with tissue paper covering the bottom. The students will have the opportunity to decorate them. The teacher will then take pictures of the students and make multiple copies. One photo will be placed in a time capsule with a writing sample of their work at the beginning of the school year. They will also fill out a card about their likes, dislikes, hopes and dreams. Everything has to be school-related, dealing with things they will learn during the current school year. The students will also receive a wishing rock. Everything will be placed into the time capsule, which will hang from the ceiling all school year and come down prior to the ending of school. Students will repeat their activities and do a comparison of how they progressed. 

Giving Tree

A paper tree is placed onto a bulletin board and covered with apples. Each apple has a different classroom supply that can be donated by a parent, student or the PTA. Someone comes and plucks an apple from the tree and returns it with the item of choice. The donor’s name then goes onto the apple and returns to the tree. At the end of the month, there is a raffle for everyone who donated and the winner receives a prize. The classroom gets supplies and the donors compete for goodies. 

Wacky Writing

This activity combines art and writing. All students receive a piece of paper and are instructed to write their names on the back. They are then instructed to draw a wacky face with ears and nothing else. The students then pass their sheet to the student at the left, who then adds eyes and eyebrows.  They pass the paper again, adding the mouth. Passing again, they add hair and any other features. The final students get to color in the picture’s features. The teacher then collects and distributes the pictures to the original student.

The students then look at the picture of the “new student” and have to write a paragraph on how that person must feel on the first day of school. It helps to break the ice, it’s a lot of fun and completely wacky. The pictures and writing are displayed at Open House.

This is just a sampling of some of the strategies available for welcoming students back to school. There are other lessons and resources available that can help teachers make the transition for students a lot easier. Students enjoy quick, fun lessons on the first day of school as it takes the apprehension out of the day. Everyone gets to know each other and it sets the tone for the remainder of the week. Students thrive in comfortable environments, and the main objective of ice breakers is to assure your students that their learning environment will be safe, educational and fun.

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We are dedicated to providing the most effective educational resources. We know students are as varied as the educators who teach them, and we strive to support all educators through these meaningful differences. We don’t want to tell you what (not) to do; instead, we want to show how others in similar positions have found success through their own projects and initiatives.

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