Tag Archives: first day of school

Top Back-to-School Posts on All Access Pass

These are some of my most popular and useful Back-To-School posts:

First Day of School Scavenger Hunt – Great ice breaker that  gets kids out of their seats and helps you get to know your students. Download the PDF to customize it for your grade.

Updated Scavenger Hunts – Three levels of first day scevenger hunts to meet the needs of your particular students.

Identifying Student Learning Styles – Two links to PDF learning style inventories and one link to an online tool for determining how your students learn best.

I am a Squiggle Stuck Inside a Square – Another great ice breaker that encourages teamwork. Middle schoolers love this one. Hopefully you have a nice mix of shapes in your classroom.

Great Resources for Classroom Posters – Link to a blog that offers free printable posters of all kinds! My son would love a classroom full of posters like this one of Kevin Durant.

I Gave Schoology a Chance  – A graphic that shows all of the ways I have used Schoology in my classroom. I just realized my old course from last year was wiped out, so this will be a helpful post for me!

Team Teaching Options – Descriptions of five ways to team teach.

Summarizing Short Stories: Story Elements and Conflict – Free PDFs for these basic concepts that are often introduced in Language Arts at the beginning of the year.

Easy Access – This link will take you to one place to find everything that is free.  Wait!!  Everything is FREE on All Access Pass!!  Go here to find an organized list of downloads.

Do you have a favorite Back-To-School post or a post that is wildly popular on your own teaching blog?

Post a link in the comments!

Updated: First Day of School Scavenger Hunts

As my First Day of School Scavenger Hunt is the most popular post on my blog, I thought I’d create some more variations of the hunt to save you time.

Hopefully these are generic enough they can be used in any classroom (my last one mentioned local events and things specific to my school.)

I also tried to make them grade level appropriate. There’s one for high school, middle school and one for elementary students.

Click on the links above each image for a PDF.

High School Scavenger Hunt 2014

High school

Middle School Scavenger Hunt 2014

MS Hunt


Elementary Scavenger Hunt 2014

Elementary Scavenger Hunt 2014

Opening Words for the First Day of School

Maybe you’ve seen and heard this speech by Ashton Kutcher at the Teen Choice Awards recently.  I think this would be a fabulous first day of school opener at the middle school and high school level.  It creates an opportunity for group discussion, sets a positive tone, and totally helps you connect on their level.

Whizzing By

For some reason, I have no words for a post.

How is that possible???

Tomorrow is the first day of school and I believe my brain is full, overwhelmed, spinning, fried, all tuckered out…..

Schedules, IEPs, rosters, standards, plans, fighting with the copier….it clouds my head like a fog.

On top of that, baseball and cross country, the bottomless pile of forms I need to fill out for the kids…..It is all dampening my spirit and my excitement.

I need to get out of these work clothes, eat a quick dinner and then try to relax, regroup, and pump myself up for tomorrow.

Five years ago I was in a “transition” phase and had just moved into town from the middle of nowhere. I found the easiest way to escape, clear my head, and relax was to take off on my bike.

The following is something I “composed” while on my bike. The words came to me like something I can’t explain and five years later, they continue to run through my mind over and over and over again every time I ride…a very long mantra if you will.

I know that 3 of my followers have seen this before but I am almost certain they will not mind reading it again.

Whizzing By

First night out
on my bike.
Pick a path
and push the pedals.
New girl in town whizzing by.

Long streets
lined with trees.
Locusts chirpping,
dusk lurking.
Mystery girl whizzing by.

Empty schools,
crowded fields,
gentle hum
of spinning wheels.
Girl, alone, whizzing by.

Flags flying,
colors flashing,
leaves blowing,
branches snapping.
Fast, fast girl whizzing by.

Couples strolling,
kids laughing,
people working,
dogs panting.
Silent girl whizzing by.

She’s not stopping, whizzing by.

Hair blowing,
heart pounding,
blood flowing,
No one knowing.
Who’s that girl whizzing by?

Girl on a mission whizzing by.

Push the pedals,
clear the mind,
today’s events
now left behind.

More Ways to Get to Know Your Students

Worried that I don’t have enough to fill the first day of class, I did another search for ways to get to know my students.

Here are few more activities that may be useful that first day or first week of school.

Below are four interest inventories of various levels.

Other fun finds:

Student Information Sheet

  • This is business on the front and more personal on the back. You could easily just use the back for a good snapshot of a student’s personality. I like the kinds of questions they ask….”What wish do you have for someone else?” and “The title of a book about my life would be…” I am considering using this as a 1-on-1 interview with my Resource Room kids.

Photo Interest Inventory

  • This is more of a vocational interest inventory but I love the format and concept. It is designed for non-readers and includes a scoring system for teachers to complete. This inventory would be good for parts of the special education process. It has also inspired me to come up with a photo interest inventory for my students for the first week. I will share it here if I get it done in time!

Your Learner Sketch

  • This is a completely interactive activity where students decide if a characteristic fits into the “This is so me” or “Not me” category.
  • When you are done, it sorts your responses into strengths and weakness and includes additional links to learn more about each skill.
  • The PDF summary (I attached mine so you could see) isn’t as fun graphically, but it contains valuable information and explanations for students including strategies to help with weak areas. The report can also be emailed.


Koosh Ball Introduce Yourself

  • This is a SMART Notebook file that I plan to use sometime during the first week with my Resource Room. I plan on also using this as a template for other Koosh Ball games.

A Sweet Way to Celebrate Birthdays

Today is one of my oldest friend’s birthday. Happy Birthday Stacy!!

(Not so) many years ago Stacy and I had a love for Pixie Sticks and all things sugar (Cherry Coke and Hostess Cupcakes were two other favorites.)


Speaking of a sugar craze, the kids thought they hit the jackpot in Myrtle Beach this summer. This pic was taken at IT’SUGAR at Broadway at the Beach.

In honor of both her birthday and the fast-approaching first day of school, I wanted to share a birthday idea I got from a friend at work.

On the first day of school during Advisory/Homeroom, I have students decorate a name tag/tent. They write their name on one side and on the back they write their birthday and favorite candy.

I use these name tags for the first few days in order to learn their names. Later they can be used to make seating charts or used to create cooperative learning groups.

I collect the name tents at the end of the period and record all their birthdays and favorite candy bars on the calendar.

Then every two months, Tweedle Dee and I go on a candy-seeking mission after school while we wait for her brother to get home from elementary school. Sometimes it is tricky and we have to search high and low for a certain candy bar but I have never missed anyone’s special day.

Caramello, Cow Tales, Sweet Tarts, and Peanut Butter M & Ms are some of the hardest to find. I have the best luck at the gas station or at convenience stores like Circle K.

(I usually only buy two months worth at a time and I save the summer birthdays for the last day of school.)

On each student’s birthday I make a grand presentation during Advisory. And I let them eat it if they want (9 out of 10 kids do so and 4 out of 5 teachers “thank” me for the sugar rush). But it’s their special day…and a little sugar never hurt anyone, right Stacy?

How do you celebrate birthdays in your classroom?

What is your favorite candy?

Rules and Expectations

At the start of the year, it is imperative that you establish rules for your classroom.

Some teachers will post rules before the first day. Others will develop a list of rules with the students on Day 1.

I will not pretend to know the best way to do this, because I honestly think that the needs of each classroom are different.

Here are just some of my random thoughts on rules:

Rules are meant to be broken.20120816-083414.jpg

A rule is like a dare to some kids. What little kid can resist touching a Christmas tree?

There is an exception to every rule. 20120816-083438.jpg

How funny is this? We were at the IX Center for the Crown Classic Dog Show and this sign was at the entrance.

And Tweedle Dee brought her dog, Hairy Gary.

Some rules are for your own good.20120816-083452.jpg

Like brushing your teeth before bed.

Some rules are just not fair. 20120816-083500.jpg

That’s life.

Sometimes the rules are in the fine print.

Some rules should be challenged.

I am more of an expectations  and procedures kind of person. Here is what I expect. Here is how it will happen.

One of the best rules expectations I have ever seen in a classroom seems to cover almost everything. I painted this after lunch and will hang it up before Orientation tonight.


And because I had extra paper and paint…I made a few more posters to hang around my room.




What do you call them?

Rules or Expectations?

What is the most important rule in your classroom?


Like every other teacher blogger, I have been getting my room ready and the excitement is building. The excitement is mixed with a little bit of sadness. I mourn the loss of free time, “me” time, staying up late, consequently sleeping late, being lazy, and being insanely busy.

However, I realized as I was putting the finishing touches on my new room today I felt that bubbly back-to-school feeling…and the need to snap pics on my iPhone…so I must be ready.

Something old, something new, something to eat, and something blue

I think I mentioned I love school supplies and I buy my fair share. I have been taking in a load of supplies every day for a few days now, but I emptied my last bag of goodies today.


New markers for $1 a pack at Staples
Low-odor dry erase markers for my cheap dry erase boardsMechanical pencils to write in my journal
Erasers from The Dollar Tree – (because everyone makes mistakes)
A generic Koosh ball from The Dollar Tree (to be used on a Whack-a-Mole SMART Notebook game)
A plethora of recycled school supplies donated by Tweedle Dee
Bic White-Out Correction Tape (No odor, no mess!)
Protein bars that will hopefully hold me until my 12:22 lunch time

Ready for the first day and every day after that… 

The Scavenger Hunt is ready to go and look at these fun folders for each day of the week!


I spy with my little eye…a great big shoe!


Sharing my love for journals and organization20120814-163905.jpg

I made 11 of these composition books for my Resource Room and am excited to use these in lieu of a binder or other organizational system. I hope I can easily direct students to the correct colored tab and we can add notes by either writing or pasting copies. I will update on how this works in a few weeks. Fingers crossed!

Some inspiration.

One bulletin board in my room is filled with some of my favorite words of wisdom. 20120814-164547.jpg

  • Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
  • Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world.
  • Everything will be o.k. in the end. If it’s not o.k., it’s not the end.
  • Now is the right time.
  • Some people walk in the rain…others just get wet.

On the left, postcards about tolerance from the our class trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

And two posters I painted the other day with the kids.

Even the fish are ready!


The kids and I got a kick out of this big fish leading the school of little fish around the pond in the school’s courtyard.

#9 of 13 Teachers Who Made Me Who I Am: 8th Grade

Mrs. Not-Gonna-Use-Her-Name was my 8th grade English teacher. She loved my writing. She enjoyed my creativity. She praised my poetry.

Didn’t matter.

She was also my homeroom teacher in 7th grade. And on the first day of junior high my mom made me take my trumpet to school because band was on the schedule for Mondays.

So during the extended homeroom period on that first day, Mrs. Not-Gonna-Use-Her-Name kicked my trumpet case out of her way as she came down the aisle. Yes, she kicked it. Hard. And mumbled something about it being in her way and why would someone bring their instrument on the first day of school.

Lesson Learned from an 8th grade teacher: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

First Day of School Scavenger Hunt

On the first day of school, there is always the awkward silence during the extended homeroom period. As an ice-breaker, I use a scavenger hunt that gets students interacting and moving around. Each student gets a copy of the scavenger hunt and we mingle around the room for 10-20 minutes to complete it.


Here are the rules I give them first:

  1. You must get every block signed.
  2. You must ask the person in the form of a question, “Jack, do you like to skateboard?”
  3. The person must sign his or her own name.
  4. You can only have a person sign two blocks on the paper.

Here is the unspoken rule that it takes them awhile to figure out:

  1. You can ask the teacher questions too.

I also do this activity in my resource room, which has pretty low numbers. Last year, I only had five students so I put this up on the SMARTBoard and we took turns signing our names to different blocks.

This activity is fun and it is informative. I can see who is shy and who is out-going. I can learn a little about the students and they learn a little about me. I make mental notes so I can strike up conversations later and make connections with kids. “So you are the oldest, huh? I am too. Are you the most responsible one in your family? Do you feel like your parents are more lenient with your younger siblings?”

Here is a Word version of this Scavenger Hunt so you could modify it to fit your class.

What ice-breakers do you do on the first day of school?

How do you get to know your students?

What is the most important thing you want to know about your students?

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