Ten activities to start the year (or semester)

It’s that time of year again!

The holidays are over, and January is looming right around the corner (cough, one more day of 2018, cough).

Here are some free & paid resources you can use on the first day/couple days back to EASE back into the school year.

Ten Ideas to Start the Year_Semester

With NEW students

#1 Investigate the Teacher via @writeonwithmissg

I used this the first day with my students last semester and LOVED IT! It is an easy way for the students to get to know you WITHOUT just going through a Powerpoint because they go around the room and gather inferences about you based on your classroom. Students get to MOVE on the first day & practice research skills! Find it here!IMG_3963

#2 Back to School Escape Room @nouvelle_ela

Two years ago I used this to introduce my classroom rules and syllabus. You can purchase the product and it is 100% editable to fit your classroom. Another awesome way to get the kids up and moving and learning things you HAVE TO teach ANYWAY…but making it more engaging (and less hands on for you, after you get it set up!)

#3 Back to School Stations

I did this year and LOVED it, I got the idea from @writeonwithmissg (you can purchase her product, I ended up making my own). I made 8 stations for the students to rotate around the room and complete. Some examples were goal making station, Meet with Mrs. Nerswick station, Student information Google Doc, FFA “post it” question poster, etc. You can make whatever stations fit your needs 🙂


With OLD Students

#4 Inquiry Lab

I was part of the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Program a few summers ago (if you haven’t done it….DO IT). But, one of the things they made us to is IMMEDIATELY get our of our comfort zone into the world of inquiry. If you are teaching a science class that will require students to think like scientists/researchers etc… you might want to start out the class with some uncomfortable growing to get the kids used to what you expect of them! I tend to do the “does bubblegum can/lose weight as you chew?” but there are TONS of other ideas like “are Oreos “really” double stuffed?” You basically give them the question, they DO THE REST! They create the experiment and do it! I give them a ONE SHEET lab report called a VEE Map. This includes ALL the things you need (materials, steps, results, etc) in an easy to follow sheet. I usually do this on the FIRST or SECOND day!


#5 16 Personalities

Ever heard of Myers-Briggs testing? I am a leadership NERD (insert hand up emoji here). There is a free test from 16 personalities that I love doing with my students. EVERY TIME students are like “that is TOTALLY me!” the website is very in-depth in many categories like careers, relationships, things that we like, teamwork etc. Students can gain A LOT of insight about themselves. I have given them a quick worksheet to complete and even once had students do a presentation on their findings using this Google Slides prompt. One of the prompts was to find funny pictures/memes that associate with their personality, below is an example.


#6 Career Research/Interviews

I LOVE starting the year off with careers. I can hear you sighing and about to skip to the next idea…but stick with me. Instead of taking a test, or a web quest online. I HAVE STUDENT INTERVIEW a REAL PERSON about their ideal career. YES, they have to actually TALK ON A PHONE (or skype/facetime). I basically provide the contacts (you could do this for just one unit, ex. Animal Science-Find a bunch of people you know (via networking, contacts, social media) get their contact information and provide it to a student (or partners/groups). Then the students take the reins, they contact the person (via email) to set up a phone interview. They make the questions, have an interview, ask for follow-up questions/photos for them to make a presentation to class on their findings. This provides students an opportunity to learn about careers BUT also practice professional correspondence.


#7 Resolutions/Goals

There are A TON of resources on Teachers Pay Teachers for New Year resolutions and/or goals worksheets/activities.

#8 Letter to Me in 2019

I was thinking I wanted to do something similar to a resolution/goals activity, but wanted to make it a little different. So, I came up with an idea for the students to write a letter to themselves reflecting on the past year. They get a prompt to write three paragraphs, complete the letter, seal it in an envelope and they will get it back at the end of the school year. I will be doing this in some classes next week 🙂 Here it is.

#9 Podcast

I LOVE podcasts! Mainly for my own development and inspiration like the RISE Podcast by Rachel Hollis and Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher. But, there are SO many good ones out there you can use in your classroom. Maybe the kids ALREADY listen to one. Pick one, or leave it open-ended for the kids to pick their own. Listen to the podcast and provide a reflection component (you could use the worksheet in #10).

#10 Retiring Address/Ted Talk Worksheet

I am a sucker for a good retiring address or Ted Talk. I love hearing people’s unique perspectives on life. You can get a free Ted Talk worksheet here from Laura Randazzo. I also made a similar one for Retiring Addresses (find it free there) as part of my Emergency Sub Plan documents (6 different ONE PAGE worksheets (printable/electronic) that can be used in ANY UNIT in ANY class)!

#11 BONUS–Leadership Initiatives/Team Building Activities

Fun activities are the best activities! I love having some fun activities to get the year or semester started! It’s also an EASY way to weave in some teamwork and communication skills! I’ve done a fair few of these–Here is a quick list of examples…

Balloon Tower Building, Spaghetti Tower, Minute to Win it Games, Team marker writing/drawing, team cup stacking, and so many more!


Phew, now I just need to choose which one to do on my first day back next week!

Hope you find something that give you a day to reset and the kids to get engaged!

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