First Day of School Activities

excerpted from Classroom Management for

First Day of School Activities

Lots of First Day Activities from Cape Brenton Victoria School Board

First Day of School Activities by Katie Hallum

First Days of School Script for Teachers by Katie Hallum

Back to School Preparation Checklist and Month by Month Schedule for First Grade by Terry Analore

Everybody Needs A Rock Activity by Jan Tappan

Activities for First Day by Scholastic

Interest Inventory for getting to know your students

Nine Questions to Ask Students on First Day of School by Elona Hartes

101 Things to Do on the First Day of School

Math Activities for the Beginning of the Year

Article: Reviewing the Steps to Take Before Starting the Year

Ice Breakers

Kathy Schrock’s First Day Activities/Ice Breakers

Teachnology Ice Breakers

Ice Breaker List

Ice Breakers and Warm Ups

Welcome Letters

These can be adapted for any grade level and were created using Printshop:

First Grade

Second Grade (Spanish/English)

More sample Letters from Scholastic

First Day of School Read Alouds

First Day of School Books

Also Worth Reading

Things to do before starting year of Open Court Reading

Back to School, It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Classroom Management Articles

Have a great year if you haven’t started already!

Civil War Links

Here are links for teaching about the Civil War.  Thank you to Dionne Hemphill for the latest additions to the list.
Maps of the Civil War – Library of Congress

Thousands of Civil War Photographs

The Civil War Home Page

Civil War Free Clip Art

Civil War Links

Civil War Internet Paths to Explore

Half Slave and Half Free

Carrying the Running-Aways

So I Became a Soldier

Charley Skedaddle

Historic Places Connected with Abraham Lincoln

Follow the Drinking Gourd

The History Place presents Abraham Lincoln

The Underground Railroad @

Harriet Tubman fantastic site

History Lessons for English Language Learners

Battle Hymn of the Republic

If You Were President Game

Teaching the Civil War with Technology

Underground Railroad Research Site

Interactive Underground Railroad Games

National Geographic


Pathways to Freedom

Find other resources for this unit here.

Revolutionary War Links

Here are resources I’ve compiled for teaching the American Revolution/Revolutionary War.  Thank you to Dionne Hemphill for the latest additions to the list.

The Road to Revolution – Game

Lesson Plans for Teaching (SCORE)

The American Revolution – Education World

Constitution Day Activities

Natural History Museum – Making a New Nation

Timeline of American Revolution

The American Revolution

The Declaration of Independence

Making of the Constitution

Articles of Confederation vs. Constitution Graphic Organizer

Kids in the House House of Representatives Site for Kids

History and Geography

History Lessons for English Language Learners

If You Were President Game

Tasks Related to American Revolution

Revolutionary War Biographies

Biographies of Women in War

Virtual Marching Tour of the Revolutionary War

Revolutionary War Online Resource

Kids Page at Valley Forge

Find other resources for this unit here.

Create Your Own Campaign Ad

Now your students have a chance to create their own campaign ad for their presidential bid thanks to the National Constitution Center.  Due to the tongue in cheek nature of the campaign commercial that results this is probably most appropriate for older students like fifth grade to middle school.

Visit Ad-o-Matic here.

Students take a picture of themselves or upload a photo, choose a party, pick issues that are important to them and then the site does the rest. It does not let you choose your policy. In other words, I say I care about the environment and the site says I want to install air fresheners in buildings.

Mac users may need to fine-tune the settings to get their built in iSight camera to be recognized but otherwise this was really easy to make.  To get past the novelty and result in some real learning, you’ll need to discuss the issues in greater depth.

Here’s the commercial I created…

Open Court in the Special Education Classroom

This question comes frequently from special education classrooms who are teaching the Open Court Reading Program…

I have a classroom of fifth graders reading at a first grade level.  Can’t I just teach my fifth graders the first grade curriculum?

While fifth grade students may not be able to read, they can certainly comprehend, are curious, and need access to the content contained in the fifth grade curriculum as much as they need to know how to read.  Maybe they can’t read but they’re not babies.

If you’re teaching fifth graders the first grade curriculum (which includes things like we take a boat to travel somewhere on the water) your students are falling behind not only in reading but also in content knowledge.  You are putting your students at a severe disadvantage in school as well as life.

That said, it’s difficult teaching a program that’s rigorous to students who are far behind.  However, program components like the workbook, the reading anthology, and word knowledge are all done whole group.  You are providing exposure to concepts that students won’t master yet but they will need.   I would hope that in special education your pacing can be modified to allow a longer period of time to work on the same units.  Nevertheless, just like in the regular ed classroom, your differentiation comes from your independent work time/workshop period.  That is when you meet with small groups, pre-teach, reteach, and support students in ways that are specific to them.  During that time, if you want to bring in a first grade decoable book to reteach the /i/ sound then feel free…although you might do better to bring in some authentic literature in that time to not only reteach skills but also support students’ appreciation of literature.

For more on Special Education, read Special 2 Me, written by a special education teacher who teaches Open Court, or Teachers At Risk, written by an always inspiring Canadian educator.

Books About Protest for Children

Tomorrow, members of the Los Angeles teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) will be starting work an hour late to protest proposed state budget cuts to education. With education funding tied largely to property values in California, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. On the table, if not today then in the near future, is the firing of probationary teachers, increases in class sizes, and cuts to teacher salaries.

For elementary teachers participating in the job action and wondering how to explain what they are doing to their students, I recommend the book, Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type in which the cows go on strike to protest poor working conditions from the farmer. I’ve used this as an introduction to Ceser Chavez and Martin Luther King and to explain previous job actions by teachers.

Whether teachers are right or wrong, the lesson for students can be that sometimes it’s important to peacefully stand up for what you believe in.

The Concept Question Board of the Future

I’ve mentioned elsewhere teachers who have used blogging as a modern day platform for their Concept/Question Board.

Alice Mercer has now re-imagined the Concept/Question Board using VoiceThread, an online digital storytelling platform. Here, students record their voices asking questions and telling what they know about the coming unit.

See VoiceThread Online Concept/Question Boards:

Also related:

Making A New Nation: Five Ideas for a Unit Opener


The American Revolution Unit contains several wordy stories of American History. The goal of the unit opener should be to assess prior knowledge and plant the seeds of recognition of a few key characters and motivations so that the following stories are comprehensible and relevant.

Unit Opener Objective

Students will be able to explain the reasons behind the Revolutionary War and tell at least one significant fact about two key figures of the Revolution.

Advanced Tip:

Give students index cards to keep track of new learning and questions to place on concept/question board throughout the unit opener. Teachers may wish to chart new knowledge and questions on a KWL chart at the front of the room as well so that non-writers can at least copy from the chart.

Anticipatory Set:

Using the key figures of the revolution picture file, spark students’ interest in some of the characters they will be reading about throughout the unit.


Use any combination of these. I tried to use every one and it was a bit much.

  1. Using Google Earth, map the journey of the British from England to the New World or view a pre-made film here.
  2. Causes of the Revolution Role Play: Shawn Gibson presents an idea where students play the roles of king, tax collector, and citizen. As students pay taxes they understand the reasons why Americans wanted war.
  3. Yertle the Turlte. This tale by Dr. Seuss cleverly illustrates the abuse of power and the feeling of taxation without representation.
  4. John, Paul, George, and Ben is an amusing story by Lane Smith which provides just a little information about several of the key revolutionary figures students will be reading about. The book is also available on DVD.

Also see:

Available free revolutionary war movies to use as unit openers.

Online Concept/Question Board created using VoiceThread by teacher, Alice Mercer

American Revolution Webquest submitted by Obi Okediashi who suggests setting up a digital projector and working through it with students.

Ideas for follow-up activities using Comic Life and Kidpix.

Heritage Unit Project Ideas

submitted by Francie Kugelman

1. The students can research a family recipe that is handed down from generation to generation. They must cook it, and write step by step what they did in order to make it. They must also include the history from the recipe.

2. The students can create a fictional story about their families. They must illustrate pictures to go with this story, in the end it will be a book.

3. The student can research the meaning of his/her name. Look up the meaning in a baby book, plus ask parents where the name came from. Also, learn about middle name and last name too.

4. The student can find out when the family first arrived in America. How did they come, from what country? Did they have a different first name and last name from the prior country? When was it? Why did they come to America? Where did they stay? What was the first job the adults had?

5. Make a family tree. Michaels craft center has a cute family tree made of bears. I just copy this and have the students fill it in with illustrations or photos. They try and get all the names of their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.

6. Make a drawing of their favorite home they have lived in. Do a guided walk as they close their eyes. You have them walk through every part of their home, remembering details.

Cumulating project: a story about a favorite memory.
You can teach the genre of memoir writing. I like to use Sandra Cisneros – House on Mango Street. We read the story, “Hairs”. The students draw portraits of their family members and then do an imitative Hairs poem. We give it to the moms on Mother’s Day.

Memoir Writing

Memoirs are focused on the significance of a relationship and are supported by memories of specific experiences. They may focus on any individual person, place, animal, or thing. The success of the memoir lies in the writer’s ability to provide the reader with an understanding of the importance of the relationship.

Examples to Use with Students Examples of Memoir Writing

More Heritage Unit Opener Ideas