I found this list on Scholastic.com:
What are your favorite ways to kick off the new school year in September?
I give students a large index card which is used to make a post card! On the plain side of the card, they draw a picture of what they did this summer. On the lined side of the card, I have them draw a line down the middle. They address it to someone special and write a short letter about their summer fun! Don't forget to have them draw a stamp! Then we share our post cards with each other and display them. (We use a string tied to the middle so students can see either side.) Jodi Ponwith, Sioux Falls, SD
I like to do "getting to know you" days. We spend the first few days of school talking to each other and just making new friends. We talk about our families, our pets, our favorite books, and what the children want to do during the year.
Heather Caudell, Leominster, MA
The first day of school my 2nd graders make a time capsule. They are asked to bring an empty paper towel roll and begin their first day by decorating a piece of construction paper that will cover the roll with their name and a picture. A good part of the rest of the day is spent completing the contents of the time capsule. They include a tracing of their hand, a picture of themselves, and a questionnaire which asks about their favorite books, movies, tv shows, friends, etc. It also asks them to write three things that they want to learn this year. I measure each student with a piece of string and the string is also put into the time capsule. I collect them all and hide them until the last day of school. It is fun to remind them of their time capsule goals throughout the year. Reopening them on the last day of school is a much anticipated event!
Alyson Grove Saieva, La Habra, CA
At the start of each year I ask my students to write their autobiography. You can do so much with this idea. We talk about autobiographies, sentence structure, paragraphing, writing steps, and detailed writing. I learn a lot about the students and they learn about each other. This is a good topic to start the year with because they are already experts about the subject.
Kriten Wagner, Durham, NC
This year, at the recommendation of an excellent colleague, I had a "Back to School Picnic" for my kindergarten children. The children were asked to come with parents and to bring lunch and something to share about themselves. After we ate, we went into the classroom for sharing circle and then played a name game. We ended our picnic by playing together on our kindergarten playground. Although I was concerned that I wasn't going to be successful in this endeavor because of the age of the children I teach, it was perfect! Children had a chance to meet other children; parents had a chance to meet other parents; and I had a chance to meet them all in a relaxed setting before orientation. It was a perfect start to the year! Janice Ciarelli-Vogt, Blue Bell, PA
This year I plan to draw silhouettes of each of my 5th grade students. These will then be mounted on white paper and made into a class quilt. The companion exercise will be for students to write a one-page autobiography which will then be made into a quilt that corresponds in placement to the first quilt. The two quilts will be displayed next to each other.
Yelena Siwinski, Brooklyn, NY
Using a large piece of tagboard I draw as many puzzle pieces as I have students plus one for myself. As I cut them out, I number them on the back and put an "x" to show which side is the back. When students arrive on the first day, I have them decorate their piece with their names and with pictures and/or words that tell about them. We share these as a group and then reassemble the puzzle on a bulletin board to symbolize the importance of each individual's contribution to the class as a whole.
Ellaine Barthelemy, Apple Valley, MN
I love to send my students a welcome letter about 2 weeks before school starts. In the letter, I introduce myself and tell them about some activities we are going to do the first day. I also send them a paper bag, and instruct them to fill the bag with four or five items that would help us get to know them better. On the first day of school, we all sit together and open up our bags one by one to show our fellow students something about ourselves, myself included. Amy Scalf, Winchester, KY
Many of my students know the names of their classmates already, so we play what I call the name game. One student begins by stating their name and something about themselves (My name is Harold and I like spaghetti.). The next student must repeat what the first student said and then add his own. Continue until all students have had a turn...Then test your skills with the whole class!
Brenda Shields, Walla Walla, WA
One of the best quality tools I developed for my kindergarten classroom was a class mission statement. The children worked together as a class to come up with a mission that we would strive for each day of the school year. We read the mission statement everyday and I always include it in my newsletters home to the parents. We write up the mission statement at the beginning of the year and usually adjust it as our year progresses. Give it a try!
Ashley Mehr, St. Petersburg, FL
I have my students (6th grade) fold a white piece of paper in half and open it back up. I then have them take a black crayon and write their first name in cursive along the fold. Fold the paper again and use a ruler to quickly rub the outside of the paper until the image transfers. It creates a wonderful "creature" that is all ready for a story that can be used as a baseline writing sample. Laminate and you have a great (and easy) bulletin board.
D. Vander Linden, Gardnerville, NV
Students draw a self portrait on a small piece of oaktag with crayons. A bulletin board is made which also includes their cultural background. This activity can act as a springboard for writing. This builds self esteem for the student and a sense of community within the class. Victoria Valdez, Yonkers, NY
After discussing pattern books with my fifth grade class, I read to them the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? We then make our own book titled Fifth Grade, Fifth Grade, What Do You See? Each student writes and illustrates a page about their new classroom and students. The students then enjoy reading the book later in the year to a kindergarten book buddy.
Lisa Mosco, Jonestown, PA
As a junior high school teacher, I feel that it is very important that the students feel at ease with each other; after all, at eighth grade level, the students' peers are much more important to them than we teachers are! I try to have ice breaking games such as finding people in the classroom who can answer certain questions. For example, the students have to go around the room and find people who... have more than 2 pets...
went out of the country during the summer... ate dry cereal that morning...
play a musical instrument...
own a boat...
The students must find people to answer the list of questions, and in doing so, discover interesting things about each other! Toni Gibson, Chester, MD
I give my students (from 3rd-5th gr over the years) a questionaire with which they interview each other (pets, siblings, hobbies, wishes, etc.). Instead of just reading the responses aloud to introduce each other, this year I had them read it without their interviewee's name. I gave each table of students a chance to guess which student in the group was the respondent.
Glenn McKnight, Erie, PA
Since we are starting the year with a nature study unit on insects I wanted my first bulletin board to revolve around that theme but also help the children remember proper behavior. We are going to make bees out of paper, paper plates and pipe cleaners. Each child will think of a phrase to go with their bee (i.e. B-careful, B-smart, B-kind). We will hang the bees and accompaning phrases around the beehives on the bulliten board.
Andrea Benedett, Jamestown, NY
I give my students a few math periods to explore with the math manipulatives in stations. This way when we use them for math activities they are already familiar with them and you don't have as many kids preoccupied with playing.
C. Afflitto, North Caldwell, NJ
In the eighth grade, I believe the students should begin thinking more seriously about the future. For that reason, we have a kind of "Show-and-Tell" day where each student brings a symbol of his/her interests or talents. After each student presents her/his interest or talent, we try to think of as many occupations or vocations which would employ them. It's also a great way for me to come to know the students and for them to know each other better. I do my best to share what I have in common with them as well, so that they become acquainted with me. Some of the presentations are sedate, as with readers and writers. But others are quite entertaining, such as singers and musicians. Most of the time, a good time is had by all.
Debra Taylor, Crane, TX
As a new teacher last year, I didn't realize how important it was for students to know where things are located in the room (in box, paper, pencils, scissors, etc. ). This year I have decided to spend some time teaching my students the location of supplies in the room (and giving them a "quiz").
Lisa Senter, Beaverton, OR
I work with preschoolers and they need some time to adjust. I give the children a lot of fun materials which make them feel very comfortable in their new environment (they love puppets, books, and play-dough). I also sing a lot of songs with the children.
Adriana Hidalgo, Caracas, Venezuela
I like to make a 12 days of school class book. The students brainstorm things a teacher might give them during the first 12 days of school. Working in pairs, they choose an item and complete the page by writing "On the ______ day of school, my teacher gave me ________ _________." They then illustrate the sentence. After all 12 pages are complete, they are bound together to create a class book. They love to read it throughout the year.
Melanie Dixon, Red Oak, TX