20+ ready-to-use digital lesson activities for the first day of school
The first day of the new school year is coming. It’s almost as exciting as your own birthday! New students, and with them, a whole lot of new potential.
In this blog post, we’ll show you 20 digital activities for the first day of school. These are ready-to-use back-to-school activities created with BookWidgets. If you want to edit these exercises, that’s possible too. We’ll explain how at the end of this post.
Here’s how it works… Just like any other first day of school activity, you’ll have to find the right fit for your students. That’s why we divided them into 5 categories:
- First day of school activities for kindergarten 🧸
- First day of school activities for primary school students ✏️
- First day of school activities for middle school students 📐
- First day of school activities for high school students 📚
- First day of school activities for teachers 🧑🏫
As you can see, we’ve indicated the category of every exercise by adding a suitable emoji. This way, you can quickly see if the exercise is appropriate for your students. Make sure to take a good look at all of them though, as some back-to-school exercises can be used on more than one level. With only minor changes, you’ll be able to use the activity in other grades as well.
Let’s get started! Click on the title links to jump to the right category.
First day of school activities for kindergarten
1. Letters in my name 🧸
This first day of school lesson for kindergarten makes complete sense. Ask your kids to color or circle the letters in their names. After just one day, you’ll already know the names of your kids, as well as which kids can spell their name and which ones still need more help. It’s the best way to test their foreknowledge and get to know them.
Show your students how to do it by using your own name as an example. This way, they’ll get clear instructions and will know how this digital activity works. And… they’ll know what to call their teacher too.
This activity is perfect for when you’re working with tablets or iPads in kindergarten.
2. Counting to 10 🧸
One of the first things we teach our kids when it comes to math is counting. So, how cool would it be if your kids went home bragging to their parents they learned to count to 10 on their first day of school?
3. Garden senses 🧸✏️
When your kids return to school, they usually have an amazing vacation behind them and want to tell you all about it. For this exercise, have your students relive when they played in the garden or a park nearby.
This exercise focuses on the human senses and teaches the differences between them. First, explain all about the senses. Then, share this exercise with them. When they are done, ask them to show what they’ve drawn on their digital canvases. This way, every student can contribute their own story too.
In some cases, this first day of school lesson might be too hard for your students. Don’t worry… Here’s an easier variant of the exercise. I’ve already put in stickers of things you can smell, see, touch and hear. Your students just need to click on the star icon in the activity, pick a sticker and drag it to the right corner.
First day of school activities for Primary school students
4. Ice breaker bingo activity ✏️
When you share this digital back-to-school bingo activity with your students, every student will get their own scrambled bingo sheet. The only thing you have to do is stand in front of the classroom and shout out “I’m looking for students who…have a cat”
All students who, for example, have a cat, can stand up and immediately tick off that box on their bingo sheet. You can ask those students standing up to tell a bit more. That way, everyone gets to know each other better.
You just do the same for about 25 more times or until a student (or the 3 first students) gets bingo (= 5 ticked of boxes in 1 row). From my experience, this is even more fun when you bring a few sweets for the winners. You can start the new school year as “the cool teacher”.
Thanks to Yolande Doensen, a Spanish language teacher in the Netherlands, we can include a Spanisch version of this fun bingo Icebraker activity as well!
5. Ice breaker word search activity ✏️
When clicking on the exercise, you’ll see that this isn’t a ready-to-use exercise yet. But, it’s close. The only thing you have to do is personalize it with the names of your students.
You’ll see that you immediately can take a copy of this exercise in your own BookWidgets account. The configuration of the exercise will immediately open and you can replace the names with your students’ names.
As for the first day of school icebreaker activity… it’s pretty straightforward. Students look for a classmate’s name in the grid. They mark the name, go up to that student and introduce themselves. If the other student hasn’t found the name of the person they just met yet, they’ll have to find it first before moving on.
6. Timetables dinosaur drawing ✏️
On the very first day of a new school year, your students probably don’t expect to already “learn something” or dive into a lesson subject right away. That’s where this math activity comes in… It’s fun as your students get to be creative, but it’s also a repetition of their timetables. Get those gears working!
7. Name tag STEM challenge ✏️
Name tags are a big deal on the first school day. Instead of just making a normal (i.e. boring) name tag, give them a STEM challenge!
All they need is some materials and a checklist with the criteria. You’ll see that, even with the same criteria, your students will come up with very different and unique name tags. That’s what makes it fun!
Here’s a quick list with the materials your students will need: 1 piece of construction paper - 1 pipe cleaner - tape - hole puncher - markers/ crayons - stickers - ruler - 1 pencil - Scissors
You can give them other materials if you like.
8. Schoolbag planner ✏️📐
This planner helps your students stay organized. They go over the list and tick the boxes if they’ve put the corresponding item in their school bag.
As a teacher, you can even extra information to the tasks, including audio instructions. I’ve also added some less common cards to the planner. Students can access them by clicking on the + icon in the upper right corner. If for example they have to bring their swimwear the next day, they can add it to their planner so they won’t forget.
Students can clear the planner every time by clicking on the dustbin icon in the upper right corner. Some students even might have another planner, e.g. so they don’t forget to bring their glasses or other tools they may use in the classroom.
P.S. This handy planner also includes a pencil case checklist and some delicious lunch ideas for parents to prepare with their kids.
9. Learning goals ✏️ 📐
This back-to-school activity is perfect for getting to know your students and their aspirations. What are they good at and what do they want to learn? It teaches them to set a goal at the beginning of the new school year. Even better, you’ll immediately know what they expect to learn this year.
This is a perfect first-day-of-school activity for both primary and middle school students alike.
First day of school activities for middle school students
10. Digital rulebook and agreement 📐
Every classroom comes with its own rules, some more so than others. We all know that the first day of school is probably the best time to talk about your classroom rules. But how do you deliver them in a way your students will abide by them?
Well, this digital rulebook might help.
As every teacher has their own classroom rules, you might want to take a look and possibly edit, add, or delete rules that don’t apply to you.
This rulebook doesn’t just explain the classroom rules, it also has some handy resources available for your students. After going over all the rules, your students need to “sign” the agreement stating that they’ve read all the rules and will abide by them. Don’t worry, it’ll be fun!
Rules and recourses in this rulebook:
- Come to class prepared: a planner to make their school bag
- Ask questions: flashcards with important questions that prompt students to ask meaningful questions and reflect on their learning
- Raise your hand to speak: a fun “Red Hands” game. If they are quick enough to play this game, your students can raise their hands too. No excuses…
- Respect your teacher and fellow students: a mindmap lesson plan about the meaning of respect
- Reflect on the lessons: a list with 25 fun digital exit tickets students can use to reflect on the lessons and remember lesson content even better the next day
- Be creative and proud of your work: a split worksheet (emoji drawing and writing) so students can get creative on the first day of school and be proud of their work.
- Even more rules: an interactive meme slideshow with some other basic rules.
And finally… The agreement, a worksheet in which they have to fill out the blanks in the rules and state they will abide by the rules of this classroom.
11. Nice M&M-ing you 📐
Let’s bribe your students again with candy…🍭 Just kidding, this is a solid icebreaker game for the new school year. You do need m&m’s though…
This game will help your students get to know each other. They have to pick an m&m and complete a challenge or answer a question in order to be allowed to eat the m&m. We’ve digitized the game, so students can do this at summer camp or with their families as well.
Just share the link with your students. They need to go over the rules before they get started. As a teacher, you can also explain the game rules yourself.
12. Say it with emojis 📐
Emojis are basically your students’ way of communicating with each other, so why not put them in a lesson plan? Ask your students to fill out this interactive back-to-school activity and then present it in front of the classroom (or at their desks), so everyone gets to know one another. Fun, right?
13. School days around the world 📐
Some teachers want to dive right into the lessons. As a first day of the school lesson, you often need to know where students stand. What do they know? What are they good at? Where do they need help? Where to put the focus?
This lesson is just perfect if you want to test their reading, data analytics, writing, and speaking skills. Two birds, one stone. And the topic is not far-fetched for a first school day lesson either…
Here, your students have to read an article about the differences between normal school days around the world. Here’s what they have to do:
- Your students to pick a country and analyze the information for that particular country.
- Then, they write a summary of what they learned.
- Finally, they present their country to the class.
This is a very informative back-to-school activity and will give your students some interesting new insights!
First day of school activities for high school students
14. Randomness questions 📐 📚
If you’re out of creative questions to ask your students, this icebreaker activity for high school students is the solution. It was created and brought to our attention by Guido Merry, a teacher in the Netherlands.
There are two ways to play this question icebreaker game.
- Project the question wheels on a large screen in your classroom and ask a student to come forward and spin the wheels. The first question is always for the teacher. The second question is for the student in front of the classroom and the last question is for another student. The student in front of the classroom can name a fellow student. In turn, that student needs to answer the question and comes forward to spin the wheel. Just continue like this. The game ends when every student has answered 2 questions.
- Divide your students into groups of 5. Let them take turns to spin the wheels. Each student has to answer all three questions in their spin turn.
15. School poetry 📐 📚
English teacher? French teacher? Then, this back-to-school activity for language teachers is right on topic. It will throw your students right into school mentality as you get started with the lessons already.
Students have to listen to the poem and read the English translation. They fill out the questions afterward and submit their answers to you. In your first lesson of the new school year, you immediately get an understanding of your students’ learning level for your course.
16. Facebook profile 📚
It’s hard to keep up with social media nowadays, but one thing is sure… students are obsessed with them. The good thing about social media channels is that most of the time, you have to make a profile and fill it out with information about yourself. It triggers students to think about who they are and how they want to present themselves.
So… it’s a perfect first day of school activity. Below, you’ll find a digital Facebook profile form your students have to fill out. When they’ve submitted all the forms to you, you pick out a few profiles anonymously and read their likes, intro, or their interests out loud. Other students have to guess to which student the Facebook profile belongs.
17. Schools tour around the world
This first day of school lesson activity is a fun one to start a discussion or conversation. On the map, your students can follow virtual tours of schools around the world. Let them explore all the schools and ask them a few questions:
- Which school would you want to go to? Why?
- Which school left the biggest impression on you? Why?
- Which 2 schools have the biggest differences between each other? Why?
- How about our school? What do you like? What don’t you like?
- What would you like to have in our school that is in the other schools?
18. School calendars around the world 📚
Another lesson asks your students to analyze the differences between schools. Do they know not all schools start at the same time as theirs? Or that different schools have different holiday breaks?
19. What is school for? 📚 🧑🏫
As a teacher, you have to ask yourself this very important question: what is school for? So this is not just an assignment for your students, it’s one for you as well.
First, watch the video in the worksheet below and try to find yourself as a teacher. Ask yourself some important questions. What kind of teacher are you? What’s important about your craft? Why do students learn and above all, can you explain what your grades stand for?
Next: up to your students! Let them watch the video and start a conversation about it. They have to find an answer to the questions mentioned above the video in the worksheet. On top of that, they have to find the true meaning of school for themselves by answering the ultimate question “What is school for?”.
Bonus: There’s an extra challenge for the creative ones, or if you’re a language teacher. Ask your students to write their answer slam poetry style, just like in the video. Your students can practice a bit and record their slam poetry answers in the worksheet.
This extra challenge immediately shows you the students with deeper interests in your course. Make sure to support them and push them in the right direction. Even if students don’t do the extra challenge, it’s very important to read their answers to the question. You’ll immediately capture their thoughts and feelings about school.
First day of school activities for teachers
20. Dear future me 📚 🧑🏫
This time, you’ve got some homework to do. With this website, Future me, you can send yourself a letter in the future. So the first day of school, you have to write a letter and make sure you receive it on the last day of the school year.
It’s also a fun writing exercise for older students. So, if you’re a language teacher, give them this fun back-to-school writing activity.
21. Teacher WebQuest 🧑🏫
How about a challenge for you guys! At the first team meeting of the new school year, share this WebQuest with all your colleagues. Now, challenge them to finish this WebQuest first! You can also make a time ranking (and hand out some dull tasks to the ones that finish last 🥸). How long did it take you to finish it?
You can set up some rules too. Can, or can’t they use a helpline (the internet)? Or maybe they get “1 call” where you can give them a good clue when they are stuck.
You can immediately share this WebQuest link with your fellow teachers and they can finish it (if they get everything right). But if you’d like to know everything that’s behind it, so you can help them out when they are stuck, this cheat code file might come in handy as well.
But hush! 🤫 Keep it for yourself. You don’t want your students to cheat either, right?
How to use these free first day of school activities
We’ve made a BookWidgets group including all these back-to-school activities, icebreakers, and digital lesson ideas.
Follow the next steps and you’re good to go!
1. Create a free account on BookWidgets.com.
You can just click on this link to the group with the back-to-school activities and it will ask you to create an account if you don’t have one yet.
2. Share it with your students
Navigate to the group and share the exercises you want to share with your students.
Click on the black arrow on the right of the exercise and choose “Share”. Make sure to keep the “Send answers to me” checkbox checked. If you’re sharing the exercises from your own BookWidgets account, the results will automatically go to your BookWidgets account. You can find them in the “Grades & Reporting tab”.
When you share an exercise, you can send over the link to your students, or immediately generate a QR code. You can also send it to your learning management system if you have a Google Classroom, Teams, Schoology, … connection.
3. What if you don’t have a BookWidgets account?
You can still use the exercises! Just share the link you can see in the exercises mentioned above. When students have to submit their work to you, they will have to enter a mail address (the one you gave them). You’ll receive all the work separately by e-mail. Of course, if you do have an account, you can review everything much faster and enjoy the comment and feedback options. You can even return the work to your students.
4. Editing the exercises
If you want to make changes to the lesson activities, that’s possible too. Instead of sharing the exercise immediately, you’ll have to duplicate the exercise first. Click on the black arrow on the right of the exercise, choose “Duplicate” and place it in the “My Widgets” folder. From there, you can open the exercise (Click edit), make changes to the content, design, and widget settings. When you’re finished, click “share”.
That’s it! Have fun with these interactive first-day-of-school lessons. Make sure to share this article with fellow teachers and give your favorite back-to-school lesson a shoutout on our socials. If you have questions about using the activities, you can always contact email@example.com
And remember… You can create all these exercises, or widgets, yourself with BookWidgets.