Some of the most important work of teaching takes place before the first day of school. Each week, we'll be sharing fantastic tips to give you some great ideas for the school year ahead!

Back-to-school Tip #3: On the first day of school, keep displays to a minimum.

An alphabet frieze may be displayed above the chalkboard and a welcome sign posted on the door, but for the most part, walls and bulletin boards are bare, except for perhaps some brightly colored paper covers.

One teacher explained why: The walls are ready for kids’ work to be displayed during the first week of school. The very first assignment kids work on is a “getting to know you” project—it could be a self-portrait, a poem, or even a personal time line. When the kids are done, their work goes up on the walls. This is just one way of letting kids know that this is their classroom and that they matter here.

Here are some great activities to help create a welcoming environment that will allow them to get to know their new classmates and show students what an exciting and positive year they have ahead of them!

1. “About Me” Acrostics

Invite students to create acrostics with their names. First, have them write the letters of their first name down the center of a sheet of paper. Then have them use each letter in a word or phrase that describes or tells something about them, such as a personal trait, or a favorite color, food, movie, hobby, and so on. More advanced students might make acrostics of their first and last names. When finished, have students share their acrostics with classmates, then display them on a bulletin board with the title of this activity.


2. Family Quilt

Have students create a special family quilt by writing with their favorite color. Have them write the name of a different family member in each of the other sections. They can include themselves, their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and so on until the quilt is filled. Finally, have students color each section, then cut out the quilt. Display the quilt squares side-by-side to create a large, student-made, family quilt.

3. Paper Plate Self-Portraits

Provide 9-inch paper plates and an assortment of craft materials for students to use to create self-portraits. To begin, ask students to color the plate to match their skin tone. Then have them add other features that represent their appearance such a wiggle eyes, yarn hair, pipe-cleaner mouth, and paper ear cutouts. When completed, give students a bow-shaped cutout to write their name and attach to their portraits. Boys might attach the bow to the bottom of their portrait to represent a bowtie, and girls might use theirs as a hair-bow. Display the portraits on a wall or bulletin board titled, “Our Class Family”.

For more back-to-school ideas and helpful tips check out these resources:

September Monthly Idea Book

Classroom Management in Photographs