Back to School: Icebreakers and first week of school activities with Nearpod

July 29, 2022Darri Stephens

Most educators will probably admit they get just as excited, anxious, and overwhelmed as their new students for the first week of school. That first week marks a new school year, 180+ days full of promise and potential. However, the stakes are high, and the goals are lofty, whether academic, social, or emotional. This is why the first week of school activities are crucial. We rely on our schools to help shape tomorrow’s contributors to society, and so much does ride on the expectations laid out and agreed upon during that first week of school.

Harry Wong, coauthor of The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher, writes, “The most important day of a person’s education is the first day of school, not Graduation Day.” And while Mr. Wong most likely spoke of that first big day of kindergarten, students get a gift of a new beginning, a new first day, each and every school year. It is an opportunity to reset, realign, and reimagine the upcoming school experience. Students and teachers must forge new relationships to come together and work towards success.

Take a moment to check out these turnkey activities you can employ during the first week of school to build your classroom culture. All the while, you and your schools can become more familiar with the offerings and features of Nearpod.

5 First week of school activities with Nearpod

1. Ready, set, and prep for the new school year!

Live and on-demand webinar trainings

In anticipation of the start of a new school year, districts often kick off teachers’ returns with a couple of in-service days. Yet this allotted time is rarely enough to get up to speed on the latest and greatest tools and resources. So teachers often seek out their own professional growth opportunities. 

Consider registering for Nearpod’s one-hour, free live webinars over the next month. From basics to best practices, learn some tricks of the trade for using Nearpod effectively in your classroom. Choose a webinar topic and click on the drop-down menu to see all date/time options! You can also scroll through our calender to find a time that works for you. Here are some webinar topics we recommend:

Or, scroll through Nearpod’s live webinar calendar and filter via the monthly, weekly, or daily view to find a topic and time best for you.

Nearpod webinar calendar schedule for August 2022

Lesson subject guides

Are you looking to save prep time and boost learning this school year? With ready-to-launch lessons, activities, and videos, these guides can help you remediate key skills, reteach concepts, and even prep for testing time. Find lessons for ELA, math, social studies, and science, all organized by grade level and topic, making it easy to select just what you need.

Whether you’re new to Nearpod, a seasoned Nearpod pro or even new to the classroom – these guides were curated so you can spend less time searching for resources and more time doing what you love: teaching.

2. Get to know each other with icebreaker activities!

During the first week, most teachers try to establish a sense of classroom culture to build camaraderie, respect, and teamwork — a solid foundation for the rest of the year. Each year, I was eager to get to know my students — firstly, to remember their names, and secondly, to learn those nuanced likes/dislikes, personality traits, and hopes and dreams that make each student an individual learner. It is often a fast and furious meeting, so teachers tend to try to dive deep to get to know their students. Don’t underestimate the value of icebreaker activities. 

Here is a daily suggestion for each of the first five days of the school year:

  1. 1. Introduce your students to several of Nearpod’s interactive features while asking them to reveal a bit more about themselves to one another.
  2. 2. In groups of four, use this activity to guide students to find commonalities and unique traits about one another.
  3. 3. Put students into pairs and invite them to use only drawings to tell a story about a recent event or adventure.
  4. 4. Invite students to draw two objects that reveal something unique about themselves to another.
  5. 5. Have each student reveal more about themselves by sharing fun facts.

Nearpod back to school activity Draw It template

Ready for some more? Find an entire library of icebreakers that you can filter by grade and subject, all within Nearpod.

 3. Use activities to help establish a classroom routine

Children thrive with classroom routines to help them mentally and physically prepare for the tasks. In addition to getting to know one another, try establishing a sense of routine as quickly as possible. A regular and predictable schedule can help students feel safe by lowering anxiety and heightening their sense of agency. With consistency and stability comes a sense of comfort as well as a sense of anticipation. Established routines can help develop constructive habits and allow students to flex their sense of independence and autonomy around their learning pursuits. To start each day off well, try one of these anticipatory sets, called “bell ringers” or “bellwork” activities.

  1. 1. Take a daily social, and emotional temperature check to gauge your students’ learning readiness. Plus, support their self-awareness and self-regulation skills.
  2. 2. Launch into the day with a real-world connection by discussing Current Events or listening to a Week in Rap
  3. 3. Use a Collaborate Board to kick off the day with a personal touch to explore one of the suggested check-in topics.
  4. 4. Get creative and pose a morning question or puzzle for your students to tackle via one of Nearpod’s interactive features. Such a sponge activity will help center students’ attention and start the school day with some critical and creative thinking. Here are some ideas to get started:
  5. 5. Discover a plethora of resources with Nearpod’s 21st Century Readiness Program. This holistic program includes ready-to-teach interactive lessons, videos, and activities for social and emotional learning (SEL), digital citizenship, financial literacy, college and career readiness.
  6. 6. With this program, you can access premade Brain Breaks to establish throughout the school day that recharge and redirect students’ focus.

4. Introduce resources to students

In addition to familiarizing students with the materials they will need this school year — supply lists, room organization, and classroom resources — you will want to get students up and running with any new tools or programs as quickly as possible. This includes learning how to teach your students to use Nearpod. It is best to immerse them and “learn by doing.” With Nearpod, some of the most engaging features are effective for both teaching techniques and learning strategies. Immerse yourself alongside your students to try out these tools. Even if you’re not an early adopter of technology, you can still model being an eager adopter! Lifelong learning at its best.

Nearpod orientation lesson covers

5. Assess resources often

All students have varied levels of prior knowledge, real-world experiences, and quality schooling that they bring with them into the classroom. Each new year brings a classroom full of diverse needs. Find ways to continually evaluate students’ prior knowledge as well as progress through formative assessment techniques. Consider these interactive activities and assessments:

Teachers know to write their plan books in pencil since the best-laid plans can quickly go awry. Still, it is a good idea to over plan a bit for the first week so that you can be responsive to the classroom full of new students. Options are helpful! Mix and match the activities to gauge which engages your students the most. Have a collaborative mindset as you embark on this yearlong journey with your pint-sized partners (or not-so-pint-sized …).  Enjoy this exciting time of the school year, and know that you have a community of Nearpod educators ready to support you!

Interested in reading more about this topic? Check out this blog post: How to find free quality lessons and teaching resources

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