I'm getting ready to add a new packet/CD of Back-to-School Activities to my store and am trying to make things easy for my sub in the event that I'm not there. I thought this would be a good time to share a few ideas with you.
I always start the year by making playdough the day before school starts. It's really easy and cheap to make and kids LOVE it regardless of how old they are. I leave it white when I make it.
I roll it into balls (one for each student), poke a small hole in each with my finger, add a few drops of food color and then cover the hole. I then place each ball into a ziploc bag and put a bag at each child's seat for their arrival.
After they arrive I instruct them to squish up the bag to see what happens. They oooh and ahhh over the "magic" (even in 3rd grade). Having them mush it in the bag prevents them from getting the food coloring all over their hands. After the color is well-blended I have them take it out of the bag. I give them about 5 minutes of "free play" with it and then instruct them to make certain things:
- their initials
- their favorite animal
- their favorite food
- something to represent their favorite subject in school
After they create each we share them. It's a great get to know you activity, but also gives them something to do to release any nervous energy they have. Also if something unexpected occurs (student added to roster, parent that stops by, crying child who won't come in) it gives the class something quiet to do at their seats until you can focus your attention on them. This is key since you will not have any guidelines, rules or expectations in place at that point.
You could also have large sheets of paper and crayons available to have the children illustrate a self-portrait. Not only do these make an easy, colorful and appropriate display, but I love having them repeat this activity at the end of the year. They always grow so much as artists.
Another favorite activity of mine is to create a "Who's in Our Class" word search. There are some great free online sources for generating them. All you need to do is type in the first names, print and copy. Just be sure to check the word search and make sure everyone is included.
I've also done crossword puzzles with their names, but find that some children need help. The goal is to have some fun, independent activities available so that you are free to tend to unexpected first day issues that may arise.