After taking roll and telling students a little bit about their teacher, use some of these first day of school activities with your third graders. Limit assessments to a minimum and make the first day about building relationships.
What’s in a Name?
While teachers often have name tags written out, it's also a good idea to let students make their own name tags. Simply give students a blank index card and fold it so that it can stand up on its own. Then, have students write their first name on one side and their last name on the other. This is a good way to find out if Amanda likes to go by Mandy or even her middle name.
After children make their name tags, everyone should gather in a circle to play the name game. Each person should come up with a food they like that begins with the same letter as their first name. Then, they will go around and say, for example, Hi my name is Tina and I like tacos. The next person who goes will say: Her name is Tina and she likes tacos. My name is Anthony and I like apples. If someone forgets another's name, simply start on the next student.
On a large poster, trace out a puzzle design. Then, cut out each individual puzzle piece and give one to each student. Third graders can write their name on the puzzle piece and then write down some things that are important to them. It could be a favorite book or movie. After that, they can decorate it with graphics that represent their family or interests. Finally, students can assemble the puzzle and it can be put up on a bulletin board. This is a great team building activity to show how all the students "fit" together.
Let the Rules Be Known
Establishing rules and procedures is an essential part of the first day of school. Children need to know what is expected of them and, in turn, what they can expect to happen on a daily basis. Rather than simply go through the rules, it is important to set up classroom rules with your third graders. This is a way for kids to be involved in the rule making process. Simply ask students to volunteer ideals that are important in every classroom. Next, vote on the top three to five rules.
At the end of the voting, the class may have come up with something simple like Be safe, Be responsible and Be respectful. Or, they may have more specific rules like, raise your hand before talking. Then, talk about what each rule means. After the rules have been written, have each student sign the poster. In this way, if a student breaks a rule, they can be reminded that they helped create the rules at the beginning of the year.
How Not to Start Third Grade
Let kids relax and read them a funny book entitled How Not to Start the Third Grade. In this book, the main character Will is starting the third grade. However, his little brother, Steve, is starting kindergarten the same day. Steve has a whole list of antics up his sleeve that cause Will a lot of grief. After reading, give students slips of paper and have them write down one thing they wouldn’t want to happen on the first day of school. They can put the paper in a bag. Every hour or so read two of the responses to get a laugh out of the class.
My World is Colorful
Students have a variety of interests. Let those interests be celebrated with a rainbow of interest. Students will each be given a rainbow coloring page. On the top line they will write their favorite interest or hobby. On the next line, they will write their second favorite interest and so on. Afterwards, they will color the rainbows and you can display them on the wall.
Act it Out
Along with classroom rules, it is a good idea to familiarize students with school rules. This includes how to act in the cafeteria, in the library or on the playground. In order to make this fun, students will act out the wrong way and the right way to be cool at school. For each area, explain the rule. For instance, one rule in the library may be to be quiet. First, choose several students to break the rule by being loud. Then, have students show the right way to be quiet and pick a book. Students will have fun getting involved in the process. This is also a good way for the students to meet all the third graders and teachers.
By keeping the first day of school simple and fun, third grade students will be excited to come back for the second day of school!
- Author’s personal classroom experience
- Rainbow Coloring Page: coloringcastle.com (accessed July 19, 2011).
- Hapka, Cathy. How Not to Start the Third Grade. Random House: New York, 2007.