The Dreaded ‘First Week Back’ Activities

This post has been written by Classroom Secrets

With September approaching, a discussion arose here at Classroom Secrets about the first week of a new school year, and the sorts of activities teaching staff use to ease themselves and their pupils back into the patterns of school life. That first week is a time when so many of the pieces which make up a school are shuffling and settling into new positions for the year ahead. New classes, new children, new groups, new topics, new jobs… It’s no surprise that anything in that first week which feels familiar, or that can be done without overthinking, becomes something we grab with both hands.

One ‘back to school’ activity emerged as the definitive classic of the genre: the ‘what I did during my summer holidays’ recount. Sometimes written, sometimes a class discussion, sometimes an individual presentation from the front, getting pupils to recall their summertime experiences is one of those familiar and easy tasks which teachers can rely on in the first week back. It’s straightforward. It can be done every year, with any class. It works.

But are there better options?

Perhaps you are hankering after something fresher, but still want it to be simple enough that it doesn’t cost you precious thinking time in the first week back. Perhaps you are aware that one, or two, or all of the pupils in your new class might want to forget about the events of the summer because of difficulties at home, and certainly don’t want to have to pick through their experiences to find something safe to write down. Perhaps you want to find something uncomplicated that builds relationships and gets your pupils looking forward to the year ahead. Whatever you are hoping for as you consider that first week back, here are some ideas which I hope inspire you and help you as you prepare.

- If you want to keep the simple and successful format you’ve used before for holiday recounts, but want to avoid that particular subject for one of the reasons above, a simple twist from looking back to looking forward can be really useful. ‘What I am looking forward to at school this year’ or ‘What I can’t wait to find out about [topic]’ are ideas which slot easily into the writing/discussion/presentation mould.

- For a fun task which gets your class looking ahead, show them an unfamiliar object (or image of an object) which is related to one of the topics they will be studying in the year. Get them to write a story describing the object and however they imagine someone might use it. Enjoy the looks on their faces when you revisit their stories later in the year after discovering the object’s true purpose!

- Take a look at our Back To School Timetables. They can be used as a full plan of that first week, with all the necessary resources provided, or they can be used as a selection box of resources to pick and choose from as you head into a new year. They include packs and tasks which have been created specifically to meet the needs of that first week, such as whole class guided reading packs focusing on how teachers and pupils feel as they meet their new class, or autobiography prompts which are expansive enough for children to be able to select some personal facts and experiences they feel happy to write about. Everything is planned and ready to go.

However you approach the beginning of term, we hope that you have a smooth first week that is full of anticipation for the year ahead. Enjoy everything new.

What unique and exciting things have you done in the first week back? Have you got any modern twists on old classics? Share them in the comments below!

Ed Moss