The return to school is a period of nerves, excitement, new friendships, hopes and expectations. By planning the right back-to-school activities, teachers can ease the return to school, and help students get to know each other and start the new year in the right state of mind.

From ice breakers to team-building activities, to goal-setting exercises — here are eleven back-to-school activities that will start the year off right.

The Toilet Paper Pass

Ah, the tried and true toilet paper pass. Just pass the roll around and ask each student to take some. Then, go around the room and ask the children, one at a time, to share one piece of information about themselves for each square of toilet paper they have in hand.

Back-to-school activities - toilet paper pass

Find more info on this back-to-school activity on Mrs. Spangler in the Middle

Blobs & Lines

This back-to-school activity by Cult of Pedagogy is an icebreaker that won’t embarrass your more reserved students. Ask your students questions that require them either to line up in a particular order (e.g. alphabetically by first name), or to gather in “blobs” based on things shared characteristics (e.g. by number of siblings). It takes the pressure off and helps your students discover things they have in common.

Back-to-school activities - Blobs & Lines

Find more info on this back-to-school activity on Cult of Pedagogy

Get to Know You Beach Ball

Here’s a fun and easy back-to-school activity to take outdoors. Use a marker to write up get-to-know-you questions on an inexpensive inflatable beach ball. Have your students form a circle and toss the ball around. When they catch the ball, children have to answer the question nearest to where their right thumb lands.

Back-to-school activities - Get to Know You Beach Ball

Find more info on this back-to-school activity on Joy in the Journey

Back-to-School Read-Alouds

Read-aloud books can be a great way to stimulate discussion around different topics. On her blog, teacher Jennifer Findley describes how she uses specific read-alouds at the start of the school year “to build community and set expectations”. Check out her great selection of books and the free printables she shares.

Back-to-school activities - Read-Alouds

Find more info on this back-to-school activity on Teaching to Inspire

Back-to-School Scavenger Hunt

Everyone loves a scavenger hunt. In this back-to-school variation, students have to collect classmates who meet specific criteria – e.g. a student who has green eyes, one who’s lived in a different city, one who has more than three siblings, etc. It’s a quick and easy way for students to discover a little more about each other.

Back-to-school activities - Scavenger hunt

Find more info on this back-to-school activity on Create Abilities

The M&M Game

This back-to-school icebreaker comes with a special perk for sweets-craving youngsters. Dole out a small quantity of M&Ms or Skittles to each student. On a poster, list a number of get-to-know-you questions – one for each color. Then, go around in circles and have the kids pick out a candy from their pile, then answer the question of the corresponding color… before popping the candy into their eager mouths.

Back-to-school activities - The M&M Game

Find more info on this back-to-school activity on She’s Crafty Crafty

See Run Do

We love this clever team-building activity that puts heavy emphasis on communication. Divide your class into teams of three – a students who “sees”, a “runner” and a “doer”. The doers need to reproduce illustrations that are posted in the hallway. The challenge? They never get to see those illustrations. Only the “see” students see the illustrations. They describe them, one detail at a time, to the runners, who then relay the information to the doers. Be sure to visit Mrs. O. Knows for helpful tips on how to smoothly roll out this ingenious activity.

Back-to-school activities - See Run Do

Find more info on this back-to-school activity on Mrs. O. Knows

The Marshmallow Challenge

The objective of this team-building back-to-school activity is to be the team that builds the tallest free-standing structure, using a clearly defined list of materials, and topped with a marshmallow. The activity encourages critical thinking and communication.

Back-to-school activities - The marshmallow challenge

Find more info on this back-to-school activity on Teachers Pay Teachers

Dear Me Letter

This back-to-school activity tugged at our heart strings. While many of the ideas listed here place the emphasis on getting to know your classmates, this one calls for introspection. Ask your students to write a letter to themselves including their hopes, dreams, and advice for the coming year. Then, tie up the notes with a string measured to the exact height of the student. At the end of the year, your students will take back their Dear Me letters to contemplate how their years compared to expectations… and see how much they’ve grown!

Back-to-school activities - Dear me

Find more info on this back-to-school activity on Create Abilities

Friday 5-4-3-2-1

The Secondary English Coffee Shop offers us a great activity for the first Friday back to school… that you can continue to enjoy all year long. Plan a period of reflection every Friday where your students can reflect back on their week and note down 5 things that made them smile, 4 words to summarize the week, 3 plans for the weekend, 2 lessons learned, and 1 goal.

Back-to-school activities - Friday 5-4-3-2-1

Find more info on this back-to-school activity on Secondary English Coffee Shop

Bursting with Excitement

This last item isn’t so much an activity as a back-to-school gift to students, to sweeten the return. We just found it so cute, we had to include it.

Back-to-school activities - Starburst

Find more info on this back-to-school idea on Fourth & Ten

Over to You!

We hope these back-to-school activities have given you some fresh ideas to inspire you as you prepare for your return to school. What activities have you led with your classes? Which ones have been particularly well received? We’d love to hear all about them in the comments.