First Day of School In Second Grade

In the primary grades, the ultimate goal of the first day of school is to make sure everyone eats something at some point during the day and gets home safely (hopefully with no tears). If you can make it through the day with those goals accomplished… you owned it. Luckily, you probably achieve more than those three basics and feel unstoppable after your first day back in the classroom.

If you are looking for a few potentially new ideas to start your year off right, here’s a peek at five of my favorite activities for the first day of second grade.

Top Five First Day of School Favorites

First Day Fave #1: Introducing Routines

The first day of school is where classroom management magic begins each year. I jump right into interactive modeling for each routine and procedure we need in order to succeed throughout the year. There are times when I feel crazy modeling every little detail of life in the classroom, but it pays off in the long run.
If I went into the details of every interactive model my students participated in on the first day of school, this blog post would turn into a book. For simplicity’s sake, I recommend you read the book Interactive Modeling from The Responsive Classroom, if you are craving more detail.
I will, however, note a few of my favorite read alouds and video clips for introducing more complicated routines and procedures. I do, indeed, read every one of these books on the first day of school. The power of a strongly-connected read aloud is undeniable and my students pick up on that philosophy very quickly.
Collection of books to read aloud on your first day of school.

Listening To A Read Aloud Expectations: First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

Playground Behavior Expectations: Rules video clip from Despicable Me

Lunch Table Expectations: What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. and Behavior Expectations: Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller

Reinforcing Read Aloud Expectations: Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

First Day Fave #2: Building a R.E.S.P.E.C.T.ful Community

Last month, I blogged about the book Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller. This is the perfect book for launching a discussion about how to demonstrate R.E.S.P.E.C.T. in the classroom.
Do Unto Otters book cover, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. poster for classroom management, and RESPECT Classroom Management contract
After reading, we discuss how we can show R.E.S.P.E.C.T. in our own classroom and draft an official R.E.S.P.E.C.T Contract, which is taken home and signed by parents that evening.
To read more about using Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners, visit my post here. Interested in bringing the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Classroom Behavior Management System into your own classroom? Grab it from my TPT store here.

First Day Fave #3: Hopes and Dreams Banners

After lunch, I read aloud Miss Rumphius, the story of a woman who lives a life of adventure but does not feel fulfilled until she realizes how to make the world a more beautiful place.
We have a class discussion about what it means to make the world a more beautiful place, why it is important to have hopes and dreams, and how we can do all of these things in our own lives.
Students then create hopes and dreams banners. Last year, I had them set three goals that would help them to succeed throughout the year. This year, I plan to have them write down two hopes and dreams they have for the year and one way they plan to make the world more beautiful. Not sure why I didn’t think of this last year because it definitely has a closer tie to the story…live and learn.
Miss Rumphius book cover and personal goal setting banner.
These banners take a few days to complete and are ready just in time to hang for Back To School Night. They are a perfect conversation starter as parents begin to gather in your classroom before your official presentation begins.

First Day Fave #4: Self Portraits

Another activity we start on day one is a tear art self portrait. This is the perfect afternoon activity during the first days of school because it is so calm. Second graders are pretty sleepy after lunch when they are easing back into the school routine, so we spend some of our afternoon hours doing art, P.E. and team building activities.

Collection of tear art self portaits on classroom bulletin board.

These portraits were displayed on our wall during the first month of school – they are a strong first step in giving students the opportunity to display their personalities and creativity in the classroom. I then stored each child’s portrait in his/her portfolio and provided it as an option to display on our “Why Fit In” wall during our Celebration of Learning later in the year.

First Day Fave #5: Letters to Students

If I successfully “own it” on the first day of school (lunch eaten, kids home safe, no tears), I take a few minutes after school to start writing a letter to each student. Each day during the first two weeks, I write a few student letters and send them home on Friday of the second week.
These little notes are filled with words about how excited I am to have each student as part of our class community and a special strength they have already demonstrated during their first weeks.
Notes to students.
When I’m about half way through the letters, I wonder why I ever thought it was a good idea to write them (hello hand cramps and report card comment flashbacks). Then I see so many faces light up as they read their own personal note and realize…”I’m totally doing this again next year.”

Well, that wraps it up for my top five first day faves. For a look at some of the other resources I use during the first week of school, grab my First Week Back To School Classroom Essentials Bundle.
Sentences assignment slides (aligned to third grade)
I would love to hear about your top five first day faves in the comments below.

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21 Responses

  1. I love your RESPECT acronym! And those letters! I love how personal they are, and worth every second and hand cramp! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you Retta! I learned R.E.S.P.E.C.T. from my mentor teacher when I was an intern. It has transformed over the years and now it's a huge guiding principle for each school year.

  2. Amazing post and share! Wonderful ideas especially the literature tie-in and activities. I had a wonderful laugh over Despicable Me-Rules. This is a "must do" for the first day of school!!
    Tricia from Tricia's Terrific Teaching Trinkets

  3. Hi Laura, I am your new subscriber! Would you please share where you found the banners you used for Miss Rumphius writing activity? Thank you

    1. Yes, after they selected their multicultural paper color, they traced the outline of the head using a template. The rest (shirt, hair, facial features) was free form.

  4. The link for the video didn’t work for me when I clicked on it. Youtube said the video was unavailable. Can someone send it to me so I have the correct one, please? Thanks!!
    I love all of these ideas!

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  6. Maybe a crazy question but, just wondering if any parents have gotten upset with the language in the clip from Despicable Me?

    1. Hi Holly, not a crazy question at all. In my personal experience, I have not had parents upset with the language. This can serve as a great conversation point with your class, if you ask them to identify things in the clip they think would be considered silly but inappropriate to say/do in a professional learning environment. This is useful after you have created class rules and established your expectations for respect. I have done this in the past, and students have picked out some of the words used, as well as the smart-aleck behavior of the oldest sister. There may also be years when you get a vibe from your class and you know showing this clip isn’t an appropriate match. Hope these ideas are helpful.

  7. Hi Laura,
    I am so happy to have found your page, lovely ideas so thoughtful!
    I love the letter to students, what an encouraging idea. I am taking over a new classroom next year and l would like to use them, do you have any samples/templates that I could get inspiration from?
    Many thanks,

    1. Thank you Sophia. I do not currently have any templates. You will be surprised by how easy they are to write after getting to know your students for the first week of school. I usually write why I am excited they are in my class and something they have done in the first week that makes me proud of them. 🙂

  8. Hi Laura,
    I am so beyond glad that I stumbled onto your amazing blog! I can’t wait to start using some of your ideas. I already met with some of my teammates over the summer and we are going to be using your M.A.T.H. Workshops next year. I was wondering…I joined your blog and received a confirmation email but do I need to “login” on the blog or is it just automatic?
    Also, your classroom colors are the same as mine! That makes me especially happy!

I’m Laura Santos

I’ve been an elementary teacher for ten years, and love sharing tips and resources that make differentiated learning more manageable for you. Thank you for visiting.

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