First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 3

I have been busy creating back to school resources (and other resources) for the last few weeks. In fact, I have spent almost all of my time behind my laptop working. Hopefully some of these resources will help you out. I wish everyone a successful back to school, which will help set the tone for a successful year!

Free Back to School Resources:

Math Scavenger Hunt


How can you use this activity?
Option 1: Use as a twist to the traditional getting to know you activity.

  • Are you thinking about using a traditional getting to know you activity this year?  Instead of signing papers for being left-handed, or visiting another country, have students sign based on their math abilities!  Students will quickly learn which peers are good at math.
  • If they get stuck, you will see math magic!  The students that know what they are doing HELPING the students who don’t so that everyone can complete their scavenger hunt.  After the activity is complete, be sure to discuss how the students felt about the questions.  Were there any questions that they couldn’t complete?  What topics do we need to focus on this year?  Go over any problems that caused misunderstandings.  Use samples from the student’s work to help explain.

Option 2:

  • After using this as a getting to know you activity, your class list is sure to change a lot. Have each new student that comes to your class complete this worksheet as a New Student Placement Test. This will give you an idea of what level the student is at.  I have moved students based on the results to their placement test.
  • I KNOW! Grading an extra paper for every new student that steps into your room is time-consuming. However, it is WORTH it so that you can get a better idea of what level each student is at.
  • I have used something similar for ALL 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in past years as a New Student Placement Test.
  •  Even if you don’t want to use as a getting to know you activity, use as a placement test for your entire class! You could even trade and grade (having students check the answer written in the square) to get an idea of how many questions the class was able to answer.  Change student’s placements after the assessment if necessary/possible.

Time Capsule Worksheet

  • Students love to see how they have changed since the beginning of the school year! Just remember to return the envelopes at the end of the year (a student will probably remind you).  Your class will thoroughly enjoy opening their time capsules at the end of the year!
  • I like to change-up the questions, so here is the EDITABLE version.
  • Almost always a student says, “These questions are personal”, and I tell them that they do not have to answer the questions at all (or even complete the activity), but that no one will see their answers.
  • Looking for activities for the first week of school? Check out this free time capsule worksheet.
  • What do you need for the activity?
    • tape measures (I prefer the cloth tape measures to metal ones; students can share)
    • scales (I only had one; students can share)
    • time capsule worksheet (2 pages)
    • security envelopes (enough for all of your students)
    • stickers (optional for extra security)

Colored Stars

  • This one might be a bit of a stretch for a “back to school” resource, but it can help you with organization, which is crucial this time of year! No one wants to START off the year with a messy classroom!  Maybe it will get there on its own as the year goes on…


Other Resources Worth Checking Out (From My TpT Store):

Building Square Icebreaker Puzzles


Are you looking for an activity to use for back to school? You can’t lose with a fun icebreaker during the first week of school! This set of puzzles is challenging and guaranteed to make every student think whether they want to or not!

• 6 puzzles (in 3 different sizes) with quadrilaterals and triangles for the pieces. Each puzzle has 4 pieces.
• Puzzles are color coded to easily change difficulty. 3 levels: average, hard, and mega challenge. Removing some of the puzzles in the set is another way to easily change difficulty.

How can you use this activity?
• Decide which puzzle set(s) you wan to use. I suggest using “Average 2 to a page”. Note: Making adjustments to the activity (to change difficulty) is simple!  For example: take out some of the puzzle sets, and give the students hints.
• Print necessary puzzle set(s) on card stock (or print on regular paper and laminate).
• Make copies of your chosen set(s).  Make enough copies for each group.
• Cut our your puzzle pieces and store each set of 6 puzzles in separate plastic bags.
• Determine how you will use this activity in your classroom. I suggest using it during the first week of school as an ice breaker. I typically have students work in groups of 4. I start off by telling them that they are going to solve some puzzles with their group WITHOUT TALKING. Hand gestures are OK. I keep the puzzle pieces in a plastic bags (one for each group). I distribute the bags to each group, and remind them that they CAN NOT SPEAK, only gesture.
When the students take the pieces out of the bag, some students will start trying many different combinations. Others will freak out and just sit there. Tell them that you are going to give them hints and that it is important for everyone to help their team.
• Begin telling the students hints. I suggest writing the hints on the board, covering the hints on an ELMO only revealing one new at a time, or revealing one at a time through your SMART Board. You may end up telling the students a lot of hints.  Keep the rules visible so that students can refer to them if needed. Another option: print out rules and distribute copies to students when many clues have been revealed.  If you can see that the students are really getting into it (and several hints have been given), you can let them to talk QUIETLY. Tell them that they don’t want to give the answers away to the teams around them.
• If any of the students get super into the activity, you can offer for them to try the “Hard” or “Mega Challenge” when they get finished with their work early one day.
• This activity is great to use as an icebreaker. Some students will take charge and stand out. Many students will get frustrated when they are SO close to getting a puzzle piece to fit. EVERYONE will be able to take part, and more importantly everyone is required to THINK (whether they are moving pieces or not). Another bonus: students will learn that listening to you is important because solving the puzzle without your hints would have been extremely challenging.
• After hints are revealed, and at least one group has solved the puzzle, then lead a discussion about how they felt, what their strategies were, etc.  Many students will want to share what they were going through when they weren’t permitted to speak, or how great they felt when they put a puzzle together!
• If the class struggles, finish the puzzles as a whole class using an ELMO or by taping it to the board. Consider adjusting the number of puzzles for your next classes. For example, for the next class, you could tell them to remove the red puzzle pieces and set them to the side. Then, have the students go ahead with just the blue and purple cards.
• After the activity is complete, lead a discussion. Sample Questions: How did you feel? What was your strategy? How did you communicate? Was there a team leader? What was your role? Did you ever want to give up? If you just keep trying different combinations, you are bound to get the answer eventually! What was your favorite part of the activity? How did the hints help you? What was the best hint that made you think… “AHA!”? And any other questions you can think of…

Hints List for Students:
• There are 6 puzzles to solve.
• Every puzzle makes the same shape.
• There are 4 puzzle pieces in each puzzle.
• Each individual puzzle has all the same colored pieces. Try sorting by color.
• The numbers 1-4 appear ONLY ONCE in each puzzle.
• All puzzles are congruent (the same size).
• The numbers all face the same direction when the puzzle is solved. Try arranging all the pieces so that you can read all the #s.
• All of the puzzles make a square.
• 4 of the puzzles have of 3 triangles and a 1 quadrilateral.
• 2 of the puzzles have 3 quadrilaterals and 1 triangle.
• And any other hints you can think of…

*Note: it is very important to give the students hints so that they don’t get frustrated and give up.

Integer Operations Puzzles


Integer Operations Triangle Puzzles

• 4 Puzzles
• 60 pieces
• 64 match ups

Do you want to see a preview? Check out the listings for each puzzle in this pack:
•  Adding Integers Triangle Puzzle
•  Subtracting Integers Triangle Puzzle
•  Multiplying Integers Triangle Puzzle
•  Dividing Integers Triangle Puzzle

How can you use this activity?:
• Independent Practice
• Group Work
• Homework
• Assessment
• Review

Specific Ways to Use The Puzzles:
Option 1: Use a puzzle to mix things up! Print the complete puzzle mix up page, and the complete puzzle worksheet. Then, have students complete the puzzle, glue it on the worksheet, and turn is as an assignment. If you have any students that don’t want to they can write all the problems one notebook paper and solve them. Later, you can display these assignments.
Option 2: Print, cut out, and laminate the bigger puzzle pieces. Then, store in plastic baggies. Distribute to students in groups to solve the puzzle. See who can solve it the quickest! Keep all 4 puzzles on standby!

How to solve the puzzle:
• Solve each expression to find the answer.
• Match up expressions with their correct answer.
• When matches are found, place the puzzle pieces and work on the next part.
• Make sure that all shared lines represent the same number.
• Once everything matches up, you are done! Congrats!
• Glue puzzle pieces on worksheet (if you are using the worksheet).


Want to read about and download some more back to school resources?

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 1

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 2



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