You know that feeling in your stomach where you feel like you have butterflies bouncing like a toddler tumbling in a trampoline park . . . but you may also *possibly* have gastro😬?  Well, that feeling is not unlike the feeling I often have the first couple weeks of school.

There is so much to do and organize, and usually there is not much time to actually 👉get it done👈.

Quelling that panicked feeling in your guts can be tough, even though you know you’ll get all the things done . . . eventually.

Today we’re going to help you out with a few of those things on your first day of school teacher’s checklist.

We’ll cover topics such as:

  • Get to know you activities
  • Establishing classroom rules, procedures, and expectations
  • Finding out your starting point
  • Reviewing important skills with students
  • Ideas for building relationships
  • Getting yourself organized
  • And getting your students working

So say goodbye to the tumbling toddlers in your tummy and read on.

Get-to-know-you activities

Getting to know your students can be quite a task, especially when you’re a middle or high school teacher and can have 150+ students.  Not only do you need to learn their names, but you also need to learn about their abilities, strengths, weaknesses, social skills, and interests.  

Plus you need to let them know a little about yourself to build rapport.

Middle and high school get to know you
If you are after a printable back to school activities, the first get to know you activity (by me) might be perfect for your middle and high school students. 

This original and visually engaging printable will help your students to talk about themselves, to each other, and to you.

Included in the bundle are

  1. 3x About Me/Us/Them worksheets in black and white
  2. 1x Student Survey Top Five worksheet in black and white
  3. 1x Find Someone Who worksheet in black and white

The first worksheets (About Me/Us/Them) are great to use together. First get the students to complete the ‘About Me’ worksheet about themselves, then the ‘About Them’ worksheet about one other student in the class who they interview. Finally, they can do the ‘About Us’ worksheet in a small group of 3 to 4.

The Student Survey Top Five worksheet is another option for students to tell you about themselves (their top five books, songs, movies, famous people, vacation memories, and goals). 

This worksheet also asks students how they think they learn best and the other classes they are taking that year to give you an idea of what their academic interests are and what their study load is like.

The Find Someone Who worksheet is a great way for students to get to know each other. Give them the worksheet, a time limit (or a first-to-finish prize as an incentive) and set them loose.

Comic book template
Another great option is this free comic book template.  The template is versatile and you can use it over and over again for different purposes. 

For back to school, you could make the topic something such as

  • their summer adventures
  • the best thing that happened over the vacation/holidays
  • highlights from the previous academic year
  • or what they imagine the year ahead holds
Investigate the teacher
A fun way to get your students to learn more about you is this activity where students “investigate” you and make inferences based on what they observe in the classroom.
In the activity by Write on with Miss G, students will “search” your classroom or digital “gallery” for clues about your personality, teaching style, expectations, hobbies, etc. If you don’t have many decorations or natural “clues” in your classroom, you may want to consider planting “clues” or bringing in “artifacts” for students to observe.

Included in the activity are

  • teacher information & frequently asked questions
  • lesson plan with sample objective
  • student worksheet
  • a digital, 1:1 or distance-learning version (Google Slides + Form)
Back-to-school stations
The fourth option for back-to-school activities for middle and high school are these back-to-school stations by Laura Randazzo.

This free activity is designed to help build classroom community and encourage discussion from day one.  

The 38-page PDF includes:

  • 21 slides to lead a class step-by-step through the station rotation activity
  • 16 pages to print and post around your room to form 8 stations
  • a single-page worksheet to use at the end of class or assign as homework anytime during the first week of school

All you need to do is read through the activity, and bring sticky notes, index cards, and printer paper.

Icebreaker games
Another option for non-printable back-to-school activities are these fun icebreaker games by Cult of Pedagogy.

Each game focuses on getting students talking on a variety of interesting, low-risk topics.

The games include:

  • Blobs and Lines: A set of questions that asks students to line up in some particular order (by birthday, for example) or gather in groups based on something they have in common (similar shoes, for example). This game keeps students moving and talking and helps them find things they have in common right away, building a sense of belonging and community in your classroom.
  • Concentric Circles: Students arrange themselves in an inside circle and an outside circle, the inside facing out, forming pairs. Pairs discuss their answers to a getting-to-know-you question, then rotate for the next question, forming a new partnership. This game gives students the chance to have lots of one-on-one conversations with many of their classmates and helps them quickly feel more at home in your class.
  • This or That: This game has students informally debate on light topics such as “Which animal makes a better pet…dog or cat?” Students have to choose a position–there is no middle!–and stand in a part of the room that best represents their opinion. This game is a HUGE hit with students: Not only does the argumentation help them learn a lot about each other in a short amount of time, it’s also just fun.

Each game has been created as a PowerPoint presentation, complete with 20 questions.  All you have to do is set it in slideshow mode and the game is on! 

Each game is EDITABLE, so you can change or add questions to suit your students. The slideshows also work in Google Slides.

Four corners game
Another back-to-school game that your students might enjoy is this four corners game by Write and Read.  This four corners game gets students out of their seats and helps you get to know them. 

The PowerPoint and Google Slides contain 22 slides with questions relevant to teens. Students will have fun learning about one another, and there’s no prep for you! It’s a great activity for the beginning of the school year or the start of a new semester, and it can be used for any content area.

Classroom rules

Another important task for the back-to-school season is establishing and maintaining classroom rules.  These are different for everyone and often depend on school-wide policies, school norms, wider social norms in your location, and your own personal beliefs and expectations as a teacher.

Good topics to establish rules around from the outset include:

  • acceptable classroom behavior
  • classwork expectations
  • homework expectations
  • device use
  • any other rules you like to have to save your sanity 

Now you could just do a poster and throw it on the wall.  But let’s be honest, no teen is going to buy into that.

So, other options for covering classroom rules in a way students will remember and engage with are listed below.

Emoji puppets
One option is to use these emoji puppets by Julie Faulkner.  They are a fun, fast, and easy way to break the ice on the first day while covering rules.

Included are 30 cute, easy prep, ready-to-go question stems for classroom rules with coordinating emojis. Three blank emoji puppets are provided as well.

These are great for any subject of middle-high school level. 

Just imagine the look on their faces when they get to hold up emoji puppets on the first day of school – instant buy-in from middle schoolers and eye-rolling, kitschy-cringey enjoyment from high schoolers.

Meme rules
Another option is to cover class rules using memes posters, such as these ones by Tracee Orman.

The memes are provided in png, pdf, and pptx file types.  They are editable, so you can customize them, and are available in letter, legal, and 10×14 sizes.

Remember, that while students usually enjoy humor, some images are more suited to older students.  You’ll need to use your professional judgement about which memes are suitable for your classes. 

Procedures, routines, and expectations

Once school and classroom rules are covered, you often need to cover procedures and other expectations.

Things you may need to cover include:

  • late to school policy
  • late assessment policy
  • dress code/uniform expectations
  • how to change classes/subjects
  • IT policies
  • extra-curricular requirements
  • policies around drugs, smoking, and banned items
  • health and safety policies (including possibly also hygiene rules)
  • how and when students and parents can contact teachers
Scavenger hunt
One way you can cover all of this essential (but boring) information is to do a first-day-of-school scavenger hunt like this one by The Color Thief.

The activity teaches students to find the answer to questions that they have (and that they would usually drive you crazy asking), such as ‘Where do I hand in homework?’ etc.  

You use the slide instructions to create a scavenger hunt specific to you and your classroom.  You first brainstorm what information your students will need to know and then write questions that are fun and engaging.

The activity takes between 10-20 minutes for students to complete, but you can stretch or condense it as much as you need to.

Included in the download are

  • instructions for use (pdf)
  • editable brainstorming sheet (docx and pptx) 
  • editable scavenger hunt (docs and pptx)
  • tech FAQ
Stations activity
Another option for covering important procedures is this stations activity by The Daring English Teacher.

The editable PowerPoint presentation allows you to customize the stations to suit your classroom.  Through the activity, students



  • complete a student survey
  • organize tech accounts and sign-up codes
  • participate in a syllabus scavenger hunt with printable worksheet
  • give book recommendations to their peers
Classroom management bundle
The third option for establishing procedures and expectations is this classroom management bundle by Education is Lit.  This resource is more for teacher use, particularly new teachers, as it helps you work out what your own classroom rules and expectations are.  It also has a classroom management plan template.
Included in the bundle are 

  • 20+ page classroom management plan 
  • 40 essential classroom management questions
  • classroom procedures and routines checklist
  • 17 page step-by-step detailed guide that teaches you how to create your own classroom management plan

Finding out your starting point

Another important task to tick off during back to school is to establish where your students are at academically.  
Back to school bundle
A good way to do this is by using the activities in section two of this back-to-school bundle by Carla McLeod.

Section one includes lots of icebreakers and fun activities to help you get to know your students, including printable back-to-school activities for the classroom such as a letter to myself and a top 10 playlist.  

But section two will help you work out where your students are starting from.  Section two (of both volumes) includes

  • reading inventory
  • writing inventory
  • vocabulary inventory
  • learning style inventory
  • online learning style assessment activity
  • online personality profile assessment activity.

The bundle also includes activities to build classroom community.  

Review important skills

The first few weeks are also an important time to review important skills that students should already know, but may need a little refresher on before beginning the academic year.  

Skills such as study skills and research skills are helpful in all subjects, and often get overlooked in favor of content, despite the fact that strong study skills correlate with strong academic performance. (See this post more for more).

Fast and easy ways to cover these skills are included in the following back to school printable activities.

Study skills worksheets
First up are these study skills worksheets that accompany the free Crash Course Study Skills videos on YouTube.  The videos are great because they quickly review important study skills and give concrete strategies for students to use throughout their academic careers.
The videos and my accompanying worksheets cover 

  • taking notes
  • reading assignments
  • memory
  • planning and organization
  • focus and concentration
  • procrastination
  • studying for tests
  • test anxiety
  • papers and essays
  • and the importance of exercise.

The printable worksheet/s encourage active listening and spur students to consider how to study and work effectively. 

The episodes run for between approximately 8 and 13 minutes, so the mini-lessons could run for between 25-45 minutes depending on the class.  Or you could set them as homework.

Included in the bundle are 

  • visual note-taking worksheets for ten episodes (black and white)
  • teacher notes for ten episodes (not an answer key as answers will vary)
  • hyperlink to the video for ten episodes (at the top of the teacher notes)
Online research skills worksheets
Another great activity to review research skills are these engaging, no-prep visual note-taking worksheets are designed to be used in conjunction with the popular Crash Course Navigating Digital Information videos on YouTube.
The videos and my worksheets cover 

  • an introduction to navigating digital information
  • the evaluation strategies of fact-checking and lateral reading
  • deciding who to trust
  • using Wikipedia
  • evaluating evidence including photos, data, infographics, video, and images
  • click restraint
  • social media.

The printable back-to-school activities for the classroom encourage active listening and spur students to consider how they can more effectively understand, evaluate and use information online. 

The episodes run for approximately 15 minutes, so the mini-lessons could run for between 30-45 minutes depending on the class.  Or you could set the videos as homework.

The bundle includes a printable worksheet as well as teacher notes for each episode in the series.

How and why we read
And if you’re an English teacher and are after high school English back to school activities, you are definitely going to want to use this free worksheet to accompany the Crash Course Literature video How and why we read
The video and my worksheet cover

  • the to that annoying question ‘Why are we reading this?!?
  • how written stories differ from spoken stories
  • why reader interpretation is important
  • the importance of literary devices
  • how reading helps us as people

Build relationships

The first week of school is also the perfect time to start working on building those positive relationships in your classroom.
One easy way to do this is to start contacting students and their parents right away.  I like to use positive praise postcards because I find them easy to integrate into my routine, and I find them very effective in showing students that I do actually pay attention to them in class.


If you want to find out more about positive praise postcards, 👈 check out the links about them and 👉 how I use them and download these freebies.

And if you’re interested, I have a paid version that includes more postcards/sayings here.  You can also check out this blog post here to check out other sellers’ postcards.

Get yourself organized

So, your students have come to class, you’ve got a semi-reliable class list, your timetable has been somewhat finalized, and you have a vague outline of what you are going to be teaching throughout the term, semester, or year.  Phew!  That first week is BUSY!

Now, you (hopefully🤞) have a chance to catch your breath and get yourself organized for the term, semester, and year ahead.  

I personally am not one of those people who can plan a whole term worth of work and have meticulous color-coded folders with activities created, printed, and slotted into the folder.

I tried to be that teacher my first few years teaching, but found that I ended up having to do major re-shuffles because of random events scheduled during class time, activities taking loads longer than I anticipated (or worse, shorter 😱), or other inexplicable interruptions.  

It drove me batty, so I decided I would do a basic term and unit outline, making sure to note dates that were known in advance to interrupt my lesson, and then I would plan lesson by lesson.  

That structure seemed to work for me.  I would occasionally work a lesson ahead if I was able to, or if I had taught the unit before, but that’s about it.  It reduced the stress of knowing where I had to get my students by the end of term, but gave me the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.

Emergency substitute lesson folder
With changing circumstances in mind, one of the products we have to help you get organized is this emergency substitute lesson folder by Hello Teacher Lady.

If you do none of the printable back-to-school activities we’ve discussed so far, please save yourself the stress and do this one (or at least make your own version).

The emergency substitute lesson folder is a bundle of templates that you can edit and print.  You can then use it for planned absences, or have a folder sitting on your desk for unplanned absences.

Templates included in the folder are

  • a welcome letter
  • general information reference page (think: daily schedule, class policies/procedures, points of contact etc)
  • lesson plans (for planned absences)
  • emergency plans (for unplanned absences when you don’t have the time or ability to create a lesson plan)
  • technology instructions
  • emergency procedures
  • seating chart
  • class lists 
  • attendance form
  • daily report (for the guest teacher to provide a quick note about the lesson)


Back to school bundle
And if you want to get a product that covers all those little bits and pieces that you need to organize for your classroom, then this back-to-school bundle by Presto Plans looks to be quite comprehensive.

The bundle includes over 80 pages of forms, spreadsheets, letters, and more!  Included in the bundle are

  • Bloom’s taxonomy thinking stems posters
  • inspirational quote posters
  • hall passes
  • exit passes
  • classroom management resources
  • back to school/get to know you social media profile worksheet
  • classroom rules posters
  • parent night presentation

Another great tip for those who are starting out is to check out It’s Lit Teaching’s website.  She has an email series that gives great pointers for getting organized as a beginning teacher.  She even throws in a few freebies.

Get to work

So, that first week went FAST, you’ve done the best back to school activities, done most of your back to school checklist for teachers, and now you are ready to get into the nitty-gritty.  You want to get your students working!  
A great way to do that is to sign up for this blank Cornell notes template.  This free template can be used as an editable PDF, used in Word, or in Google slides.  It can also be printed out and glued into notebooks.  


The template follows the Cornell Notes format, with title/date, cue, notes, and summary sections.

If you want to grab it on TPT, you can head here.