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Students sit around a table working on a big paper activity while receiving feedback from an educator.

Activities for the First Days of School

These back-to-school activities are designed to create welcoming learning environments that prioritize care, relationships, and community.


At a Glance



English — US


  • English & Language Arts
  • History
  • Social Studies


  • Culture & Identity
  • Equity & Inclusion


About This Collection

The opening days and weeks of school are an important time for building community and focusing on student’s social-emotional learning. Students will be more likely to engage, take risks, and support each other if they feel a sense of trust and belonging among the group members and with their teacher.

This collection of back-to-school activities addresses three important goals for the beginning of the school year:

  1. Reorienting students to school
  2. Getting to know each other and building relationships
  3. Creating classroom community

This collection is designed to be flexible. You can use all of the activities or choose a selection best suited to your classroom. It includes:

  • 1 activity to welcome students back to school
  • 5 activities that help students explore identity and get to know one another
  • 4 activities to build community

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

The activities are designed for teachers to use in conjunction with Opening and Closing Routines. Teachers can choose from multiple activity options and coordinate with colleagues who may teach the same students to avoid repetition of activities or readings. Each activity includes an extension activity to help students apply key concepts to their own lives in meaningful and creative ways. Teachers should also review our Journaling and Contracting teaching strategies before teaching these introductory activities.

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Facing History & Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.

Using the strategies from Facing History is almost like an awakening.
— Claudia Bautista, Santa Monica, Calif