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Teaching Tips for Back to School

Most Connecticut students and teachers will be back in the classroom in just a couple of more weeks. As you get ready, check out these 21 back-to-school-themed teaching tips and strategies NEA has collected from educators around the country — and add your own tips in the comments.

Learning About Each Other

  1. Learning About Each Other
    With this get-to-know-you activity, Ms. Herbert’s fourth-grade students practice their conversational skills, learn proper etiquette, and discover just about everything they ever wanted to know about their new teacher.
  2. Ten Questions to Start the Year
    Ms. Skid, a retired high school teacher, suggests excellent conversation starters that will engage students and elicit great responses to help the class learn more about each other.
  3. Teacher Test
    Ms. La Masa helps her students learn more about her with a pop quiz on the first day. Questions detail her personal interests, and students make guesses before she reveals the answers.
  4. Math Autobiography
    In order to learn more about her budding mathematicians, Marybeth L. asks her new students each year to write about their experiences in math classes: the good, the bad, the ugly.


Building Community

  1. Bury “Can’t Lists” in Class Funeral
    This fourth-grade teacher developed a wonderful outdoor activity for the first day of school that does just that. With a class funeral, students literally and metaphorically bury their self-doubt and plant the seeds of a positive attitude.
  2. The Maze Team Builder
    Christine begins the year with a team building puzzle, using masking tape to create a maze on the floor. Students work in teams to navigate through it as fast as possible. Read more about how she uses this activity to break the ice and build community.
  3. School Maps
    Students practice their map-making and drawing skills as they compose renderings of their surroundings and the layout of the school building.
  4. Constructing a New School Year
    Ms. Labarry approaches the new school year as if she were building a house with her students. She works with them to build a strong classroom foundation based on healthy relations in order to avoid a collapse later in the year.
  5. Survival Kits
    This survival kit for students contains useful, practical items that also hold special, metaphorical meaning. Included items are free or very inexpensive.


Routines & Procedures

  1. Time Saving Text Book Distribution
    For Ms. Kelsey, numbering her textbooks prior to the first day of class is the lynchpin for several classroom procedures: numbering and grouping students, tracking supplies, and more.
  2. Parents’ Handbook
    After years of struggling to give parents all the information they need, Ms. Neary finally discovered a good approach. Her parent handbook establishes reasonable expectations for parents and puts them at ease from day one of the school year.
  3. Back to School Means Back to Work
    High school teacher Julie Williams doesn’t waste any time calling roll or going over procedures the first day of class. Her students start working on an activity right away.
  4. Beginning of the Year
    Have you ever struggled to figure out how to decorate your bulletin boards? Ms. Berg suggests doing it at the end of the prior year, when you can get plenty of help from students – and save lots of time later.



  1. Getting-to-Know-You Writing Project
    On the first day of class, Ms. Fedderke combines a getting-to-know-you activity with a writing assignment. This quick diagnostic tools allows her to learn about her students and their writing skills.
  2. Self-Addressed Student Letters
    On the first day of school, students write a letter to themselves that will be given back at the end of the school year.
  3. If the Shoe Fits
    Ms. Kast leads her fifth-grade class in a unique shoe-sorting activity on the first day of school. It culminates in an art project that decorates her bulletin board.
  4. New Beginnings
    The third-grade students in Ms. Cirtin’s class memorize a poem by Helen Steiner Rice to help them remember important things. It sets the right tone for the rest of the year. Some of her students still remember and recite the poem as graduating seniors.


  1. First Day Handouts
    This teacher always had trouble finding his favorite paperwork at the start of each school year, until he came up with a great idea for organizing his First Day files and minimizing bulky storage.
  2. First Day Organization and Confidence
    Even after ten years of teaching, Ms. Gray still gets nervous on the first day. She developed a way to organize typical first-day-of-school paperwork that helps her stay completely calm and lets students know she’s on top of it.
  3. Pictures on Seating Charts II
    Using pictures taken from students’ school IDs, Ms. Florence makes a seating chart that helps her – and any substitute educators who teach her class – to match faces with names and cut down on confusion and problems.


New Teachers

  1. Bagels and Fruit
    Students aren’t the only ones new to your school every year. Ms. Walton-Faria shares an idea for welcoming new teachers and helping them identify a support system, whether they’re seasoned veterans or entering their first year on the job.
One Comment
  1. I like the team builder exercises. That always helps break the ice. I know from experience and it helped me gain friendships.

    October 9, 2013

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