Getting to the Core

It's All In A Name... 

Part of the excitement of the first day of school for teachers, as well as the children, is meeting all of the new students!  I try to make learning everyone’s name fun.  So I do several activities that involve names.  There are several report card standards that the Y5’s have that revolve around their name: being able to recognize it as well as write it, so they’re not only learning each other’s names, they are practicing standards. Woo-hoo for a first day win-win!


ideas for back to school, ideas for the first day of school, ideas for learning namesTable Top:

  • To help my little ones recognize & write their name, I have name cards on the tables for them to copy. 
  • I also have a “table top” skill sheet each day involving “finding” their name on something. 

  • I just designed this new balloon heart.
  • Simply fill in your students’ names to make one. 
  • Click on the link to view/print a copy.  Heart-Balloon Name Pattern page


ideas for back to school, ideas for the first day of school, ideas for learning namesGather ‘Round:

Have students sit in a circle.

Decide on a fun “movement pattern” like clap twice, pat knees twice.

For older students you can add snap fingers twice too.

Say the following after the movement:
_______________(child's name) ______________ (child's name)
How do you do?
Who's that sitting next to you?
Child says name of person sitting beside them.

Count  to 3 slowly and if they don’t know then that child says their name.


apple name, apple art, ideas for learning names, ideas for the first day of school, ideas for back to school, Artistic Treat:

  • Apples are a big theme for us in September, so I just designed “You’re a smartie!” WELCOME apples.
  • Run off my master on red construction paper.
  • Make a template for the leaves and stems.

  • Run the worms off on green construction paper.
  • Cut everything out.
  • Glue a Popsicle stick to the back of the worm.

  • Write your students’ names with a black marker.
  • Using an Exacto-knife, cut a slit in the top of the apple.
  • Tape a pack of Smartie candies around the stick worm.

  • Insert the worm in the slit in such a way so that the candy slides over the top of the apple, while the stick goes behind.
  • Sprinkle them on the floor around the room and have them find them.
  • To make it harder for older students,  make puzzles out of the apples.

  • After you finish making them, cut them in zig zag diagonals so that part of their name is missing.  They will have a top-left, and a bottom-right apple piece.
  • As with any candy treat that I give my students, I preface it with: “This is for you to take home.”
  • To ease the disappointment a bit, I’ll have one Smartie candy as a reward for everyone when they find their apple.
  • Click on the link to view/print the patterns. Smartie Name Apple


word finds for back to school, ideas for back to school, ideas for the first day of school, apple ideas, ideas for learning names, apple art project, treat for the first day of schoolWord Find:

  • I make word finds all through the year of our word wall words and special vocab words each month.
  • This increases all sorts of skills and helps reinforce recognition of whatever words we are working on.
  • Making a word find of your students' names is especially fun for them, and is something that can keep them occupied while you do that endless list of administrative chores that has to get done on the first day.


ideas for back to school, ideas for the first day of school, apple art, treat for the first day of school, ideas for learning names, Pattern Please:

This is also a fun and easy “busy activity” while you’re doing those crazy little “have-to-get-done’s”, or assessing to see where children are at.

  • Children write the letters of their name in the boxes and color the vowels their favorite color and the rest their second favorite color.
  • A pattern emerges.
  • When they are done they pick a partner.

  • (You can use one of my many fun partner ideas from 2 previous articles)
  • Students compare their interesting art.

  • Collect and put up on the wall for a quick and pretty first-day hallway display!
  • Click on the link to view/print the name pattern page.

I hope you got some name ideas to use for back-to-school.

Do you have a name tip that you’d like to share?

I’d enjoy hearing from you!

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly...) So everyone can keep smiling!

back to school ideas, classroom management, first day of school ideas, student handbooks, welcome to school summer letters, open house packet letters, Our principal required that each teacher have a handbook for their classroom.  I included mine in my Open House packet.  Click on the link to view/print all of my handy handbooks.

When I first started teaching elementary, I was coming in as a high school teacher.  It was difficult for me to “dream up" all of the handbooks and handouts that were required for the beginning of school.

That’s why I post them all on my website.  I was grateful to Stephanie, a Y5 teacher, who lent me her handbook so I had a skeleton to start with!   

Hopefully mine will jumpstart your brain and you can tweak them anyway you want; at least you're not reinventing the wheel and hopefully this will be a real time saver for you, especially if you are a beginning teacher.

I find all too often tho’ that parents are inundated with “paper mountain” from the school and have little time to read “everything”, so I made up this cute little ABC checklist to cover my main points and send it home with my students the first day of school.  I feel that “short and sweet” is more apt to be read.

back to school ideas, classroom management, first day of school ideas, student handbooks, welcome to school summer letters, open house packet letters, You can tweak mine to fit your needs.  To help you do that, I’ve included one that has some of the information blank for you to type, cut and paste.

You can send this home the first day, tuck in your Welcome to school summer letter/packet, or your Open House packet.

Click on the link to view/print My ABC’s Of School Info Sheet

I hope this helps you get YOUR personal “paper mountain” of back-to-school “stuff” into a mole hill!

Happy Planning!

back to school ideas, classroom management, first day of school ideas, student handbooks, welcome to school summer letters, open house packet letters, Thanks for visiting! Feel free to PIN anything from my site you think others will find helpful.

"The really great man is the man who makes every man feel great." -G.K. Chesterton

writing notebooks, ideas for back to school, ideas for the first day of school, journals,Do Yourself and Your Students A Favor and Give Them A Notebook!

back to school ideas, first day of school ideas, writing notebooks, journals,This is tip #17 & my 100th blog article! We will be celebrating our 1st-year anniversary at the end of next month!

You can click on the writing notebook ideas separately or click on the entire packet at the end. Enjoy!

My young Fives will see a writing notebook all too soon as they progress through the elementary grades, but to get one at this age is really a big deal.

Since most of the chain supply stores and even Target, have them as huge loss leaders in August for their back-to-school sales, I can pick them up for as little as .10 cents, so for the small investment of $2.00, I can light up the faces of 20 children in a few seconds!

For a few dollars you can use a notebook for a variety of writing skills for your students.

Mine is at the introductory level of simply practicing how to write their name.

Get parents on board and work as a team and you will definitely see improvement.

writing notebook, ideas for back to school, ideas for the first day of school, journals,I buy an assortment of colors and give them a choice.  It doesn’t matter that they don’t stay on the lines.  What I want them to do is just practice holding a pencil, crayon or whatever they can take delight in holding, and practice writing their name once each night.  I want it to be fun, not a hassle.

You can see the “My Writing Notebook” sticker in the photo.  I print these off on large Avery labels on my printer to add a bit of pizzazz.

Each time they bring their notebook in to be checked they get to pick out several stickers to decorate the front of their notebook as an incentive to bring them back.

Since writing their name on everything we do in class can be labor intensive, I need parental help in getting these little ones over the hump ASAP and the notebook has been key in accomplishing that.

Their hands “poop out” or “run out of gas” as one of my students so adorably put it!

The notebook is a great At-Home connection and is easy, quick and fun, especially if parents buy some glitter or gel pens or some goofy or wiggly fun pen to make writing time more exciting.

I include due dates in my newsletters as well as post them on my monthly calendar.

Students get an award certificate for a great-completed notebook and a trip to the treasure box.

certificate, ideas for back to school, ideas for the first day of school, writing notebooks, journals,Click on the link to view/print a notebook award certificate.  I also have certificates of accomplishment when they can hold a pencil correctly.  Click on the link if you are interested in those.

To practice verbally expressing themselves, I have them share their favorite page of their notebook with their classmates.

Parents often ask me: “How can I help my child learn how to write?” So I typed up a list of fun things they can do to help strengthen their muscles.  I tuck this list in the notebook.  Click on the link to view/print hand-muscle building tip list. I also include a diagram of how to hold a pencil correctly.

writing notebooks, journals, back to school ideas, ideas for the first day of schoolThe other thing I tuck in the notebook is a tracing guide of the alphabet. Click on the link to view/print the alphabet-writing guide.

I include a letter explaining the notebook to parents and asking for their help.  If you’d like to see mine, to use it as a guide to tweak and develop your own, click on the link.

Since I started using the notebooks I’ve seen a dramatic improvement in my students’ penmanship, muscle coordination, and self-esteem.

What used to take me ‘til the middle of November with some of my little ones is now accomplished by the beginning or middle of October.  Some really diligent students (and parents) who had no preschool, are set by the end of September.

If you have older students, decide what you want the notebooks to be used for, and make it a daily or weekly writing assignment that is simple, short and fun, so they will WANT to write.  I give my college students ideas for them to journal about in their notebooks each week.

The notebooks can be kept in their desks to work on during free time, or kept at home like a “secret diary”.

I hope this idea is one that you can use and gets you excited to plan for your new class.

A quick and easy handwriting activity for you to do the first day of school is simply a Welcome To School "Trace & Write" Click on the link to view/print several different kinds.

 If you want the entire writing notebook packet  click on the link to view/print it.

Staples started their back-to-school penny sales this week. Click on the link to check out the deals! Every week they offer new things so start watching for the notebooks to go on sale!  Staples allow teachers to buy 25 of their penny items here in MI. I imagine that would be a National thing.   

Happy Shopping!

  • A Treat For The First Day Of School
  • I like to have practical little goodies for my students the first day of school.  One of the things that I make for them is Willie the Alphabet Worm.
  • alphabet worm, back to school ideas, first day of school ideas, treats for the first day of school, Willie has upper and lowercase letters on his back.
  • Run my master off on green construction paper and laminate the sheets.
  • There are 6 on a page.
  • Cut them out and add colored paperclips.
  • By moving the paperclip up and down, students can practice spelling their names. (One of my report card standards is being able to recognize your name.)
  • You can also review and teach letters in a fun way!
  • Moving a large paperclip helps strengthen finger muscles and enhances fine motor skills and coordination too!
  • You can make two, one to keep at school and one to send home if you want to.
  • I’ve included a letter of explanation to send home to parents so that they will work with their child and practice the alphabet with them!
  • back to school ideas, first day of school ideas, alphabet worm, ideas of how to teach the alphabet, treats for the first day of school,I have a saying: Together Everyone Achieves MoreI” It’s an acronym for TEAM!
  • I let parents know that I’m depending on them to be part of my educational team that will help their star player shine their brightest!
  • Click on the link to zoom to Willie and view/or print a template and letter.

 I hope Willie helps your students as much as he’s helped mine wiggle their way to knowing their ABC’s!

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I'll have another fun back-to-school tip!

 Do you have a fun tip you’d like to share?  I’d enjoy hearing from you!

More Counting Chains

Yesterday I gave you the idea of making a calendar paper chain so that your students can visualize the days of the month "going by".  This is a great opportunity to review subtraction as you rip off and "take away" a paper chain each day. 
                                                                                                                                       I also want to review addition each day with my students and "add" something, so I use multi-colored plastic links to build a chain as we count up to the 100th day of school. 
  • back to school ideas, ideas for the first day of school, ideas for learning how to count, classroom management ideas, addition ideas, calendar ideas, hibernation ideas, The rainbow colors also help me reinforce all of the basic colors with them, which is one of my report card standards.
  • Surprisingly some of my students are still confused about a few.  
  • This daily review, really helps my ESL students. 
  • I take this opportunity to teach a little Spanish to my students as well, as I have them say the colors of the chain links in Spanish as well as English.
  • Because I link them in a specific order, I also have them identify the rainbow pattern that emerges. 
  • By the time it's March and we are studying rainbows, they are proficient at picking out and repeating that colorful pattern!
  • I tell my Y5's that when we go one link farther to our 101 day, Cruella DeVille will come visit us for our 101 Dalmatian Themed Day
  • They are very excited about that. 
  • I hang a piece of fishline so that it is low enough for me to reach so that I can start hanging my plastic links on the first day of school. 
  • With this chain I take the opportunity to say: 1 link + 1 link ='s how many links?
  • You can do all sorts of math equations with your students. 
  • I also say:  Is our chain getting longer or shorter?  Is it greater or less than yesterday?  Is it greater or less than or = to our paper chain etc.  What color link has the most colors? 
  • There are lots of math vocabulary words and concepts you can review whenever you want to, with this simple concept and it only takes a minute!  
  • I bought my links at the teacher store in town, but you can also order them from your favorite teacher catalog. If you're like me, you probably have a zillion on your desk at any given moment.
  • One of my favorite companies is Discount School Supply.  They have a set of 500 for $16.99
  • The links are one of my students' favorite manipulatives during Tummy Tubby Time.
  • back to school ideas, ideas for the first day of school, classroom management ideas, bear hibernation ideas, paper chains, classroom decorations, ideas for learning to count, calendar ideasAnother "add-a-link" chain I do, is a paper chain for January when we revisit hibernation. 
  • We discuss how polar bears, unlike brown & black bears, don't hibernate.
  • This paper chain has an ABAB pattern with black and white links.
  • hibernating bears, back to school ideas, ideas for the first day of school, classroom management tips, paper chains, calendar ideas, ideas for learning how to countThe topper is a scanned picture from the cover of one of my favorite hibernation books followed by a teddy bear.
  • The template can be found in my January Arts & Activities Book, but can be viewed/printed for free through the 20th.
  • Click on the teddy bear link above to view/print it.

  • A.A. Milne's birthday is in January so I have a Winnie the Pooh theme day. 
  • The children make brown lunch bag bears.
  • On one side of the bag the bear is sleeping, on the other he is awake. 
  • They stuff them with tissue and toss them into the cave.  (A huge brown paper leaf bag. )
  • I staple the bag shut and take it home 'til the first day of spring (March 20th) when I bring it back and the children take their bears home.
  • In the meantime we add black and white paper chains each day 'til the bears wake up.
If you do a bear theme or read Brown Bear to your students, click on the link to see my cute mini mimic booklets that review shapes, colors and numbers for only .29 cents! Dancing Bear What Do You See?
I hope these ideas "added" to the fun things you have planned for your students and get you excited for back-to-school.
Be sure to pop back tomorrow. 
You'll LOVE making Willie as a sweet surprise to help your students learn their ABC's!
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