Back to School Get to Know You Activities

back to school 10 ideasThe first week of school is an important week that sets the tone for your whole year. Taking time to get to know your students and for them to get to know each other helps build a classroom of community and caring.  Here are some of my favorite ideas for back to school activities. I wish there was time to do them all!

I love to read The Important Book to my students! It is a short, but sweet book with a great message about being yourself. After reading the book, I give my students index cards and have them write important things about themselves that they would like to share me and with the class. Once they have written their cards, I pick them up and shuffle. I read one card at a time without saying whose card it is and the other students guess whose card it is. A fun way to learn about each other!

back to school cards


Another activity that would go along great with the book is to have your students make posters about themselves to hang around the room.  This All About Me Craft would be perfect!


Who doesn’t love a great selfie?


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You could have your students draw “selfies” or make collages of themselves doing a favorite hobby or activity.  Then have students share the “selfies” with the class.

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Another idea for selfies is this selfie project which looks like so much fun! Download it for free!



Get your students moving while you have a beach ball toss with questions designed to get to know one another!


And while you are up, play a game of switch sides if …


Student searches can also be a lot of fun! Here is a free download.


I remember making an “All About Me” bag for a class when I was in high school.  We decorated the outside with magazine pictures and words and then brought the bag back to school with a few things inside to share. Here is a free download with instructions from A Love For Teaching:



How cute is this cootie catcher?  Way cute, right!


Need ideas for Back to School Math?


How about Science?


For more great ideas, check out my Back To School Board on Pinterest.

Decomposing Fractions in Upper Elementary


There have been a lot of changes in Math objectives and instruction over the past few years. One change that I wasn’t so sure about at first was “decomposing fractions“.  At the time I was teaching third grade and there were already so many fraction concepts to teach. But, let me tell you, after working with my students on decomposing fractions, I see that they understand fractions a lot better than when we just labeled the fractions. Composing and decomposing the fractions helps them to really see how the parts and wholes relate. Now that I am tutoring 4th, 5th and 6th graders, I see how decomposing fractions really helps them to understand the “bigger” things that they do. Continue reading

Using Place Value to Understand Addition


Adding two digit numbers can seem like an easy enough task to those of us who have been doing it for a long time!  But for elementary students it can sometimes be confusing, especially if there is regrouping involved.

It is helpful to most students to start with something concrete, like place value blocks. Before I teach students the Continue reading

Getting Real With Math – Part 2 of 2 (Out and About)

Yesterday I wrote about making math real for children at home.   Connecting Math to everyday life helps children be successful in school by showing them Math is important, building vocabulary and math fluency, and promoting critical thinking and problem solving skills.  If you missed yesterday’s post: Getting Real With Math – Part 1 of 2 (@ home) click here to check it out.   Today I am going to add onto yesterday by pointing out ways to make Math connections outside of the house.  Just like yesterday, I would suggest that you keep it real by discussing problems with your child, give them time to think, reflect, talk it out and try to come up with solutions in a way that is natural and does not feel forced or too much like a “lesson”. 



Math at the grocery store:

The grocery store is a great place to use math. Weighing produce, counting soup cans, and comparing prices of  cereals are ways to use math skills and expose younger children to math and numbers. As your children get older you can increase the difficulty of your math conversations. My kids and I used to make a game out of estimating our total as we grocery shopped. This helped with rounding and mental math. When we got to the checkout we would see who was closest to the actual total.  We haven’t actually played the estimating game lately, but they are older now and really good at comparing prices and figuring out an estimate for a total when we are shopping (especially when they are spending their own money).

You can also promote problem solving skills by asking questions such as:

  • If these apples are $1 per pound, how much would 3 pounds cost?   How did you figure that out?
  • These potatoes are $4 for a 5 pound bag.   How much is the cost per pound?
  • If I use this coupon, what is my final price going to be?
  • Which package is a better deal?   How can you tell?
  • How many packages do we need to buy to make sure we have enough toilet paper for the week?

Beyond the grocery store:

Once you start thinking of connecting math to your child’s world you will probably find all sorts of teachable math moments as you are out and about.   Here are a few ideas:

  • Comparing a value meal to buying items a la carte at fast food places.
  • Finding total cost of an outing to a water park or movie.
  • Elapsed time: keep track of start and end time and figure out time spent somewhere.
  • Calculating distance traveled on a trip (out of town or just running an errand).
  • Shopping for clothing, toys, books, etc.
I hope you enjoyed my post.   Please feel free to leave comments with more ideas for using math out and about.

Getting Real With Math – Part 1 of 2 (@ home)

One of my favorite children’s books is “Math Curse, written by John Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith. It is a picture book about a child who has been “cursed” by looking at everything in her world as a math problem.   The illustrations are fabulous and the story is clever, but that is not all that I love about it.   As a teacher, I love reading the book to my students and challenging them to find math problems around them.   It leads into great discussion about how we use Math in “Real Life”, not just in school.   Continue reading

Make Math Fun!

Summer is a great time to sleep in, watch movies, read books, play in the sprinkler and eat ice cream!   Summer should be fun and children need time to relax and play.   However, the summer can be long and children can forget some of the skills they  need for the upcoming school year.   I am adding this post  to give you some FREE,  FUN ideas for helping your children practice math skills!    Continue reading