Back to School Teaching Ideas

( words) Estimated Read Time:  minutes remaining

Growth mindset activities for back to school!

Back to school activities are important for building a strong class culture and engaging students in the right work on the first days of school!

How do you build community and teamwork in the first few days of school? How do you teach students to the class norms, learn their strengths, and allow them to get to know each other?

…but not waste precious instructional days!

I’m going to give you a short list of innovative back to school teaching ideas that will:

  • get the students ready to learn,
  • build a class community,
  • help you learn your students, and
  • not waste instructional time!

Back to School Activities that Work!

Why not use the first week of school for instructional purposes and to build community? The back to school activities are designed to do just that. They:

  • Capture students growth for the year.
  • Help you know where the students are starting.
  • Be a fun way to teach rules and expectations.
  • Get students engaged and interacting in positive ways.

What are the activities?

  • Billboard of Growth
  • Youtube of Growth
  • Origami Cup Challenge
  • Time Capsule
  • Learning Styles Survey

How to Do the Back to School Activities

Billboard of Growth

This back to school idea allows students to draw and label everything they know about your course. This is a combination of visible learning strategies and growth mindset. Here’s how to do it in 4 easy steps:

  1. Give students a large 11″ x 17″ piece of construction paper.
  2. Tell them three or four big ideas from the curriculum (i.e. Civil War, Long Division, Plot Analysis). 
  3. Ask them to write, draw, or list everything they know about each big idea.
  4. Repeat on the back at the end of the year.

Let’s look at an example.

A writing teacher might give the students these big ideas: writing process, paragraphs, expository text, and personal narratives. Students then draw graphics and label to show everything they know. 

Collect the “billboards” and give them out on the last week of school. Students will do the same task on the back of the paper and see how much they’ve learned over the course of the year!


Youtube of Growth

This is like the billboard back to school activity, but this is a video format. Before you get nervous with “video”, just know you don’t have to be an edtech geekie.

Also, you don’t have to post to Youtube. Just follow these fun and engaging steps:

  1. Give students 15 seconds to tell everything they know about a subject.
  2. You can guide students by giving them four big ideas just like on the Billboard of Growth.
  3. Video them on a flip camera, webcam, or phone.
  4. Repeat on the last month of school.
  5. Create a montage of the video (see how below).
  6. Share on the last week of school when things are a little hectic.

The montage of the video, will be about 3-5 minutes…that’s why we are limiting each student to only 15 seconds. Then share both videos with the class, so they can see how much they’ve learned this year!

For this back to school idea, you can use free video editors such as Windows Live Movie Maker, iMovie,, or to make the montage of videos.


Day one is the best time to begin building a growth mindset! #teachingClick To Tweet


Origami Cup Challenge

This is totally fun for back to school, and teaches:

  • following directions,
  • class rules,
  • and teamwork.

You can do this activity as a whole class where you read the directions, or you can buy yourself time to organize the class by giving students copies of the directions.

The origami has students to make a paper cup, which you will then use to pour water into! This is the test to see if they followed directions. You will the directions (found at, a plastic tub to collect the water, and a pitcher to pour the water.


Why not use origami to teach class rules? #teachingClick To Tweet


Time Capsule

Ask each student to bring an empty paper towel roll or Pringles can for the first day of school homework. Then gather work samples on the second day of school. Do a quick quiz (spelling, computation, vocabulary, etc…), give a quick writing prompt, and do some fun prompts such as best friends, hobbies, favorite song, movies, and teams. Tuck the samples away and reopen the time capsules on the last week of school!


Learning Style Surveys

You don’t need to pay for some fancy learning style worksheets, just do a Google search and you’ll be all set. These surveys are great because they help students to see themselves as learners. It’s not just about smart or dumb…it’s about learning! And we all learn in a variety of ways.

This is part of what makes a growth mindset so powerful for students. Why not use the first week of school to begin building learners?

You might find our Growth Mindset Bundle to be a perfect back to school activity!


What will you do for Back to School Activities?

So we offered five great back to school ideas. What are your back to school activities? What will you do? What strategies, ideas, or activities do you love using for back to school? Please share your ideas below. 

Explore Growth Mindset Activities

About the Author

TeamTom Education is dedicated to creating engaging teaching resources and strategies that make learning awesome!

Related Reading

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Follow The Blog

Get all the latest blog posts straight to your inbox!

Join 1,727 other subscribers