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12 Engaging First Week of School Activities for 5th Graders

Oliver Grant

8 Minutes to Read
first week of school activities 5th grade

Welcome back to school, 5th grade teachers! The first week is crucial for setting the tone, building relationships, and getting your students excited to learn. Banish those back-to-school jitters with these 12 fun and creative activities that will have your 5th graders smiling from day one.

1. “All About Me” Bags

Kick off the year with a classic get-to-know-you activity. Give each student a paper bag and have them fill it with 4 items that represent their interests, hobbies, family, or summer adventures. The next day, gather in a circle and let each student share the contents of their bag. It’s a great way to learn unique facts about your new class.

2. Beach Ball Introductions

For a playful twist on student introductions, write get-to-know-you questions on a beach ball using a permanent marker. Form a circle and have students toss the ball to each other. Wherever their left thumb lands, that’s the question they answer. Questions could include:

  • What’s your favorite book?
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
  • What did you enjoy most about 4th grade?
  • Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?

3. Classroom Time Capsule

first week of school activities 5th grade

Have students write down their goals, wishes, and predictions for the school year on slips of paper. Put them in a “time capsule” box along with a class picture and any other mementos. Seal up the box and set a date to open it at the end of the year. It will be so fun and nostalgic to look back on how much everyone has grown!

4. “Figure Me Out” Math Puzzles

Put those math skills to the test with this clever activity. Have each student come up with 5-10 numerical facts about themselves (age, number of siblings, house number, etc.). Then, have them write the numbers as equations for their classmates to solve. For example:

  • My age + 2 = 12
  • I have 4 – 1 siblings
  • The last two digits of my phone number are 5 x 2

Once everyone solves the puzzles, they can try to match each set of facts to the right student.

5. Emoji Introductions

Tap into your 5th graders’ love of emojis with this fun writing activity. Challenge students to introduce themselves using only emojis to represent their hobbies, interests, families, and fun facts. Then have them share their emoji profiles with a partner who will try to interpret them. It’s a great way to integrate writing and critical thinking skills.

6. LEGO Challenge

Harness the power of play with a LEGO building challenge. Put students in small groups and give them a random assortment of LEGO bricks. Assign them a building prompt (a dream clubhouse, a machine to make school lunches, a contraption to get you to school on time, etc.) and set a timer for 15-20 minutes. When time’s up, have each group present their creation.

7. “Would You Rather” Debates

Get those critical thinking juices flowing with a round of “Would You Rather” questions. Give each student a notecard with a question on it and have them write their preference and reasoning on the back. Some question ideas:

  • Would you rather be able to control the weather or talk to animals?
  • Would you rather live in the past or the future?
  • Would you rather give up snacks or TV for a month?
  • Would you rather be 3 feet taller or 3 feet shorter?

Then, have students find a partner with a different answer and debate their side. Encourage them to respectfully listen and respond to their partner’s arguments.

8. Kindness Rocks

first week of school activities 5th grade

Spread some positivity with a kindness rock painting activity. Head outside and have students collect smooth rocks. Back in the classroom, provide paint, markers, and stickers for them to decorate their rocks with uplifting images and messages. When they’re dry, go for a class walk and place the rocks around the school or community for others to find. You could even challenge students to do random acts of kindness throughout the week!

9. “If I Were a Superhero” Writing Prompt

Get those creative juices flowing with a superhero-themed writing prompt. Have students imagine they have a superpower and write a short story about how they would use it to make the world a better place. Encourage them to illustrate their story and share it with the class. You could even have them dress up as their superhero alter-ego for a day!

10. Classroom Bingo

Help students get to know their classmates with a game of classroom bingo. Create bingo cards with traits or experiences in each square, such as:

  • Has been to another country 🌎
  • Can play a musical instrument 🎻
  • Has broken a bone 🦴
  • Speaks more than one language 💬
  • Has a pet 🐾

Students must mingle and find classmates who fit each description, writing their names in the corresponding squares. The first to fill a row, column, or diagonal wins!

11. Back-to-School Escape Room

Challenge your students to work together with a classroom escape room. Set up a series of puzzles and challenges around a back-to-school theme, such as:

  • Cracking a locker combination code
  • Deciphering a class schedule
  • Unscrambling a school supplies list
  • Solving math problems to reveal a hidden message

Students must collaborate and think critically to “escape” the classroom before time runs out.

12. Goal-Setting Glyph

Have students reflect on their goals for the year with a goal-setting glyph. Provide a template with various symbols that represent different academic and personal goals, such as:

  • A book for reading goals
  • A football for sports or fitness goals
  • A paintbrush for art or creativity goals
  • A mountain for a challenge they want to overcome

Students color and decorate their glyph to show their own unique mix of goals. Display the glyphs on a bulletin board as a reminder throughout the year.

Comparison of Activity Benefits

ActivityAcademic SkillsSocial-Emotional Skills
“All About Me” BagsOral communicationSelf-awareness, appreciating diversity
Beach Ball IntroductionsListening, speakingRelationship-building, taking turns
Classroom Time CapsuleWriting, reflectingGoal-setting, delayed gratification
“Figure Me Out” Math PuzzlesMathematical reasoningPerspective-taking, problem-solving
Emoji IntroductionsWriting, interpreting symbolismCreative expression, collaboration
LEGO ChallengeEngineering, presentingTeamwork, flexible thinking
“Would You Rather” DebatesPersuasive writing and speaking, active listeningRespectful disagreement, considering other viewpoints
Kindness RocksArt, writing positive messagesEmpathy, altruism, community involvement
“If I Were a Superhero”Creative writing, planningEnvisioning positive change, self-reflection
Classroom BingoOral communication, memoryFinding common ground, including others
Back-to-School Escape RoomCritical thinking, trial and errorCollaboration, perseverance, celebrating group success
Goal-Setting GlyphSymbolism, self-reflectionIdentifying motivations, recognizing diverse goals

Conclusion

As you can see, these first week of school activities for 5th grade cover a wide range of academic and social-emotional learning objectives. From STEM skills like mathematical reasoning and engineering to language arts skills like writing and oral communication, there are plenty of ways to get students thinking critically from day one.

Just as importantly, these activities help create a positive classroom culture by building relationships, celebrating diversity, practicing collaboration and empathy, and creating a shared sense of purpose. Students will feel welcomed, included, and excited to learn.

ALSO READ: 12 Fun and Engaging Holiday Activities for Middle School Students

Frequently Asked Questions

How much time should I spend on get-to-know-you activities in 5th grade?

While it’s important to jump into academics, devoting plenty of time to community-building in the first week of school will pay off all year long. Aim for
at least one get-to-know-you activity per day for the first week, and continue incorporating team-building and social-emotional learning throughout the year.

How can I adapt these activities for different learning styles or needs?

Many of these activities can be easily adapted for different learners. For example, you could provide sentence starters or visual prompts for writing activities, offer manipulatives or drawing as alternatives to written responses, or provide extra time or partner support for students who need it. The key is offering multiple ways for students to express themselves and engage with the material.

How do these activities align with academic standards?

While the primary goal of these activities is building a positive classroom community, many of them do double-duty by practicing key academic skills. For example, the “Figure Me Out” math puzzles align with 5th grade standards for mathematical reasoning and problem-solving, while the “Would You Rather” debates practice persuasive writing and speaking skills outlined in language arts standards. With a little creativity, you can find ways to tie social-emotional learning into academic content all year long.

What if my students are reluctant to share or participate?

It’s normal for some students to feel shy or hesitant, especially at the beginning of the year. Try to create a low-pressure environment by modeling vulnerability yourself, offering choices for how to participate (e.g., sharing with a partner instead of the whole class), and emphasizing that there are no wrong answers. You can also try interactive strategies like Think-Pair-Share to ease students into discussions.

How can I keep the positive momentum going all year?

The first week of school is just the beginning! Keep nurturing your classroom community by incorporating regular morning meetings, brain breaks, cooperative learning, and opportunities for student choice and reflection. Celebrate successes, encourage risk-taking, and model the values of kindness, perseverance, and growth mindset. With a strong foundation and consistent support, your 5th graders will thrive academically and socially all year long.

Author

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Oliver Grant

Oliver Grant is an avid writer and passionate advocate for all things education. With a focus on learning, study techniques, and academic excellence, Oliver brings a wealth of knowledge to his readers. His experience spans across schooling, training, and tutoring, offering insights into the best practices for effective learning and instruction.

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