Setting the Stage for Success: 5 Activities for Getting to Know Your Students at the Start of the School Year


Welcome to our 4 part Back to School Series! In this post we will give you ideas for getting to know your students! This series will be all about how to get your school year started on the right foot. We will be discussing building a strong classroom community, how to get students working together, and giving ideas for classroom management.

Why Is the Start of the School Year So Important?

  • If you lay a solid foundation for your classroom environment, it will positively affect the rest of the year.
  • Students will want to listen to you more if you make an effort to get to know them.
  • Students will want to come to school and learn if they feel like they are an important part of the classroom community.
  • Putting an emphasis on a positive relationships early on will help students to work cooperatively.
  • If expectation are made clear in the beginning, it will lead to better classroom management throughout the school year.

The beginning of the school year can be exciting for students, but it also tends to be very heavy with direct instruction from the teacher. There are so many introductions to be made, procedures to teach, and expectations to relay to your class. This might be the most talking you do at one time during the whole school year!

All of these things are important, however another imperative part of the first couple of days should really be getting to know your students. Read on to find out 5 creative ideas for the start of the school year and get THREE free resources to use with your students.

getting to know your students

Use Student Surveys

getting to know your students

We like using student surveys because they are a great way for students to share about themselves without being put on the spot. Students are given the chance to write down their responses and then they can share in small groups or with the whole class. Surveys are also helpful because they are a piece of data from the beginning of the year that you and your students can look back on at the end of the year and see how they have changed or grown.

Below is a free sample from our Beginning of the Year Student Surveys. Click on the button to download yours. Our full resource is full of other fun surveys that will get students engaged with you and their classmates.

getting to know your students

Create a Self-Portrait with Goals

It’s always fun to have students do a self-portrait at the beginning of the year, and the one shown above has a unique twist. For this self-portrait, you can get to know your students by finding out what their goals are for the school year. You can stress how you have certain goals for them, but it is important for them to have goals for themselves as well. Find the directions, along with a video, to have your students create this neat piece of artwork at Art Projects for Kids.

Play Introvert Friendly Icebreaker Games

Icebreaker games are a great way to get students to loosen up and start sharing about themselves. However for some of us introverts, when the word “icebreaker” is heard, there is a sense of dread. Here are a few easy and low-key games that most students should feel comfortable playing:

  • Four Corners: Have students stand in the middle of the classroom. Ask a question and have each corner represent a different answer. Give students time to think, and then when you say go, they can go to the corner that they would choose. For ex. “Which is your favorite season (summer, fall, winter, spring)?”
  • Find a Friend Bingo: This might get some of the shyer students a little bit out of their comfort zone, but in a very relaxed environment, where everyone is walking around and talking at the same time. They just need to be able to ask a classmate if they have done one of the items on the bingo sheet and find out their name. We have used the one shown above from Teacher Karma in our classroom. You can find a free version here!
  • Two Truths and a Lie: This is a fun game for getting to know your students! They will come up with three statements about themselves, two truths and one lie. Make sure to give students time to come up with their statements. Once everyone is ready, each student can simply read their statements out loud and their classmates will try to figure out which statement is a lie.

Write a “Where I’m From” Poem

The poem, “Where I’m From”, by George Ella Lyon details memories and moments from her life using beautiful poetic language. Have students create a “Where I’m From” poem to share about their own lives in a creative way. After sharing an example, they can use a template found here on, a more simplified template from Forever in First, or they can just come up with their own version!

Use Picture Books to Get Students Sharing

getting to know your students

Reading to students about characters who might be similar or different to them is a great way to open up dialogue about their own lives when getting to know students. It is important for every student to feel seen and appreciated in the classroom community. The book shown above, The Day You Begin by Jaqueline Woodson, is perfect for the start of the school year because it talks about a little girl who is unsure of herself in a new environment.

We created a unit where we connected various picture books with student culture. It includes the following lessons, as well as a This Is Me student book for them to complete.

  • Embracing Names Lesson: Students will share about their name through a song activity and journal prompt.
  • Accepting Yourself Lesson: After identifying the best part of their body, students will take a picture of it and write about why they chose it and what makes them special.
  • Celebrating Families Lesson: A show and tell activity where students will show or draw a picture of their family and tell about a family tradition or memorable story. 
  • Appreciating Food and Culture: Create a class recipe book using the provided parent letter for a recipe or dish that special or unique to their family. 
  • Hopes and Dreams: Help students identifying their hopes and dreams for their life using this sheet

Check out the full resource below and get a freebie as well!

getting to know your students
getting to know your students

If you want a more in depth look at the picture books you can use with this resource in your classroom, check out our blog post below!

getting to know your students

Hopefully we have given you some great ideas for getting to know your students and we wish you a great start to your school year!

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