6 Back-to-School Projects to Start Thinking About as a Teacher
Going back to school after a long summer is challenging for teachers and students. Motivation for learning and attention spans may be limited as students readjust to the classroom.
The beginning of every school year provides teachers with the opportunity to inspire students for the year ahead. In addition to performing ice-breaking activities and easing into the latest curriculum, teachers can carry out goal-setting tasks that give students personal and academic targets that they can work toward over the coming months. Triggering the creative side of students’ brains is a fun way to grow their love of learning.
As well as coming up with back-to-school projects, teachers must also ensure they have the necessary equipment and materials. Whether you need to replace the ink cartridge in the classroom printer or top up on printer paper, it’s always best to be prepared ahead of time.
Choose Age-Appropriate Activities
The most effective way to engage students is to provide activities that are age-appropriate and meet their skill level. Anything too challenging may make them reluctant to try, and any project that isn’t challenging enough may leave your students bored. Make projects relevant to your kids by coming up with activities that are personal to them. Here are some of the best age-appropriate back-to-school projects for your students.
Kindergarten and Junior Students
Before starting the project, preparation and practice are essential. A good practice exercise is to perform the “Say it, spell it, write it” exercise. Take individual cards for each student and print their name on top. Printing the names helps make the letters easy to read for young students. Use quality paper and printer ink, such as Epson ink, to ensure your prints are clear.
Get each student to say their name, spell it (give them help if necessary), and practice writing it on the card or a separate page. Once each student has practiced writing their name several times, they’re ready to create their name tag. Allow them to choose a color for their name tag and to decorate it with stickers or drawings.
Encourage students to introduce themselves using their name tags and talk to each other about their designs. This project is beneficial for multiple skills and improves spelling, writing, creativity and socialization.
A vision board is a fun and valuable goal-setting activity that helps kids think about what they want to achieve. It also serves as a visual reminder of the things they’re interested in. A vision board project can start at the beginning of the first semester and be added to at various points throughout the year.
A vision board is simply a poster with photos, pictures, drawings and words representing a child’s hopes and dreams. Although you shouldn’t suggest what your students post, you may need to provide an example to encourage them. Ask them questions about what they want to learn at school, what they want to be when they grow up and hobbies they’re interested in.
Elementary School Students
STEM — which stands for science, technology, engineering and math — challenges are inquiry-based tasks that instill critical thinking in children. There are many STEM activities for students of all ages, from toddlers to high schoolers.
For elementary kids, the best activities often allow them to explore and interact with different materials in a direct and open-ended way.
Examples of practical STEM challenges for elementary students include creating a jelly bean building using candy and toothpicks. This teaches them about shapes and design, which may pique an interest in structural engineering and stimulate spatial reasoning.
Another great science-based STEM challenge is to build a balance scale using a hanger, cups and string. Students should experiment with different materials to balance the hanger. This gives them an understanding of the weights of various materials in relation to each other.
Coat of Arms and Family History
The coat of arms and family history project is educational, interesting and fun. This is a great project, as it develops research skills and encourages personal and creative expression.
Instruct your students to research their family history for two to three generations (you’ll find many will go back even further once they start). They can then plan, design and create their own coat of arms with the information they gather. Let them get as creative as they want. If a student finds an existing coat of arms, they can also recreate or update it.
If you know you have foster students, kids who have been adopted into their family or kids who simply don’t have access to family history, adjust the project to be more inclusive. Encourage kids instead to research the histories of an important grown-up in their life or to create a coat of arms that represents their personal identity. Figure this out beforehand, as no child wants to be exposed in front of their peers for being different.
Middle and High School Students
A time capsule is one of the best ways for high school students to establish goals for the year ahead. It is also an enjoyable end-of-year project as students recall what they thought would happen at the beginning of the year compared to what has come to be.
Set out four to five simple questions or statements that help students discover their goals. Some examples include: What is your biggest goal for the year? What do you want to get better at? Name something you’ll do for the first time this year. In three words, describe the year ahead.
It’s also nice to include a photograph of each student. For an authentic experience, it’s best to bury time capsules underground in waterproof bags inside sealed containers.
Hero Research Project
A research project is a straightforward but engaging way to begin the year for middle and high school students. By allowing them to choose any topic they like, you encourage autonomy and responsibility for their own learning. Students should carry out research, learn, write or type and present once it’s complete.
As it’s called a “Hero Research Project,” the task is intended for students to research a person or organization they admire. However, if there is another topic they’re passionate about that fits within the project’s parameters, then let them run with it.
Help the students structure their project with the R.E.S.E.A.R.C.H. framework:
Refine the topic.
Establish subcategories within the topic.
Search for information sources.
Extract information from these sources and reference them.
Assemble your first draft.
Revise the draft, edit and proofread.
Create a bibliography.
How did you do? Evaluate the project with the teacher.
At the beginning of the school year, it’s crucial to engage with students. Math, history and science are important but can be easily incorporated into these simple back-to-school projects for a great start to the school year. Fun-based educational activities are excellent ways to get your students settled into the academic term. Plan ahead of time and ensure your back-to-school projects hit the mark this year.