3 Easy Back to School Ideas

Hey there! Today I'm popping in with a few easy back to school ideas. The first few weeks of school are always a blur of crazed days filled with nervous feelings and excitement. Aside from spending oodles of time teaching routines and procedures, it's important to have a little bit of fun and show students that you care.

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Here are a few ideas to do just that this year!

I do self-portraits during the first week of school. It's a nice change of pace from all the routines and procedures talk. It's also fun for the students.

I typically display the students' portraits for the entire year on a bulletin board dedicated to these adorable works of art. They always spruce up the room, and help create a sense of community.

For the past 14 years, I've had my students paint their portraits using watercolor paint. Buuuuut, sometimes it's tricky for them to work with. And, sometimes, they have a hard time with finding colors to use for their hair and skin.

So, this year, I'm going to do a crayon and watercolor combo (see top picture). The students will color their portrait using people colored crayons (aka Multicultural Crayons). Then, they will use the watercolor to paint a background.

What You'll Need:
Watercolor Paper
Crayola Multicultural Crayons
Watercolor paints

Steps to Follow:
1. Use a pencil to draw a portrait and trace it with Sharpie. Erase any stray pencil lines.

I used watercolor paper. This pack from Pacon on Oriental Trading is very reasonably priced and you'll get enough sheets for two years worth of portraits. Why use watercolor paper? Watercolor paper is thicker and spreads/absorbs the paint more easily.

Before my students draw their portraits, I always model the drawing process. I also show them a finished sample.

I explain what part of their bodies will be shown in their artwork. We talk about how school pictures only show your shoulders, neck, and head. This helps them understand more easily that they are not drawing a full length portrait.

I show and narrate the drawing process that I use step by step. Then, I let them have at it. The finished product is always impressive because kid art is the best kind of art.

You can read a bit more about this process HERE.

2. Use the people colored crayons to color the skin and hair of the portrait. I have brown hair with natural red highlights. By combining a few of the browns in the crayon pack I was able to get a hair color similar to my own! I also used the crayons to add my freckles (something that really couldn't be done very well with watercolors).

To color the clothing, use any color crayon. :)

3. Finally, paint the background a solid color. And, that's it!

You could let your kids get creative with their backgrounds if you'd like, but I usually have my students choose one solid color as this allows their portrait to stand out more. When they try and paint a scene in the limited space behind their portrait, it competes with the focal point of the art piece.

You might send these home, add them to an end of year portfolio, or display them year round like I do. :)

You can read about my self-portraits of the past HERE.

Welcome Back Gift
Giving your students a gift is never necessary, of course, but it is one way to show your students that you care before the year gets started. A gift is a gesture that helps bring people together. They make others feel special. The best part is, the gift doesn't need to be grand in order to have these effects.

I've always given small gifts to my students at the beginning of the year. Click HERE to read more. After several years, I'm switching it up and giving a different gift.

Our school mascot is a bulldog. So, when I saw these squishee paw prints, I thought they would be a super fun little gift to welcome my students, and promote a little school spirit.

You can grab this free EDITABLE gift tag by clicking HERE. You could use it with any paw print themed item. :)

Monthly Student Pics
A few years ago, my daughter brought home THE cutest photobook at the end of the school year. Her teacher had taken a picture of the students every month and put them together in a little album (the photos were glued to black construction paper and bound together with a loose leaf ring).

I replicated this idea last year with my students and plan to continue using the idea for years to come.

Since I don't have any photos of my students' photo albums (I like to protect their privacy), I'll describe it below.

How to Make a Student Photo Album:

  • Take pictures of your students every month.
  • Use props to make each picture fun and unique/go with the current month. Props could be actual photo props, necklaces, objects, literally anything!
  • Order your photos. I ordered 4x4 square prints.
  • Cut out black construction paper (or card stock). I cut mine to measure 5x5 inches.
  • Glue your photos to the black paper. I used craft bond scrapbook glue sticks so that the photos would really stick.
  • Create and laminate a cover for each students' album. I also laminate the back cover so that the inside pages are fully protected.
  • Use a loose leaf ring to put the albums together.
I ordered my 4x4 square prints from Walmart. I used the black construction paper as a photo mat. I cut it an inch larger so it would create a border around the photos once they were glued to the paper.

Tip: stay on top of your pictures and order them every month.Then, make sure you glue them every month so you aren't left with a pile up of photos at the end of the year.

I made a simple cover for the album and laminated it for durability. I did not laminate the photo pages. Then, I hole punched one corner of each album and placed the set of pages onto a loose leaf ring.

I presented the albums to the students on the last day of school and it went home as a nice little keepsake for them and their families.

You can grab the {free} cover HERE if you're interested in using this idea in your own classroom next year. There are cover options for Pre-K through sixth grade. :)

Photo Props
Every month I tried to have the students hold some sort of item that made sense for the month. For example, in October they held a pumpkin, etc. Overall, the pictures turned out pretty cute, but I realized later in the year that having some premade photo props on hand would be soooo much easier and lots of fun. I don't plan to use photo props every single month, but they'll add a nice variety to next year's albums.

I found some really cute photo prop sets on Oriental Trading. Like these back to school themed photo props which are really fun. I'll let the students choose which prop they want to use. Oh, and this is only part of the set. It includes several more options too!

I think this 100th Day of School photo prop set is going to be a hit! Lots of fun options for photos in this set. Once again, I couldn't fit all the pieces in the picture. There are more options in the set.

This winter set will be perfect for the month of January (or December). Hurry though, this set was on clearance. It might not last much longer.

Click here to check out all their photo prop options.

You can also find seasonal photo prop kits at Target, so keep your eyes peeled for those throughout the year. :)

TIP: My entire grade level used this ideas last year and we decided to pool all of our photo props together on one of our shared storage shelves. This way, we'll always have some variety to pick and choose from.

I hope you enjoyed these back to school ideas!


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