One thing I want kids to learn from day 1 is that I use food very, very often to teach concepts. Because I may not know about food allergies until it's too late, I like to start with the Skittles Ice Breaker. It's very much like the M&M Ice Breaker out there, however, I use this because is friendly to students who have allergies to chocolate.
Another activity we do is the All About Me individual inventory. It gives me basics about my students that I will use during the first few weeks of school. The most difficult blank students will need to fill is their birthdate. Since our campus is in a developing community, many students may know the name of their street, but not the house number and they feel the pressure when there is something they need to fill out that they don't know the answer to.
I also like to do some goal setting with my new students. Nothing too in depth, because that will come later in the year. I just want to help them focus on a new school year. I do this with a simple goal setting page that they can work on independently and share with the class.
I also love to begin a time capsule that we'll take out at the end of the year and place in our year books. It's fun to see how their cursive signature has changed as well as their simple favorites that they were so sure about at the beginning of the year.
What activities do you like to have your students work on at the beginning of the year?