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First Day of School Activity

Try This Grouping Activity for the First Day of School

Have you started to think about the first day of school yet? There are lots of fun activities you can do on the first day. One of my favorites is a grouping activity.  Students will each get a card with a word on it and they will try to form groups of four based on these cards.  I do not tell them the group theme, but simply tell them they have to find three more people for their group. In the end, there would be 9 groups of 4. They also had to introduce themselves as they looked at each other’s cards.

ice breaker for science class
icebreaker for first day of school
First Day of School Activity

Here Are The Groups (You can add or delete based on numbers in your class)

Here are the groupings:


  • Watermelon, Orange, Strawberry, Apple (fruit)
  • Yellow, Blue, Green Sand  (colors)
  • Cacti, Coyote, Tortoise, Sage (Desert)
  • Oil, Coal, Water, Sunlight (natural resources)
  • Shade, Oxygen, Paper, Wood (Things we get from trees)
  • Notebook, Pencil, Rubber Band, Glue Stick  (school supplies)
  • Ball, Earth, Marble, Sphere (Things that are round)
  • Granite, Sandstone, limestone, Diamond (Rocks and Gems)
  • Spruce, Sequoia, Maple, Oak (names of trees, also streets nearby)

Time For Some Planned Confusion!

The students begin milling around trying to find their group. Questions start arising! Is marble the stone or the little toy? Is Sand a color or does it belong in the desert group? Is orange the fruit or is it the color orange? Can it be both? 

I do not offer solutions. I will ask What do you think? What makes sense? I usually put a time limit and then allow each group to explain their thinking. Sometimes groups reshuffle. Sometimes groups insist that their group needs 5 people! I just let the process play out. Surprise! There are no right or wrong solutions!

Often times during this grouping activity, the natural student leaders arise. Make a mental note of this! It may come in handy later!


First Day of School Groupinng Activity

Give the Class Another Minute to Finalize the Groups

Part Two: First Day of Class Grouping Activity

Now the students have roughly decided what they think the theme of their group is and what the words have in common. Students can then introduce themselves and talk to each other. Ask them to find one uncommon commonality in their group (all left handed, everyone wearing sandals, number of siblings).

One time I heard peels of laughter from a group. Their uncommon commonality: they had all been a superhero for Halloween!

Everyone Settles Down With Their Group and We Discuss the Activity

  • There can be more than one right answer.
  • Data from everyone is needed in order to understand the Big Idea. (sometimes we do labs in which each group works on a different piece and then we bring the information together.
  • The model can change as data is added
  • Communication and Collaboration are essential in Science Class
First Day of School Activity

Why do a First Day Activity?

First Day of School Activities will help set the tone for the year.  It will help students learn to interact with each other and include each other. Breaking the ice with a problem they have to solve together, especially one that has no clear answers, can help students think outside the box. Give this activity a try!

Need to Adjust This First Day Activty?

How about:

Animal Groups

Animals that live in a certain habitat

Names of Presidents

Names of Elements

Names of Rock Formations

Names of Minerals

The possibilities are endless!

Check out these Back to School Bell Ringers! Great for reviewing all the science skills that students will need to start the year, like planning an investigation, metric system, variables, measurement, and more!

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