Using back-to-school themes is a great way to get kids pumped about heading back to the classroom. A theme can incorporate various elements, including classwork, extracurricular activities, pep rallies, or even community service. The point is to bring the students together for a common focus and create excitement about the upcoming school year.
There are so many great ways to incorporate back-to-school themes into the planning of your kickoff celebrations for the start of a new school year. Use as many of the ideas as you want, or take components of each and spin them into your own unique theme. When determining a back-to-school theme, the most important thing to think about is what will get students and teachers excited about being back at school again? What will connect with the masses and bring smiles to their faces?
Pay It Forward/Helping Hands
Emphasizing the greater good is an excellent way to give the student body something to focus on and take pride in. Encouraging teens to think outside of their personal realm is never a bad thing. Taking care of other people, with no expectations in return, will help create well-rounded and productive members of society.
- Pay It Forward Rally - Challenge the student body to engage in random acts of kindness, not only with each other, but also in the community. Feature "pay it forward" stories in a student-published newsletter right before Thanksgiving, or put out a weekly column in a school newsletter highlighting students doing good in the community.
- Create a Pay It Forward Committee - Assemble a group of students specifically dedicated to acts of kindness and service. They can organize events each month where kids can join in activities to aid members of the community.
- Outreach - Have the student council, a special committee, or each graduating class organize a community event. Consider creating a student-centered food drive or a park clean-up day.
- Fundraising - If a project involves fundraising, organize a wheelchair basketball game or an inner tube water polo tournament. The players and spectators will have a blast, and you can sell raffle tickets to raise the dough needed for any large and expensive community project.
- Catch Kids in the Act - When teachers and staff notice students performing a random act of kindness, reward them. Discreetly offer tokens to be used in a school store or the cafeteria to kids who consistently pay it forward to peers and staff.
- Social/Emotional - 100 acts of service. Kids have to engage in 100 acts of kindness outside of the school environment. They write the deed down and have it initialed by an adult. Once they reach 100 acts of kindness, they receive a gift certificate to the local movie theater or a restaurant.
- Take some time to reward students for their effort by watching the movie Pay It Forward at a school lock-in or movie night.
100 Days Countdown
The 100 days celebration originally began in elementary school to help kids grasp the concept of the number 100. However, looking forward to a big celebration is never a bad thing! Since teens already understand the number 100, why not set some goals to accomplish in 100 days?
- Literature/Reading - Kids who are avid readers do better in high school. Why not challenge your classroom to read a certain amount of pages in 100 days to receive a pizza party?
- 100 Moments of Knowledge - Throughout the year, kids keep track of things they learned or realized. Some of these can be funny realizations, like how Mr. Faulkner wears a fish tie every Friday, or serious learns, like solving a quadratic equation. They keep track of their "learns," and they are given a prize when they reach 100 things.
- Math - How about challenging your students to a battle of the minds to see how many "mind bender" problems they can solve in 100 days? Every time they solve one, they put a scoop of popcorn in a jar. If they reach the line before 100 days, they can have a movie day or other type of party.
- 100 Things Scavenger Hunt - Challenge your students to find or spot 100 things around the school. It can either be trivia that they need to find the answers to, or specific things within the school. This is a great way to help new students get to know the campus as well.
Blast From the Past
Undoubtedly, your students have wondered what life was like in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Why not set the stage for learning in an exciting way and show them what it was like long before they were even a twinkle in their parents' eyes?
- The 70s - Start out in the '70s by talking about famous people, events, and history. Studies show that students are ignorant when it comes to more recent history. Discuss the wars and pivotal events of the era, and discover how the past influences our current policies. Have a dress-up event where kids come decked out in bell-bottoms, psychedelic colors, and bell sleeves. Hold a contest for the Most Out There Style in the school.
- The 60s - Moving back in time, show students how powerful music was during the 60s as a mouthpiece for social change. Challenge them to a battle of the bands or something similar in class to help them explore how the arts can be used as expression. Play a different iconic 60s song each morning after announcements to keep the theme's momentum going. Each week, take time to explore a different cultural icon who revolutionized music and art.
- The 50s - End your blast from the past with a 50s style dance complete with music, egg creams, and sliders. Decorate the gymnasium like a sock hop or vintage diner for the party. Have staff get in on the fun and create a flash mob with fun fifties dance moves like the jitterbug, the Lindy, and the boogie-woogie.
Where Will Your Travels Take You?
High school is an incredible time in a child's life where everything suddenly seems possible. They can be whatever they want and travel to faraway lands soon enough. This is a great time to play on exploration and culture, getting kids excited about the big, wide world they live in.
- Use the power of the internet to take virtual "field trips" to faraway lands throughout the school year.
- In homeroom, make foods once a month from various cultures.
- Have kids create Travel Vision Boards, thinking about all the interesting spaces they might want to visit someday, and what they can expect to do there.
- Invite guest speakers throughout the year to talk about different cultures and countries, introducing kids to the food, customs, music, and history special to these parts of the world.
Setting the Stage for Learning Fun
There's an old proverb that states that a wise teacher makes learning fun. Using a theme to communicate a message can go a long way towards inspiring and engaging students, while teaching them lessons they will remember for a lifetime.