Digital Back to School Activities for Middle School

Digital Back to School Activities for Middle School from 2 Peas and a Dog.

It is officially back to school season. This year will look a little different than previous years given the different health regulations to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. I have compiled a list of digital back to school activities for middle school students in this article. The activities can be completed in person on paper or digital or exclusively online. I have given suggestions after each activity how to make it work in an exclusively digital classroom.  For each idea in this article, I have tried to provide a digital method to support 100% online schools.

This blog post contains affiliate links that are of no cost to the reader. If you make a purchase through the provided links this blog will receive a small commission to help with the financial costs of maintaining the site.

Day 1

Welcome your students into your classroom. Ensure you have student names on their desk and possibly have a seating plan displayed in large format on the whiteboard. This will avoid students touching desks that do not belong to them. I always start the first week with students sitting alphabetically to help me learn their names. 

Student Survey/Letter to Teacher

Have something for students to work on immediately as they enter the classroom or log in online. I always have a student survey and letter to your teacher assignment photocopied and on their desks. Post instructions for what you want the students to do on your whiteboard, using a data projector or online in your learning management system (hereinafter referred to as Google Classroom).  Both of these assignments are included in both PDF and Google Slides format in this bundle. If your classes are online you can assign these tasks via Google Meet/Zoom. 

Take Attendance 

While students are working on their survey and letter you can take attendance and take care of any pressing administrative issues (every few years a student enters my classroom who is actually assigned to another class). Taking attendance is a great time to correctly learn how to say students’ names. I start by letting students know that if I make a mistake in pronouncing their names to correct me. Then I write their names phonetically on my master class list. This can also occur digitally over Google Meet/Zoom when asking students to introduce themselves. 

Name Tent

Once all of the administrative tasks are completed – have students create a name tent (computer paper folded over to create a tent). Have them write their name in large capital letters on both sides of the tent. If students are working digitally give them 10 minutes to create a quick Google Slides name card – let them select the font and colours. Students can stand up at their desks or remain seated and briefly introduce themselves to the class. 

Mandatory Announcements/LMS Tour

After these brief introduction activities take time to go over any mandatory policies and procedures. Your school district might have mandatory health and safety policies and procedures that need to be explained to your class. Ensure that you have visuals (a slideshow or poster) to reinforce these policies and procedures. For teachers working digitally, you can create a slideshow to share with your students to go over the rules and policies for online school. Use this time to show students where information and class assignments will be housed this year: Google Classroom, Google Sites, Microsoft Teams, Canvas etc. If you are teaching 100% digital – have students complete an online scavenger hunt of where different features are in your learning management system. An online scavenger hunt can also be completed in class if your school has 1:1 tech. 

Ice Breaker: 2 Lies and 1 Truth

A fun thing to do with students during the first day is to play 2 Lies and 1 Truth – they have played the regular version of this game a lot by middle school but this version is a bit different that makes them have to come up with new content. Have students brainstorm their 2 Lies and 1 Truth to share with their classmates. As the teacher, model this activity with your students by starting with your own examples. Remind them that their examples need to be school-appropriate. If they would not share these with their parents and the school principal then it’s not for the class either. Have the class write down what they think is the truth for each student as each student presents. Do not share the correct answers until the end. This can be completed online or in person. Optional: Have students score themselves at the end – they can give themselves 1 point per correct answer. The student with the highest score can select the first song for the collaborative class playlist you are going to make for students to listen to during independent work time. 

Alternate Online Version: Have each student complete a 2 Lies and a Truth Google Form. Have the teacher read out each set and then students can vote on what they think is the truth in the chatbox. Make sure the Google Form has different boxes for the lies and the truth so you as the teacher can let students know which is the truth. After each set is read and discussed have the student turn on their microphone and explain the truth. 

Back to school bingo from 2 Peas and a Dog.

Back to School Bingo

After 2 Lies and 1 Truth, have students participate in back to school bingo. Depending on the rules of your school you may have to modify the instructions. Divide the class into quadrants. The teacher can call out the criteria and then students who it applies to can raise their hand. Only if the student who the criteria applies to, is in your quadrant, can the student write down their name in the Bingo box. I usually select winners for the traditional bingo win (1 line), then we play for 2 lines, an X pattern, and the full card. These winners can select 1 song each for the class playlist. 

Online Instructions: If you are playing this exclusively online – share the Bingo Card using the present screen function. Create 4 different groups and let students know that they can only write in their Bingo Card if someone from their group says “yes” in the chatbox. You can find this activity in both PDF and Google Slides format in this bundle

Picture Book Read Aloud

After all of these ice breakers, it is time to give students a break and give them time to enjoy a fun read-aloud. I love using picture books in the middle school classroom. Here are some funny read-alouds for the first week. These can be read out loud under a document camera, at the front of the class or on-camera via Zoom/Google Meet. Students love read-alouds, but you as the teacher have to get into them. I change my voice depending on the scene. It is a great way to model expression during reading. Do not read all of these books on the first day, save them for the rest of the week. Sometimes you can find videos online of the author reading the book. 

Here are my suggestions for back to school read alouds. 

  1. “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates” by Ryan T. Higgins
  2. “You’re Finally Here” by Mélanie Watt
  3. “The Pigeon Has to Go to School!” by Mo Willems
  4. “The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson

After the picture book reading, have a class discussion about the meaning of the title and why you as the teacher selected this book. 

Student Identity Art Assignment

Before students start on this activity, give them time to complete any work from earlier in the day that has not been completed. Students will need time to socialize and adjust to being back at school. Help them by assigning a creative project like a Student Identity Art Assignment. It’s a fun and quick assignment that showcases the cultural background of the students in the classroom. Students can show off both their creativity and share more about their heritage. I like to put the completed pieces on a bulletin board in our classroom. This assignment can be completed on printer paper, cardstock, large cue cards or online using Google Slides or another design type program. Students can spend time planning out their assignment, selecting colours, looking up designs all while socializing with their peers (while remaining seated in their socially distant seating plan). Open up the class playlist and start playing the songs the students selected. This assignment can be found in this bundle

All of the ideas presented for Day 1 can be made digital with a little bit of creativity. 

Day 2

Attendance Questions 

Start the day with This or That (i.e. Which is better, Smarties or M&Ms?) type of attendance questions. You can find a free exhaustive list on through Michaela’s Instagram account @thetownieteacher on her LinkTree. Have this question projected on your whiteboard or present-mode for online teaching. Let students know that they will have to share their answers during an attendance roll call and that some people will have to justify their choice. 

Administrative Announcements

Cover any new administrative policies or information before launching into any activities. Give students time to talk and ask questions this morning. Many will have questions.

Alphabet Game

Once all of the mandatory tasks are taken care of, have the class participate in another get to know activity like the Alphabet Game. Each student is given a letter of the alphabet according to the seating plan. If you have more than 26 students – start again at A. The student has to think of something that describes them using that letter. It does not have to be something special – if I got K I could say K is for Kristy my name or I like Kangaroos. It is just to get students talking and sharing their name. This can be done online by assigning the letter based on the class roster list. 

Picture Books

After the get to know you game is completed, read the picture book The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi. Then have the students write a journal entry about the importance of a name. Have them use proof from the text to support their answers. They can also review this picture book and comment on the artwork, storyline etc. 

Digital Escape Room

Another great activity to complete this week is having students work together online to solve a digital escape room. Students can turn on the chat feature in your digital platform or simply use a Google Doc to share information. If you are teaching online, teachers can set up Google Meets or Zoom Breakout rooms for students to work together on solving each puzzle. This technology-themed back to school digital escape room provides students with the opportunity to work independently or with their peers to solve 8 retro technology-focused challenges. Students must solve these required challenges to “escape” from the school technology storage room that they have accidentally locked themselves into. This assignment can be found in this bundle

Creative Writing

Now explain a creative writing assignment like this Back to School Creative Writing Assignment. This assignment gets students excited and engaged in their writing. Students will select one of the provided character roles: classroom desk, old backpack, gym floor, lunch bag, student and create a written or visual product based on the character’s specific writing prompt. Explain the assignment to the class and spend some time as a class brainstorming possible ideas for each creative writing prompt. This can be done by having the teacher write on a whiteboard or typing into Google Docs in the classroom or virtually. This assignment can be found in this bundle

Catch Up Time

Give students time to complete any tasks from yesterday or today that need to be completed. Most likely students will need time to complete their Student Identity Art. Have them complete their identity art before they start this new creative writing assignment. This creative writing assignment should take several class periods to brainstorm, write the rough copy, get teacher feedback and create a good copy. 

Other Subjects

Depending on what other subjects besides ELA you are teaching this year, consider introducing 1 or 2 of those subjects on Day 2 with a brief overview of the concepts that will be covered this year. 

I really like having students work on a textbook scavenger hunt for any subjects that have a textbook.  Showing brief videos that introduce or relate to your subject area are always a good idea. Students can complete 3,2,1 charts after watching the videos. There are also great picture books related to subject areas like Math Curse, Science Verse, M is for Maple. You can also have students listen to podcasts like Smash Boom Best and as a class decide who would win each “competition”. 

Do not launch into any significant content on day 2, but it is important for students to get a variety of lesson information. 

Here are some video ideas:

Community Walk

Depending on the rules of your school, you might be allowed to take your students on a walk around the community or at the very least around the schoolyard. Do not spend all of your time inside. Students will need time to socialize and reacclimate to the school environment. 

Use these digital back to school activities for middle school students to help build community and help students with their social-emotional learning.

Day 3 – Day 5

Continue with daily attendance questions like the ones provided by The Townie Teacher. Give students a chance to answer and ask a few different students to justify their choice. 

Students can continue to work on their:

  1. Identity Art Assignment
  2. Back to School Creative Writing

Pet Memes

If students finish both of these assignments consider having them work on a Pet Memes Assignment. Use this engaging assignment to get students excited to write. Students will first create pet memes by captioning photos of pets with speech bubbles. Find this lesson here. 

Ice Breakers, Picture Books and Teacher True/False Game

Consider continuing with ice breaker activities and picture book read-alouds throughout the week. I found this list of ice breaker questions for adults – you can modify them to suit your classroom needs.

A fun get to know the teacher activity is for the kids to sort through a list of 10 phrases about their teacher. They need to figure out which ones are true and which ones are false. You can split them 5/5 or in any way you want. This can be done using Google Slides, Google Docs or any digital space that allows students to copy, paste and move text around. It can also be done as a whole class activity where the teacher reads a sentence about themselves and then the class votes by raising their hands for true or false. 

Picture Book Suggestions

Day 3 through 5 are good days to start slowly into any content you teach in September. Start slow and be cognizant of the fact that students might have gaps in their learning due to the situation from March – June where schools were closed and emergency distance learning occurred. You can use these days to administer any baseline testing that is required or have students participate in informal assessments to see where they are at academically. Ultimately, students want a return to as much normalcy as possible. They want lessons, homework and all of the other routines that go into school. 

In this bundle of 10 media literacy lessons – each lesson comes with a video and graphic organizers as well as comprehension questions. Using one of these lessons this week to launch Health or Science would be engaging, relevant but also low-risk. Students won’t feel overwhelmed by the content. 

Back to School Activities

I hope this list of digital back to school activities for middle school students has given you some ideas for the first week of school. Give yourself and your students grace and patience. No one has lived through a global pandemic in recent years. We are all learning as we go day by day. Check out my Back to School Mega Bundle which includes the activities mentioned in the review above. 

Other Engaging Resources

  1. Free Middle School ELA Emergency Lesson Plans for Distance Learning
  2. Free Grade 7 and 8 ELA Scope and Sequence Pacing Guide
  3. Free Grade 7/8 Long Range Plans Ontario Curriculum
  4. Full Year Lesson Plans for Middle School ELA
  5. Middle School Book Recommendations
  6. Why You Should Use Podcasts in Middle School

You Might Also Like