Back to School in a New Way

Arts and crafts with names

Welcome to a new year of back to school in PreK.  My class size is much smaller this year, but we are excited to be back in the classroom.

Each year during our back to school time I focus on student names.  From finding their names to respond to our Question of the Day to finding names on coat hooks, lunch bins, and supply caddies, students discover that recognizing their name is a useful skill.

Watercolor Name Mats

Arts and crafts also focus on names.  Our first craft involves watercolor paint to make each student’s name appear.  To prep this activity I cut card stock in half length wise.  I then write each student’s name on a piece with a white crayon.  Be sure to write hard; a dull or thick crayon works best.

Watercolors are placed in my test tubes with a brush for each of three colors.  I choose colors that won’t turn ugly if mixed.  This year I used red, blue, and purple.  I use brushes that match the color of the paint to help reduce student mixing the paints in the tubes.  I ask students to paint over the entire page to make a mystery appear.

When these dry I laminate them and use them as place mats to signify where to sit for snack and lunch.  Many years I have students hand these out as one of the classroom jobs, but we won’t be able to do that this year.  I will place the mats on the table so they will still need to practice recognizing their names to find their spots.

Supplies to create these can be found in the Amazon links below:

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Craft for Class Book

Each year we also make a class Chicka Chicka Boom Boom book after reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  This year I used sandpaper for the trunk and green feathers for the palm fronds.  Using the feathers helps avoid cutting frustration of students during the first week of school.  It also reduces prep time for the project for the teacher.

I do make bags with the correct letters to spell each student’s name before the day of the project so that students can focus on counting the letters in their names for this craft.  We will use the class book to focus on letter names as well when we read it.

Supplies for this back to school activity can be found below in these Amazon links, although I purchased my sand paper at the local dollar store and the feathers at the local craft store:

Jumbo Cube Names

Jumbo Cubes Name Building

Another name focused activity during back to school week are this Jumbo Cube Name building center.  I use my Alphabet Jumbo Cubes printable to make the names of each of my students.  Each student’s name is made with one color of cubes.  I have a list that is with this center with each student’s name printed in the color that they need to use to create their name.  I laminated the letters before taping them to the cubes so that I can save them for the future.  This should help the next time I need to create this project.

Chicka Dot Markers

Dot Marker Activities for Names and Counting

Another way to think about names is this Chicka Chicka names dot markers activity.  I printed each student’s name on the top of the page so that they can reference it to find the letters in their name.

School Shoes

Besides Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, we also focused some of our activities on Pete the Cat books.  An activity for counting and color recognition was this Pete the Cat school shoes roll and graph.   I put out dot markers to match all the shoe colors so that students needed to use the correct color to dot after rolling.  I like that this graph goes up to only five since going up to ten requires more stamina than most students have at the beginning of PreK.

Pete the Cat magnets

Retelling the Story

For retelling the Pete the Cat stories I found these printables to make magnets.  You could also use them for making felt board activities as well by laminating and putting velcro on the back.

sketch a letter

Handwriting Practice

We just got a new Doodle Pro for each of our classrooms.  Students enjoy drawing and erasing over and over on these.  I added a small version of my Rainforest Alphabet signs to this center so students could look through the cards to pick a letter or a picture to draw.  I printed so that there were eight letters to a page to make these alphabet cards.

Chicka Play Dough

Chicka Alphabet Play Dough

Play dough is a hit during back to school or any time of year.  Our preschool aftercare teachers were kind enough to make play dough for everyone during our teacher work days.   Each student has their own slide lock bag with their name on it.  I had these play dough mats from Practically PreK.  Along with the mats I used the letter stampers from Lakeshore Learning.  There are some other choices below available on Amazon.

Chicka Chicka Sensory Bin

Chicka Sensory Bin

For my back to school sensory bin I got out the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree I made from a couple metal cans, some wood grain contact paper, a fake plant from the dollar store, some hot glue, and a lid from a chips can.  I made some adjustments to the fake plant and glued it back together.  Since the cans are metal the alphabet letters will stick to the tree.  Pre-K Pages has a great tutorial for this.


Chicka Snack

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Special Snack

We finished off the back to school week with our Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree snack.  This year we used graham crackers, alphabet cookies, and green apple slices.

More Lesson Ideas and Freebies

For more Back to School theme ideas, please check out my free lesson plan form in my TPT shop which includes a few sample plans, including one for back to school.  You can also check out my Freebies for PreK Teachers page for more helpful items.


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