build classroom community

How To Build Classroom Community With A Fun Time Capsule

It’s back to school time and you have a million things to do. You know you need to build classroom community, but you also want a fun beginning of the year activity. Your kiddos are going to be nervous as they enter your room, so you need activities to get to know your students right away. In this blog, I’m going to show you some classroom time capsule ideas that will help you build relationships with students AND give them a fun project to complete on the first day of school.

time capsule activities

This was a project that I did every year, and it was one of the most memorable activities. My students absolutely loved making a time capsule. I enjoyed seeing their faces as they saw how much growth happened over the year.

Plus, (BONUS ALERT!) it’s EASY. It’s hard enough to come to terms with summer being over. Then, you have ALL the meetings that could have been emails. You need to get your room ready. All of a sudden, you need to pack lunches. And do you really know where your teacher pants are? All this AND lesson plans? I mean, c’mon! No wonder you keep Tylenol in your purse.

You need easy lesson plans for back to school that are still meaningful for your students, but ready to print and go for you.

Build Classroom Community With A Time Capsule

build classroom community

You have loads of choices for back to school activities. So why should you use a time capsule to build classroom community and get to know your students?

Well, here’s why. How many times during the year do you feel like your student’s growth is stagnant? Do you ever have those days where you just don’t feel like your students are learning? In the middle of the year you won’t see the growth your students make. On any given day, you’re just trying to do your best. But on the last day of school when you see your students get on the final bus, you know they learned SO much from you.

Time capsules are meant to be opened and the contents should be celebrated. Imagine, in May, pulling out something you did at the beginning of the year and being so proud of how far your students have come.

And they are going to be proud of their work too.

Build Relationships With Students

build classroom community

When you use a time capsule in your room, you’ll have your students choose their favorite topics and ideas to add their own capsules. And believe me, you’re going to learn a lot about your kiddos this way. But even better? They’re going to learn about each other too. Part of building those relationships for your students is seeing what they all have in common.

This will help you see a little about how students handle a project or task. You’ll be able to see right away which of your kiddos can follow directions or which want to jump in and do it their own way. (You know what I’m talking about.)

You’ll be able to see if your students are intimidated with a writing project or which ones have instant anxiety when something is too hard. Keep reading, you’ll see how to help your kiddos when that happens.

How To Make Your Time Capsule

You can add anything you’d like to your time capsule. That’s the fun part. But here are some common items to add.

Photos of your students you take on the first day of school. (Tip: Make copies of these for future projects.)

  • Self portraits.
  • A list of favorite topics. (Favorite foods, favorite colors, favorite songs, etc)
  • Their name. You’ll love seeing their faces when they look back on how they write their name at the beginning of the year.
  •  A list of things they would like to learn this year. And if you redo your time capsule at the end of the year, you’ll want to switch this to a list of things they were glad they learned. More on this further down the blog.
  • A piece of yarn or string showing how tall your students are.


You’ll need a cover page or some kind of label for your time capsule. You’ll also need something to store your time capsule in. A manila envelope is perfect, but if you have room, roll the pages up and put it in a Pringles can.

Time Capsules Done For You

You can make your own pages of everything, but since your time is probably limited, I have a time capsule kit all pre-made for you. All the templates are ready to print and go. This is a total time saver for you. You’ve got enough to do, right?

Tips On Assembling Your Time Capsules

As you’re working through the time capsule with your students, there are a few things to keep in mind.

There Will Be Tears

time capsule ideas

I know this is supposed to be fun, but you’ll have overwhelmed kiddos if their self portraits aren’t perfect. To calm their anxiety, model making your time capsule first. And while you’re at it, make LOTS of mistakes. Draw your own self portrait and comment about how hard it is.

Stress over and over again that it’s okay to make mistakes.

Don't Spell Words For Your Students

I know this sounds funny, but you’re looking for completion instead of quality. You want to see precisely what your students can do. If your student is writing their favorite food and can’t spell “taco”, encourage them to figure out the first sound. If they can write a “T”, then tell them how stinkin’ proud you are of them for knowing that taco begins with a t.

That way, when they open their time capsule, they’ll giggle at how much they can write now compared to the beginning of the year. If you write “taco” for them, they won’t see growth.

time capsule activities

Side note: If they only write the first letter of something or if it’s completely illegible, you absolutely can write the word somewhere in the corner so they know what word they meant. Otherwise they won’t remember what word they were attempting.

Don't Spend A Long Time Making Your Time Capsules

build classroom community

When you’re making your time capsules, try to complete it in one day. Two days tops depending on how busy you are. You’ll want this project to be messy because the goal is to see how far your students have come this year.

You’d rather spend your time having your students share their favorite topics than trying to make the perfect self portrait. This is where you’ll get the most out of your time capsule to build classroom community. 

If you play a little game like four corners with their likes, your students will enjoy seeing who has the same interests. Or, take the topics and plug them into these icebreaker games for back to school

Measuring Your Student's Height For Your Time Capsule

If you choose to measure your student’s height with yarn or string, there are a few ways to do this so it doesn’t take all day.

  • Have your labels ready ahead of time. If you don’t label each length of yarn, you’ll wish you had when all of your kiddos drop their yarn on the floor. You’ll have no idea who’s is who’s.
  • Either walk around with yarn and scissors, or call your students to your desk. I usually walked around when they were decorating their cover pages. Just ask them to stand up and quick measure them.
time capsule activities
  • It does not have to be precise. I ended up making them a little taller than they actually were because I didn’t want to get ANYWHERE near their hair. So I would stand about a foot back, hold the yarn so it touches the ground and cut around where the top of their head is.
  • Then, tape the label on your string and you’re good to go!

A Note About Self Portraits

A self portrait from a first grader will be interesting to say the least I always thought they were adorable. But they take a lot of modeling from you first. 

time capsule activities

I used to give my students a blank piece of paper and have them draw their heads and shoulders. But it took took too long and was too hard for them. Plus, the crying. There was lots of crying.

So now I use the templates like the one in the time capsule kit. That way they’re not frustrated trying to get the right size and shape of their head.


Because your kiddos haven’t had a lot of art classes yet, they’re going to need help drawing their features on the self portrait template. You’ll have to talk them through each part. We sketch all our features on the self portrait template. You’ll have to talk them through each part. We sketch our features in with a pencil, but it’s up to them how they’d like to color their self portraits.

The Colors Of The World crayons are great to use for the skin colors of your kiddos. You can pick them up here if you don’t have a set. It’s an affiliate link, but you’ll be able to buy them from Amazon without an extra cost to you.

End Of The Year Activities To Build Classroom Community

So should you send your time capsules home with strict instructions not to open until their senior year of highschool? You can, but keep in mind that your time capsules will most likely be lost or opened right away. Plus, you won’t get to enjoy opening them.

Instead, make this a celebration at the end of the year. Keep them somewhere safe all year long. Your students will forget all about them, which is what you want. Can you imagine how excited they’ll be when they see them again?

And if you want to make this more special, repeat all the activities before you pull out your time capsules. This will be great to compare the growth of your kiddos, but also will help your new students who came to your class mid-year participate in the activity.

See The Time Capsule Build Classroom Community

If you’d like to see the time capsule in action, here’s a video. Enjoy!

A time capsule will allow you to get to know your students and allow them to get to know each other. It’ll be so great to see them build relationships with each other. It’s also going to give you a small snapshot where your students are academically and it’s a great activity to begin the school year.

Grab Your Time Capsule Kit Here

Here is where you can get the time capsule kit. Download it today and print your copies so you have them ready – we know how busy life will get when you need them.

Other Ways To Build Classroom Community

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Rachael Hull

Rachael Hull

Teaching literacy and facilitating literacy stations has been a passion of Rachael's and she wants to help you gain confidence in your classroom!


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