First I read the book The Gingerbread Man to the class. I always tell them it is one of my favorite stories. I also have the felt board set for this book, so I like to move the little felt characters around on my easel as I read the story (the kids love retelling the story during center time later in the week with these felt pieces). I try to get the kids really engaged in the story, and have them start chanting the repeating line that is on nearly every page - "You can't catch me-I'm the Gingerbread Man!"
After I've read the story, I tell the kids that I have a special treat for them. Since we just read a book about a gingerbread cookie, I brought them all cookies for snack. I make a big deal of walking over to my table to get the tray of cookies and then dramatically say "Oh, no! Where are all of the cookies?" I pick up the empty tray of cookies and show the kids. Of course they then point out to me that there is a gingerbread shaped note on the tray. The note says that the gingerbread man took our cookies, but he left us a clue about where to find them.
The kids help me figure out the clue and we're off to find the cookies. We go all over the school finding clues and looking for the gingerbread man and our missing cookies. Along the way we meet important people like the school nurse, counselor, principal, secretary, music teacher, art teacher, P.E. teacher, librarian, cafeteria ladies, etc. This serves as a tour of the school for my kindergarten students. Finally, the last clue leads us back to our classroom where we search for the cookies and find that the gingerbread man has returned them! My little detectives are so proud of themselves for figuring out the clues and very excited to eat their cookie snack!
Since the whole kindergarten team at my school does this activity, one of us hides the clues all over the school in the morning (and then we all use the same clues). The last teacher to do the gingerbread hunt that day then collects them. The only tricky part is either having another teacher sneak the cookies into your classroom while you are gone on the hunt, or managing to "find" them yourself while the kids are searching the classroom.
I really like this as a first day of school activity not only because it gives the students a tour of the school, but also because it takes a LONG time. The first day of school seems to drag on forever...I always forget how much work beginning of the year kinder students are! They require a lot of patience and can hardly do anything independently. However, by the time I've read the gingerbread book, gone on the gingerbread hunt, and given the kids time to eat their cookie snack....the morning is nearly over! As an added bonus-if you have any criers or students that are really missing mom and dad-this gingerbread hunt usually distracts them!My students always go home and tell their parents about their exciting first day at school!
Yesterday I went to Borders since I had a gift card to use and noticed a fun new book in their children's section. It's called The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray. The author is a former teacher that used to do a similar gingerbread hunt with her class! In the book, the students bake a gingerbread man at school. Then while they're waiting for him to cool they decide to go out to recess. Of course the gingerbread man wants to be with the kids...so he goes on a hunt all over school looking for them! In the meantime the kids come back and try to find their missing gingerbread man. It's a very cute story and I will definitely be adding it to my first day of school list!