April Fools’ Day can be a lot of fun when you’re teaching elementary school. Students pile into the classroom full of pranks and ideas to trick the teacher. But maybe you’re looking for school-appropriate pranks that will make your kids giggle this year?
Not only have researchers found that laughter helps students retain information, but it’s also a great way to build a community feeling in the classroom. The students that laugh together learn together!
With that in mind, the members of the Teach Starter teacher team put our heads together to share some truly fun classroom pranks that will elicit laughs without any of the hints of meanness that some pranks involve. Bonus: several of these April Fools’ Day pranks for kids have an educational bent.
Let the practical jokes begin!
Origin of April Fools’ Day
We’re not fooling you, but there isn’t one clear origin of April Fools’ Day. There are many theories surrounding the origin of this day of tricks and hoaxes, but one idea stems back to France in 1582. When the country switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, many were slow to recognize the change in the new year.
January 1 became the new year, but those who continued to celebrate the new year at the end of March through April 1 were known as “April fools.” These “fools” became the butt of jokes and hoaxes which we continue to playfully participate in today.
Another potential start to this day of fools stems back to a Roman spring festival held around March 25 called Hilaria: The “first day of the year longer than the night” aka the vernal equinox. To celebrate, people played games, commoners could imitate nobility, and imaginations ran wild with masquerades.
Short on time? Check out fun April Fools’ Day printables.
April Fools’ Day Pranks for School
April Fools’ Day is intended to be a fun celebration full of silly and harmless jokes. It’s important that no student feels isolated or targeted which is why we’re here to help!
Hold a Free iPad Drawing
You probably have many cool prizes in your classroom prize bin, but an iPad? Surely nothing quite this spectacular has been up for grabs before! Little do your students know that inside that box you’re showing off to the whole class is just an eye patch!
Alternatively, you can grab an old mousepad and tape the letter I to it. Once your students realize they have been had, you can use this fun classroom prank as an opportunity to talk about homophones and ways that words can sound alike but be misleading!
As you’ve been discussing producers and consumers in the classroom, have you established where all those marshmallow farms sit on a food chain? This silly prank is one you can pull off in your classroom with a little help from this realistic news broadcast about marshmallow farmers created by Seattle news station KING 5.
After showing this video to your class, ask your students to share how they think they could help marshmallow farmers (this would be a fun Morning Meeting topic!). You can also discuss marshmallow plants and their parts until someone gets suspicious and calls the bluff!
Want to see how many students are paying attention to the date? Instead of writing the actual date on the whiteboard, try writing something ridiculous such as March 32, 2023, and see how many students call it out. This is a great classroom prank because it takes no time out of your day, and you can give an eagle-eyed student some kudos for paying attention!
Hand Out Brown Es
It’s another “sounds the same but not quite” April Fools’ Day prank! Offer your students “brown E’s,” and watch them dissolve into laughter when they realize they’re not actually getting “brownies.” Thanks to South Carolina teacher Lexe Roberts for this fun joke that her kindergartners love.
Photo courtesy of Kindergarten South Carolina teacher Lexe Roberts.
Wacky Word Search
Word searches are always a hit with students, but wait a second … are there hijinks afoot? Hand out word searches with word banks that have been switched, so it’s impossible to find any of the words! Want to take things up a notch? You can create a search that’s stuffed with silly April Fools’ Day-themed words in our create a word search generator. You can even grab a word bank to add from any of these word searches. Some words to add to your custom word search:
Alternative option: Print out two different word searches, and mix the word banks. It does the same job with half the work.
Download and print our April Fools’ Day word search for an easy activity!
Fake Spelling Test
Combine the fun of acrostics with some wild spelling words:
- Apoplectic – overcome with anger
- Pahoehoe – a solidified lava
- Rambutan – edible fruit of a Malayan tree
- Imbrex – a Greek or Roman roof tile
- Larring – to live in a wild animal’s habitat
- Fanega – a Spanish unit of dry measure
- Octadic – to be in a group of eight
- Obligato – an important musical part
- Lapsus – a mistake
- Savvy – the ability to make good judgment
You can also invent your own nonsense words and include three more if you want to spell out April Fools’ DAY. Students will be relieved when they realize or learn that it’s all harmless fun!
Have your students been especially good lately? Announce before April Fools’ Day that you’ll be bringing in a tasty treat for everyone to enjoy. Little do they know, you’ll be bringing in chocolate-covered brussels sprouts!
You can also keep it simpler by unwrapping large lollipops and using them to cover raw brussels sprouts. Add sticks to the bottom and you have yourself some veggie pops. These convincing-looking trickster sweets are sure to be the hit of your April Fools’ pranks. Be sure to check beforehand for dietary restrictions!
Turn the Desks Around
Need a simple April Fools’ Day prank for the classroom that doesn’t require any planning? Show up to school five minutes earlier than you usually do, and turn students’ desks around or mix up their chairs. Proceed to act like everything is absolutely normal as students filter into the classroom.
Do you teach a set of identical twins? Try pulling a prank on a fellow teacher by swapping the students’ classrooms in the morning, and see how long it takes for them to notice. Of course, you’ll want to run this little prank by the parents first, as well as gauging your students’ feelings about this sort of swap. Some identical twins will be on board, while others would not. You know your students best.
Who doesn’t love penguins? They’re adorable when they waddle, but what if this flightless bird really could fly? This is a fun video you can show your kids from the BBC when they pulled an April Fools’ hoax on the public in 2008:
Its convincing nature documentary feel is sure to have some heads scratching in utter disbelief.
Want to continue the penguin fun? Download our free Funky Penguin zentangle template.
Morning Work Mayhem
If your students are accustomed to entering the classroom and grabbing their morning work, you can use this as an opportunity to sneak in an early morning April Fools’ Day prank. Grab the first page of their work, and staple it to several more sheets of paper, stapling all around so it’s extra difficult to get inside. Once they break through all the staples, they’ll find their work wasn’t in there after all!
Not in the mood for a prank? Try sticking googly eyes to items in your classroom to make your inanimate objects come to life. Challenge your students by seeing how many “live” objects are lurking.
April Fools’ Day Classroom Activities
Pulling pranks doesn’t have to be the limit to celebrating April Fools’ Day in the classroom. Use the holiday as a chance to talk about hoaxes, jokes, and more. Teaching about media literacy? April Fools’ Day is a perfect opportunity to discuss the importance of finding good sources for information.
Take a “Trip” to the Museum of Hoaxes
Visit the Library of Congress April Fools’ Day Chronicle
Another virtual field trip students can take without ever leaving the classroom, the Library of Congress Chronicling America project offers a look at April Fools’ Day pranks from the 1800s!
Discuss Internet Misinformation.
We don’t have to tell you that the internet is a great resource for student research and also a quagmire of misinformation that can be confusing for students just learning how to do research and find credible sources. A 2017 study by watchdog group Common Sense Media found that a third of students 10 and up have been duped by what they thought was a valid news article on the internet, and worse, they’d shared that story with others.
Take advantage of the theme of April Fools’ Day to dive into the challenges that the web presents — from satirical sites like The Onion to sites sharing jokes like the ones typically shared on the holiday to those with more nefarious plans to mislead and deceive.
Download and print a “what makes a credible website” poster to display in the classroom for students to reference.
Read April Fools’ Day Books
Use April Fools’ Day as an excuse for more storytime! Here are some titles your students may enjoy:
- Ellie May on April Fools’ Day by Hillary Homzie
- April Fool! Watch Out at School! by Diane deGroat
- April Foolishness by Teresa Bateman
- April Fool, Phillis! by Susana Leonard Hill
- April Fools’, Mr. Todd! by Megan McDonald
- Arthur’s April Fool by Marc Brown
- Mud Flat April Fool by James Stevenson
Teach Kids What Makes a Good Prank
April Fools’ Day can be good, harmless fun, and laughter is good for the soul … but some pranks are mean and inappropriate. Make a point to use April Fools’ Day to help students understand the difference between the two and how to be more inclusive and kind. Ask students to think when they tell a joke: Is this something that can hurt someone’s feelings? Would it be OK if someone said this joke to me?
Use our Mean Vs. Nice April Fools’ Day Worksheet to get even more interactive with this activity.