Ahhhh… Summer is gone. Where did it go? It seems that it was only yesterday that you were packing up your classroom and driving off into the beach’s sunset. Now, it’s almost the first day of school. It’s time to unpack the classroom, make the copies, and start off a fresh new school year! Well, let’s make sure you start it off right – right from the first day of school!
There are 10 things that every teacher MUST DO on their first day of school. If they want their school year to be successful, then they cannot leave any of these 10 things out. Here they are in no particular order.
The First Day of School MUSTS
1.) Greet Your Students. As your cute little darlings are coming down the hallway, you need to be ready to help them out and greet them. This is definitely not the time to catch up with colleagues you haven’t seen all summer. You need to help these Nervous Nellies feel better – and the best way to do that is by making them comfortable with your smile and warm greeting.
2.) Have Work for Them Right Away (and All Day!). When students enter the classroom – even on the first day of school – there should be something for them to do. This sets the tone for the entire year. They need to understand that, in your classroom, you get down to business and that working (and learning) is a priority. Now, obviously it’s the first day, so you may be thinking, “What am I going to have them do on the first day when they enter?” Why not a questionnaire, such as an interest inventory, to get to know them more or have them write about their summer (a writing sample!)?
Make sure you have plenty of things to do on the first day. I always over-planned on the first day because I didn’t know just how “this group” would move – were they tortoises or were they hares? You don’t want to be standing there unprepared with a few hours left to go; that leads to classroom management issues.
3.) Introductions. Have each student introduce themselves. There are lots of fun games to play where students have to share a little about themselves. You can even find some in my Back to School Product.
4.) Build Community. Building community is important because then, throughout the year, you can work together like a team or a family. This can be done through various team building activities.
5.) Teach Procedures. It has to be done, but don’t just have students just sit and take it all in at once. I made that mistake my first year teaching. I droned on for what probably seemed like decades for those poor kids – and you know what? – they didn’t learn my procedures. Mention them as it is time. For instance, mention the procedures for lunch a few minutes before lunch. Seriously – otherwise it’s “information overload” and “shut the teacher out” mode.
6.) Enforce Rules. I know some teachers (myself included, at one time) that would not enforce rules on the first day of school because, well, it was the first day. BIG mistake. Make sure you introduce the rules (or create them together) right away and begin enforcing them on the first day – warnings and consequences. You usually don’t have to worry about them on the first day of school because they are so incredibly sleepy and in denial that summer is over, but hey, you never know!
7.) Question and Answer Time. This is one of my favorite things to do on the first day. It’s a great opportunity for me to make connections with the students and begin building relationships with them. I provide students with a 3×5 index card and allow them to write down any questions they have. They can even ask questions about me. Sometimes the questions are silly and wild (and I answer them kind of silly back – but that is just me!). Not all students have questions, and that’s okay. I answer the questions on the cards, and then I share with students a little about myself, including artifacts from my childhood, such as my report cards, my drawings, my handwriting (Mrs. Livingston, I finally finger-space between all my words!), and even pictures from when I was in elementary school. Students need to hear about your childhood and who you are outside the classroom. It helps them see that you also made mistakes and are human, too! The kids learn so much from it and love it!
8.) Read. Yes, read. On the first day, demonstrate the importance of literacy by creating a time for reading. If you don’t want to drag out your library just yet (understandably so), then choose a read aloud – even a picture book that will pique their interest – and just slow down to enjoy reading. We need to create students who have a passion for reading and who enjoy it. (I’m biased, of course, because I love reading). If you need some ideas for what to read, then check out my back to school read alouds or use the menu bar above and find my mentor texts posts.
9.) Observe and Assess. I know, students get tested and tested and tested. I’m not saying it has to be a formal test, but the reality is that when they come in our classroom, we don’t know exactly where they are academically. Sure, we have an idea because of their files and previous teachers. I like to get started right away, because the sooner I can get that information, the sooner I can start teaching. I can’t stand “taking days off” so I can assess. Observation is another great way to take note who they are forming relationships with for when you start creating seating charts and so on. (Of course, if you can’t get to this on the first day of school, then do try to get to it within the first week!)
10.) Ease Their Nerves. Students are very nervous the first day of school. They are nervous about you as a teacher, about their class, about what they will learn this year, and so much more. Even if they have been in the school for many years and have many of their friends in the same class – they are still nervous. Help them feel at ease by calming their nerves and giving them a heads up to what they will learn. I always try to give them a “preview,” similar to a movie trailer, of what is to come throughout the school year and excite them.
When the school starts, think about how you want the day to run and imagine being in the shoes of your students. They are not going to want to do the same thing that every teacher does every year. They aren’t likely going to want to present about their summer, or listen to you drone on about the rules and procedures. Yes, some things have to be done every year, but there are ways to get those things done while still making the first day great! What do they say – it’s the first impression that counts?
Here’s to an amazing first day and a successful school year!