The first day of school is full of excitement and smiles. It also sets the tone for the entire year. Here are some ideas to help you kick it off right.
1. GREET YOUR STUDENTS WITH A WARM WELCOME.
Greet your students and their families at the door of your classroom with a smile. The first day can be scary, so show them that they have a kind teacher who is excited to meet them. Make them feel welcome by showing them their desk, cubby, etc. Be sure to have a name tag already made for your students. If a student that was not previously on your roster shows up, make a name tag as soon as possible. This helps students feel like they have a place in your room and in your heart.
2. KEEP YOUR STUDENTS ENGAGED FROM THE START.
Having an activity ready for your students not only gives them something fun to do but is also an excellent management trick. Students who are busy at work have less time to devote to other less than desirable activities. Make sure the activity you plan is simple enough for students to complete independently and entertaining enough to hold their attention. A simple “All About Me” activity like the one below allows for creativity and differentiation.
3. DOUBLE CHECK TRANSPORTATION.
The first day is busy enough to exhaust even the most experienced of teachers. Don’t let yourself run around at the last minute checking the after-school transportation of your students. Instead, check with parents as your students arrive in the morning. Having a transportation list printed and ready to go makes the day so much easier! You will still need to spend your conference period checking on transportation with parents who do not accompany their students on the first day, but it’s nice to have a giant head start.
4. OPEN LINES OF COMMUNICATION WITH PARENTS.
Start the year off with strong parent-teacher communication. Parents are the best source of information about your students. Building strong parent-teacher relationships will help you meet the needs of all your students. Not to mention, starting the year off on the right foot with the parents will help ease the stress of any difficult conversations with them throughout the year.
Make your first phone calls with parents positive by calling home the first day and throughout the week, especially with students who seem to have “a lot of energy.”
Make sure all parents have your contact information as early as possible. Consider handing out contact info magnets with all your information either on the first day or at open house. Doing so ensures that parents always have your contact information, highlights your organization, and expresses your commitment in working together. They are easy and cheap to make. All you need to do is type up your information in a style/format that you like, print on magnetic paper (available at Hobby Lobby and other craft stores), cut, and distribute. Running short on time? Check out these editable contact magnets. There are four templates to choose from. Just choose the style(s) that you like most, edit, and print.
You’ll want to gather information about your students as early as possible. I like to send student information forms home on the first day. This is a great tool for getting to know your students. I use this form to gather critical information about my students’ strengths, weaknesses, medical concerns, and histories.
5. HELP THE STUDENTS GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER WITH AN ICEBREAKER GAME.
The first day of school brings excitement and anxiety as students look around at the new faces in their classroom. Break the ice and help the students get to know each other with a fun game. Here are a couple of fun ideas:
Classmate BINGO Get your students up and talking to each other as they search for friends who can help them complete Classmate BINGO. This will have them learning about each other’s talents, families, and interests.
Who’s in Our Class? This game can be played in small groups or in a whole group setting. Students roll a die to see which question they will answer about themselves. This takes the stress out of deciding which “one thing about themselves” to tell the class.
6. CREATE THE RULES TOGETHER.
Creating the rules as a class gives the students a voice. Their knowledge and experiences are valued, and they feel a sense of pride in the community that they are helping to build. Another advantage of having the students help in the creation of the rules is that they are more likely to follow the rules that they create.
The downfall of creating this list with the students is that it could last all day and take all the pages in your chart tablet if you let it. Once I feel like we’ve covered most of the big ones, I like to tell them that I notice some similarities. I then help them see that the rules we’ve come up with fit into three categories: Be safe, Be respectful, and Be responsible.
7. TEACH AND REINFORCE PROCEDURES.
Teach classroom and school-wide procedures to keep your year running smoothly. Many of the things that make you want to pull your hair out throughout the year can be prevented by teaching your students how you want things to be done. How do you want your students to enter and exit the classroom? How will students get a sharpened pencil? How do you want them to ask permission to get water or use the restroom? Once you’ve taught the procedures necessary to keep the classroom running, make sure to reinforce them throughout the day.
8. GO ON A TOUR OF THE SCHOOL.
Make sure your students know the best routes to get to the nurse, office, library, etc. from your classroom. You will undoubtedly have a few students who are new to the school this year. A tour is especially helpful to them. This is also the perfect time to practice and reinforce hallway expectations.
9. HAVE THE STUDENTS HELP ORGANIZE THE ROOM AND SUPPLIES.
Allowing the students to help organize gives them a sense of ownership in the room. They are more likely to take care of their materials and put them back where they belong when they know that everything has a place. If you’re too uncomfortable with possible management issues arising to have the students up (with things like scissors) helping, consider a supply scavenger hunt once things are organized. When you have a substitute and happen to run out of tissues or pencils, it is helpful for students to know where supplies are stored.
A great read aloud on the first day is a must. A read aloud serves many purposes. It helps your students feel a little more at ease, connects the class through a mutual experience, gives us a new perspective, helps us create our identity as a class full of readers, and facilitates discussions about our feelings, expectations, and community.
FEELING RUSHED AND SHORT ON TIME?
You can find the All About Me Collage Activity, Back to School Games, Teacher Contact Info Magnets, and Back to School Forms bundled together here. Click here to save time and money by buying it all at once!