The first day of school is a highly-anticipated, yet roller coaster of a day! School supplies and room decor are brand new, teachers are excited to implement what they have been working on, while students are excited to have a fresh start. While I head into my 23rd first day of school in 2023, I can tell you they have all been unique experiences, and I feel even more excitement with each new year.
Different groups of students, different building dynamics, and other factors bring on new ideas and demands. Despite changes in these components, there are three activities I ALWAYS make sure to tackle on the first day of the year. Whether you are a brand new teacher, switched grade levels, or veteran teacher with many years of experience, here are some essentials I always incorporate with my middle school class…
#1: Share and Post the Daily Schedule
Students want to know what is taking place during the school day. It shouldn’t be a mystery for them, so make it visible. Just like you want to know when you are going to get to eat lunch, so do they! Provide a visual schedule for them and make a point to share the schedule so they know what to expect on this first day and for many days to come. Of course you may tweak things as the weeks go on, but keep students aware of what they are learning and when it is taking place.
Here is a sample schedule.
If you are using Schoology or other management system, share your schedule, print it for students, and have it posted for students. Better yet, turn a portion of white board or bulletin board into your daily schedule. It is the “decor” that keeps on giving because it won’t need changing, and it will limit the unavoidable hand raise followed by, “When’s lunch?”
#2: Discuss and Model Classroom Expectations
Are you using some sort of school-wide or classroom management program? Let your students know what is expected and go through these procedures/expectations with them on Day 1.
How do they: line-up, come into the classroom, sharpen pencils, organize materials, participate, or utilize the restroom? Take the time to teach and practice how you want students to manage the many tasks they encounter each day during the course these first few weeks. It is better to teach expectations early, so students get used to what they are to do.
It is far easier to train your students in these first days than to go back and fix what was never taught. If we don’t establish our expectations right away, it will be a struggle and we will be re-teaching the expectations ALL-YEAR-LONG!
Here is the classroom expectations display I use in my classroom…
You can thank me next week when students are NOT sharpening pencils from end to end for five minutes during your reader’s workshop mini-lesson, or raising their hand to go to the restroom ten minutes into your whole class discussion!
#3: and Most SIGNIFICANTLY, WE HAVE FUN!
My ultimate goal of DAY ONE is to have my students walk away from the first day so pumped and excited about our first day, they can’t wait to return tomorrow. I try to incorporate class activities and ideas that will give students a positive experience on their first day. I think about…
- What will make students feel most comfortable?
- How can they get to know one another and build a positive rapport?
- What will allow them to feel confident to discuss and interact?
- What will engage them AND allow me to learn about them at the same time?
I want them talking and interacting, so I created Getting to Know You! Chit Chat Cards for the first week of school. These icebreaker discussion cards allow my students to experience each of these components right away. Click on the image below to grab the FREEBIE sample!
Place students in partners or small groups and allow them to respond to the different question or prompt on each card. Your students will learn a great deal about one another and your classroom community will begin forming with this foundation activity.
Once I have tackled these components on the first day, I can move on with reader’s workshop, a reader’s theater script, and other “Getting to Know You” activities that engage my students and cause the first week to fly by. I wish you the best of luck as you tackle your first day of the year. Enjoy the day and your amazing crew of students. Before we know it, we will be gearing up for the end of the first quarter and conferences.
All the best to you and your students!