Although it has been a while, I can vividly remember my very first day as a teacher. I was assigned to a class of 21 first graders who may have been as nervous as I was that September morning. I remember looking out into their forgiving faces, as I tried to check off items on my laundry list of necessary first-day matters. We were halfway through the morning, when I remembered that school was about the joy of learning. I taught them a silly song about colors and read them one of my favorite stories. I don’t know who learned more that year, me or those 6-year-olds.
Teach Procedures and Rules
- Through the years, I learned how important that first day is in setting the stage for the rest of the year. I learned to be clear about important classroom procedures and establish them right away. You’ll want to teach, practice, and reinforce your chosen procedures until they become routine. What you do those first days can make (or break) your year. If you spend time going over routines in the beginning, you will reap the benefits all year long. Having said that, don’t spend the whole first day going over every single classroom procedure. Choose the most important ones and introduce the others as they come up.
- Classroom rules can be simplified. Words like safety, kindness, respect, and responsibility get the point across. A class discussion or role play will help students see how these words will look in their classroom and school.
Begin Building a Community
- The first day is also for getting to know your students and a chance for them to get to know each other and you. Bingo-like worksheets or scavenger hunts (find a classmate who likes camping) help accomplish this task. This link has many icebreaker activities to get students moving. Learn student names on the first day. It makes students feel welcome and important and will facilitate your classroom management.
Read and Write
- Show students you value literacy. Make time for a read aloud and/or for students to explore your classroom library, select a book, and read on their own.
- Ask older students to write a short paragraph telling something they would like you to know about them. Or choose from the Learning Network’s list of narrative and personal writing prompts. As you learn about your students, you will learn about their writing skills, too. Save this work and hand it back at the end of the year, so students (and you) can see their growth.
- Better to have too much planned, than not enough. There’s always tomorrow, and something usually happens to change the best laid plans. Don’t be afraid to go off script, especially if you find yourself doing too much talking. An extra recess never hurt anyone and can give you a chance to observe students in an informal setting.
Enjoy Your Students
Don’t forget to smile, take pictures, and start to enjoy your class. There is only one first day of school. Your students—and you— should go home feeling happy about the day, wanting to come back tomorrow, and excited about the year ahead.