Seven Vital Tips for the First Day of School
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
for more free resources
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
— Will Rogers
That quote might not be accurate, but it won’t hurt to be prepared and let the students know you are prepared. To enable this to happen there are seven important steps that should be taken to get the most of this first impression.
First, be prepared. Have your first day well planned out including a seating chart for the students. It is important to have good discipline from the first day, but that does not mean you have to be mean. Raising a hand to ask a question, asking permission to leave the room, even where to pick-up or hand-in work should be explained as well as the late work policy. Above all spend time reviewing school safety rules. Where are the exits, the fire extinguisher and the emergency routes? You don’t have to make the students afraid of you, but they need to know what your expectations are and when they can get extra help.
Secondly, take control. This is their first day in your class. They need to know the rules and the expect ions. Posting them in the classroom is always a good idea. I recommend having a handout for each student with the discipline code, your contact numbers, materials that they may need to bring, and any other school information. You may not have time to go over the school handbook, but make sure that every student has one as well as any textbooks that are required.
Thirdly, take a long look at your classroom. The first code in your community, if it is like other towns, usually limits the number of flammable items to about 20 percent of the wall space. There cannot be anything hanging from the ceiling or blocking the doors. Sofas and other upholstered items may also be deemed a violation of the rules regardless of how good an idea it might be. I recommend you dedicate at least one board to posting of school related items. As for the other space, I recommend you have students design them based on what is being covered in class.
Fourth, Some of the students may not know each other and so an ice breaker may be of value. I don’t use them, but some teachers find them of value. One idea I sometimes use is to bring in a wolf or other stuffed animal and have the students submit names to name our classroom mascot.
Fifth, Get personal information. I give the students a card asking them for their home contact numbers as well as their interests and favorite hobbies. I even ask them to bring a paper that they did in previous years that they are proud of so they can show it to me later in the week as I get to know them better. And, I always try to contact the parents within the first couple weeks of school or at a Back to School night. Sometimes messages from a student’s get changed by the time they get home, if you know what I mean.
Sixth, be open to new ideas. I have posted a great many links here. Spend some time and maybe you can discover fresh ideas. Consider having the students write a short autobiography to get to know them.
Finally, be yourself. Whether your first day of class or your 40th, the most important message to leave with your students is that you are a caring teacher. Yes, you have rules, but that does not mean you or without compassion and understanding. Remember, you don’t want to mark Will Rodgers wrong.
Read up on classroom management
A list of great ideas for new and experience teachers.
Ice Breakers and Checklists from Education World
Planning for your first day of school
Ideas for preparing to work with parents
Huge selection of ideas and links on everything.
Activities and sample handout forms
Middle and elementary school ideas including school tour
Back to school bulletin boards
Remember that decorating a door may be a fire code violation.
Mainly for elementary
Lots of lesson planning sites
A good place to look for new ideas
Set up your classroom seating arrangement virtually
Bulletin Boards by Month