The first few days of school set the tone for the entire year. Getting started with fun, informative, and relationship-building activities for the first day of school can go a long ways in developing a positive classroom environment.
Here is a list of simple to prepare activities that work well on the first day or days of school. It includes activities for helping the students get acquainted with their new teacher, quiet activities for the introverts, and funny activities for building camaraderie.
All About the Teacher Get Acquainted Book
Make a book about yourself. It can be done in a premade book or sheets in a three-ring binder slipped into page protectors. Read it to the students and leave it out so they can look at it.
You can include your hobbies, pictures of vacations, or favorite sports. It’s also fun to include pictures of your family and/or pets since students find this part of your life especially interesting!
The Teacher in a Bag
Another way to introduce yourself to the class is to do the teacher in a bag. Assemble a group of items that tell about your life and put them in an opaque bag. Pull the items out one at a time and share a sentence or two about each one. Or you can have students guess why they think you put something in the bag and what it represents.
Teacher Q&A Time
Give the students the opportunity to ask questions. This is especially good to do at the end of the morning after you have covered a lot of ground, but haven’t covered everything. If a student has a burning question on his mind, he has the opportunity to have it answered.
It is also wise to let the students know they can come to you privately with their question if they don’t want to ask it in front of the class.
Some Quiet Down Time
The first day is full of emotions and information. It is also the first day of getting back into the school groove. Give the students some quiet down time to read, color, draw, etc. without any pressure. The introverts in your class will love you for it!
Decorate a Desk Nametag
Prepare ahead of time by writing each student name on a namecard. Give students the opportunity to personalize their nametag with crayons, markers, colored pencils, or stickers. Use precut strips of clear shelf paper to attach them to the desks when the students are done.
Choose an appropriate book to read aloud. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Voist is a great book for this at almost any grade level. Even though many students may already be familiar with the book, it makes a good discussion starter regarding the fact that everyone has a bad day at times.
Tell the students that if they are having a bad day at some point during the year, they should tell you. And, likewise, tell the students that if you are ever having a bad day, you will tell them. It opens the doors of communication in the future and it also makes the teacher a real person.
Procedures, Procedures, Procedures
Procedures will make or break a classroom. The first hour of the first day of school is the time to let the students know that this is a classroom with procedures. They will find it comforting to know that the classroom functions in a predictable way.
Abbreviated Morning Meeting or Circle Time
Most classrooms have a morning time that consists of going through the same information each day such as the date, weather, counting, thematic information, etc. This can start the very first day of school, if only in an abbreviated fashion.
Let the students know what is expected and the consequences for not meeting those expectations. Show them where the room rules are clearly posted. Keep the rule list short and positive. Ask for questions to find out if any of the students need something clarified. If appropriate, role play the rules so they are perfectly clear.
Pass the Paper Roll
Pass a roll of toilet paper around the classroom and instruct the students to take off however many pieces they would like for the next activity. When everyone has some, instruct them to pass their piece to the person on the left. And then pass it to the next person to the left. And then to the person on the right. And then two people to the left. When they are done passing, each student counts how many squares of toilet paper they have. They must tell that many facts about themselves.
(Since some students might be familiar with this activity and only take one piece, the passing element eliminates students trying to outwit the teacher and adds a bit of fun as they realize they’ve been had!)
There are so many great ways to get the school year off on a positive note. Here are the rest of the posts in this series I’ve written to help and encourage new teachers!
And don’t forget to check out some of the products I’ve created that I wish I would have had when I started teaching!