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5 first day of school activities you can swear by

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 20, 2013 2:48:00 PM

There’s still plenty of time before the new school year begins, but we know that many of you have already started preparing! As you start to prep your minds, classrooms and curriculum for the fall, we thought we’d share 5 first day of school activities to get you started off on the right foot.

5 first day of school activities you can swear by

first day of school activitiesWrite a letter of introduction and send it before school begins
This is something you should do before the first day of school, but we're throwing it on the list anyway.

Imagine opening your mailbox sometime in early August and finding a letter from your son or daughter’s prospective teacher. In the letter—addressed to both you and your child—the teacher tells you all about herself, who she is, what she likes to do, how long she has been teaching, what she wants for your child and how you can contact her if you have any questions. You’d feel pretty good about this new teacher, wouldn’t you?

Parents want to believe that their child is being left in capable and compassionate hands. Students want to believe that their teachers care about them and are happy to have them in class. A brief (and thoroughly unexpected) letter to each student is one of the easiest ways to welcome and reassure parents and students.

first day of school activities 2Make a big deal out of greeting students on the first day—and every day thereafter
Call us vain, but whenever we fly, we always appreciate the fact that the pilot and flight attendants stand in a row at the entrance, smile and say hello in a tone that suggests we are all long-lost friends. When we exit, we also appreciate the fact that they thank us for flying with them and wait to exit until the passengers have made their exit first. Sure, it’s their job to do this, but we appreciate the gesture: it shows class and makes us feel like we’re in good hands and appreciated.

Think of yourselves as pilots. It’s your job to help students reach their destination and keep them safe through the turbulence. But it’s also your job to make them feel appreciated. Greet your students every day—show them that you’re ready to and eager to explore a day of learning with them. Help them to feel that they are in a safe, fun environment.

For example, say “hello, how are you?” to every student. If someone was absent the day before, say, “Hi, Johnny. I’m glad to have you back. We missed having you yesterday. I like that tie, I like that new haircut…” It won’t take long for you to notice how this simple gesture impacts your relationship with students.

first day of school activities 3Ask your students to write a letter of introduction
One of our favorite first assignments is to have students submit a letter of introduction. We don’t evaluate the letter for spelling or punctuation and we make that clear when we assign it. If you teach a specific course, English for example, you might want your students to tell you about their experience with writing. Do they like it, loathe it? Why? Who was their favorite writing teacher and why? Where would they like to improve this year? How can you (the teacher) help them accomplish their goals?

Not only is this a useful way for students to assess their own goals for the year, it’s also an easy way to earn their first A+ of the year.

first day of school activities 4Dare to ask your students what they expect of you
On the first day of class, we spend a lot of time telling students what we expect of them and very little asking them what they expect of us. What if that changed this year?

Instead of creating a set of rules on your own, why not make it a collaborative activity between you and your students? We’ve done this using a poster board which we divide down the middle with a line. The left column is where we list our expectations of the students; the right is where the students list their expectations of us. Before writing anything down, make sure that there is dialogue and consensus between students. Of course, you have the right to intervene or refocus students when their expectations won’t do.

first day of school activities 5Join in on the fun
When it's your turn for recess duty, consider participating in a game rather than standing on the sidelines. If you're teaching at the secondary level, try running to grab a ball that has been thrown out of bounds on the lunchtime basketball courts, or visit a colleague's P.E. class during your prep. Playing with students is a great way to honor them and nurture relationships with them.

The playground is also a perfect location to have a conversation with students you’re worried about. Don’t take recess away from students who have misbehaved; use the change of scenery to your advantage. It’s much easier to talk to a student about what was going on inside the classroom when you are outside of it.  

If you’re looking for a few more first day of school activities, check out one of our recent blogs, Preparing for Opening Day: 5 of the best icebreakers for teachers.


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Tags: first day of school, icebreakers for teachers, classroom management, mindfulness exercises, Classroom Strategies

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