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5 Teaching Strategies for the First Day of School

Janelle Cox

The first day of school is usually filled with jitters, excitement, and anticipation of the unknown. It is a time to get to know your students and show them what you expect of them for the year. In order to create a welcoming classroom environment, start by using the following teaching strategies

1. Teaching Strategies to Connect with Students

Stand outside of the classroom and as your students walk into your classroom, and meet and greet them at the door. By starting the day with a warm smile and high five or a handshake, it will help put students’ nerves at bay, and send the message that you interested in getting to know them.

Once students are settled, start by telling them a little bit about yourself. Talk about anything that will show your personality -- a funny childhood experience, or a story about your family, or a past school experience. This is an easy way to set the foundation and build rapport with your students.

2. Help to Break the Ice

The best way to break the ice on the first day of school is to dive right in with getting-to-know-you activities. The first day of school can feel awkward for students, especially if they look around at a sea of unknown faces. Icebreakers are also a great way for you to not only get to know your students, but help you learn their names. The faster you get their names down, the better. Learning their names quickly sends a message that you are interested in them and that you care.

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Try playing the name game, where students stand in a circle and state their name along with a movement. The movement can be any kind of gesture, even a simple clap of the hands or raising of an arm is OK. The key to the success of this icebreaker activity is for the whole class to say the name of the student and do the movement right after each student’s turn. It can get pretty silly, but the students seem to like it, and the gestures help students remember their classmates’ names.

3. Show Your Classroom Routines

Set the tone of classroom expectations by showing students one or more of your daily routines. The first routine you show them is the most important, because it sets the bar for what you expect your day-to-day schedule to look like. Make sure that you are thorough and model each routine slowly. A well-taught routine will transfer into a well-oiled machine.

Effective teachers like to teach these framework procedures on the first day: Entering and leaving the classroom, classroom rules and consequences, lining up, walking in a line, raising your hand, using the restroom, and getting students’ attention.

4. Introduce Your Classroom Management Plan

Your classroom management plan is another component of setting the tone of your classroom expectations. This teaching strategy is essential to teach on the first day because it will set the tone for the rest of the school year. The sole purpose of this plan is to state the rules as well as what will happen when they are broken. Whether you teach kindergarten or high school, a good classroom management plan is needed.

Some classroom teachers like to include an incentive program with their plan, while others choose not to. Ultimately, it is up to you as the teacher to decide what will best suit your students. Here are two of the most common approaches teachers like to choose.

  • The Stoplight Strategy – Students all start the day on green. If they misbehave, they get put on yellow, which is a warning. If they continue to misbehave, they get put on red, which is a phone call home.
  • Rules and Consequences – The teacher gives a list of a 3-5 rules for students to follow along with a set of consequences if they are broken. If they break a rule once, they get a warning; twice, they get a time out, and three times, a letter or phone call home.

5. Conduct One Great Lesson

To further help set the tone, start with one of your best lessons. By jumping into a lesson on the very first day, you are showcasing your teaching style. You don’t have to start by teaching a math or science lesson. But you can, however, start the year off with a student survey activity, where students work in pairs to collect information about their classmates then graph the results. If you are the kind of teacher who loves group work, this will showcase your teaching style. If your style is more on the technological side, then you can have student’s work on an iPad or the smartboard. Your goal is to send the message that your class is fun, while still showing them that you mean business and they need to work hard.

What are your favorite teaching strategies for the first day of school? Do you have any specific strategies that you use? Share them with us in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at

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