The first day of school is approaching, are you ready for it? The first day offers may opportunities and getting to know your students is at the top of the list. Here are a few more first-day goals along with some fun activities to start your school year off on the right path.
Goal: Get to Know Your Students
Caltha Crowe, author of Solving Thorny Behavior Problems, says, “Knowing students is (also) core to forming a trusting student-teacher relationship with them, which is a major factor in students being engaged in school.” Spend the first day (as well as the rest of the week) getting to know your students as well as allowing them to get to know you. Here are a few activities to try.
If you search the internet, you will find an abundance of getting-to-know-you icebreaker activities all claiming to be the BEST activity for the first day of school. However, if you’re looking for an icebreaker that will stimulate a friendly conversation among classmates then you should try the “Would You Rather” game. This is when you pose a question such as, “Would you rather have no teeth or no hair?” and the students answer which they would rather have. You can also get the students to help pose the questions but make sure they run the question by you before they ask the class.
Student surveys and inventories can help teachers quickly learn facts about their students that they can help use to plan future lessons and activities. Vanderbilt University has a printable student interest and learning survey for older students where you can find out your students’ favorite hobbies, interests, school subjects, how they prefer to work, etc. While Quizizz has an online survey for younger students.
Create a Selfie Movie Trailer
Digital tools offer the opportunity for students to get creative and showcase their technological skills. Have students use their smartphones or tablet to create an autobiographical trailer of themselves. Students can use iMovie, Flipgrid or just the camera app to create a short 30-60 second bio-clip of themselves. Another idea is to create a movie mystery where students only show clips of their likes, family, etc. and leave their photographs until the end of the movie so classmates can try and figure out who the trailer is talking about.
Goal: Create a Welcoming Environment
According to WIDA (University of Wisconsin–Madison), “A welcoming classroom is about community and equity. By keeping these two ideas in mind, you can create an environment where students feel safe, visible and valued and where they are provided access to rigorous curriculum that engages and challenges them in meaningful ways.” Here are a few activities to help you create this type of environment in your classroom.
Decorate the Classroom
Instead of students walking into a fully decorated classroom on the first day of school, have them help you decorate. This will send the message that their opinions are valued, and you welcome their presence. Split students into four groups (this would be a good time to group by interest) and assign each group a wall to decorate. Come up with a few themes beforehand and have groups vote on which they would like to decorate for their assigned wall.
Student Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are a great activity to help students get to know each other, as well as their new learning space. Randomly choose partners to scour the classroom for items to check off their list, such as how many computers are in the classroom, where the pencil sharpener is, how many trash cans are in the room, what color the homework basket is, etc. Once students have found all of the items on the list, they can use it as a reference during the first few weeks of school.
Goal: Establish Rules and Routines
It is necessary to establish clear rules and routines on the first day of school so students will know what to expect. According to an article published by Concordia University, “Students know what they should do at certain times throughout the day which means that they do not have down time to participate in unproductive behaviors.” Therefore, classroom routines go hand-in-hand with classroom rules. Here are a few activities to try.
Create an Interactive Bulletin Board
Looking for a fun way to get students involved in the rule making? Try creating an interactive bulletin board. Students can scan a QR code with their tablets to find out what classroom rules you’ve had in the past or learn about the most popular rules for their grade level before deciding upon the class rules. Another idea is to pose a new rule and have students vote on if they would implement it in the classroom or not. Lastly, post the classroom rules and each day students place their bitmoji (character photo of themselves) on the rules that they think they’ve followed the most throughout the day.
To help students learn the class procedures, the Butterfly teacher gets her students up and moving by writing part of the procedure on one index card, and the other part on another index card. Then she has students move around the room trying to find their procedure partner. For example, one card would say “When I need to use the lavatory, I…” and the other card would say “Would quietly walk over and take the lavatory pass.” It’s a fun way for students to collaborate and communicate with their new classmates while learning the procedures.
Take time during the first week of school and really get to know your students. These activities will help you honor and learn about the individuals that you will be teaching throughout the school year.