Tips for the First Day
The following list represents the accumulated wisdom of many different practicing teachers. These are the strategies the experts use when starting a new year.
- Arrive early!
- Write your name on the board so the students can learn it immediately.
- Have an activity laid out on each child's desk so children can be productively engaged from the start and you can take care of "housekeeping" details. Try a simple drawing or writing activity. First-grade teacher Susie Davis uses dot-to-dot or word-search activities. "These are things the children already know how to do."
- Greet students at the door with a smile and a pleasant "Good Morning!"
- Ask students to sit when they arrive. They can wait to sharpen pencils, recount their summer, or ask questions. This helps you create a good working environment as soon as possible.
- Conduct a get-acquainted exercise. (This could be combined with roll call.) For older children, Judith Rio suggests creating a class dictionary. Ask children to write a three-part definition of themselves that includes: physical characteristics, personality traits, and favorite hobbies or interests. Definitions could also include a pronunciation key to last names. And don't forget to do one for yourself. Later, compile the definitions into a book.
- Enjoy a good story and a good laugh together to create a pleasant mood and ease kids' fears and anxieties.
- Introduce the important features of the room and the school.
- Present the most important classroom routines in a positive way, as you would a regular lesson. Explain, discuss, and give students a chance to practice such routines as opening-of-day exercises.
- Work with students to develop classroom rules. Discuss the consequences for disobeying the rules. Post the rules (Have older students copy them.)
- Post a general schedule for lunch, music, physical education, recess, and classwork. Emphasize and teach the routines that will help students move into these periods quickly and efficiently. (Remember, they won't learn it all in a day. Continue to emphasize and practice classroom routines for the first few weeks.)
- Begin with simple academic activities short reviews that guarantee a high success rate. These will boost confidence and ease fears. And they can serve as trial runs for practicing such routines as turning in completed work or asking for assistance.
- Monitor and maintain constant contact with students. Don't spend time on clerical work the first day. Try not to leave the room while the students are there.
- Deal promptly with behavior problems.
- Generate interest and enthusiasm by hinting at exciting new topics you plan to begin later in the week.
- Issue books and discuss their care. (Making book covers is a useful first-day activity.)