The first day of school is soooo exciting! The build up to new teachers, new friends, new classes is the best. Both teachers and students are excited to see what the new year holds — everyone is in the hallways, catching up on what’s been going on since the last class in May. Then the bell rings…. first class of the day begins… and all the excitement goes away as teachers take attendance and then launch into expectations, rules and reading the syllabus to their students, and just like that …. no more excitement. Middle and high school students know they are in for 5-6 more periods of the same.
The first day of school should be one of the best, but in the age of high stakes testing and never having enough time to teach every standard, teachers often default to using the first day of school to getting all the paperwork out of the way, so they can start teaching content at the earliest moment. The pressure to cram it all in sometimes causes us, as teachers to miss a golden opportunity to get to know our students from the very first day.
If we only get one chance to make a first impression, then the first day of school is even more important. Here is your chance to get to know your students, find out what they like and dislike, their favorite subjects, where they have traveled and many other interests. One of my favorite questions to ask my students on the first day is what they binge watched over the summer. As common television shows are mentioned over and over, connections between the students in your class are made, friendships begin and I always find a new show to watch. My students from last year are responsible for a weekend binge of The Flash.
The Cult of Pedagogy addressed how important it is to build relationships in their article A Four Part System for Getting to Know Your Students. One point is that it is just as important to build relationships between your students. Strong relationships between students in classes increase a students feeling of belonging. With middle and high school students this can be the difference between academic success and failure. Starting to build a sense of community in your classroom on the first day just makes sense.
Below are some ideas to change up your first day of school this year. I’ve used most of these at one time or another, except the Consensograms. I will certainly find time for these in my plans this year.
I use the Get to Know You Ball Game during the entire first week of school. Whenever we have a few minutes of down time we will get out the ball and toss it around.
M & M Game — I’ve used this one several times, high school kids love it, especially because they get to eat the M & Ms after.
There’s an idea for everyone here First Day of Class Activities that Create a Climate for Learning
I’m in love with these Gallery Walk Consensograms. Thinking of making this part of my first day activities this year, as well as thinking about how I can use them with curriculum as well.
Ed and I both wrote about the first day of school this week (find his post here), because it’s an important topic. The first day of school can make or break the rest of the school year. My challenge to you — forget the class rules and syllabus on the first day of school this year. Spend this day getting to know your students and letting them get to know you and each other. Building relationships is always more fun that knowing how many tests you are going to have during first semester. And the relationships you build on the first day, will last far beyond the last day of class.