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- Real Teaching Resolutions - January 5, 2017
- 23 Times I have Questioned My Sanity While Teaching - September 7, 2016
- Part 3: Adventures in Real Word English/Language Arts - Let Them Be Great - August 23, 2016
- Part 2: Adventures in Real World English/Language Arts: Making Them Care - August 4, 2016
After nine years of teaching and eighteen “first days” due to semester schedules, I still get butterflies. Weeks before school I wake up with nightmares and think of scenarios that will never happen. One of the many joys of teaching. There are different ways to handle the first day of school, in fact Harry Wong even has an entire book on it.
These are some tips and tricks I have used to make the first day of school go a little more smoothly:
1. Seating Charts. Not everyone agrees with me, but I have a seating chart on the first day of school. I have a PPT with a chart. Each desk has a color and a number. I put the chart up and students find their desks. It sets the tone that I am in charge and I am organized. It prevents fighting over seats and helps you learn names quickly. I teach high school students and I put them in alphabetical order or get their previous teacher to help me set up a chart that will prevent conflict.
2. Something to do. Make sure those kids have something to do as soon as they walk in. I have it on their desk and tell them to start. I have a first day of school questionnaire. I put parental contact information, class schedule, and a series of questions such as do you have internet access at home, what did you score on last year’s EOC, and what are your goals after graduation. On the back I have silly questions such as if you could be an animal what would you be etc.? It keeps them busy and quiet for about 10 minutes so I can check roll and take a deep breath.
3. Policies and Procedures. Lay the ground rules and stick to them. Make sure everything is consistent with school policy and be stay with it. In addition to turning in classwork and what to do if you are absent, decide what bothers you most of all. We all have to pick our battles and I have an entire slide in my PPT about things that bother me. I explain why I do not like them to shoot paper into the trash can or why I do not like being interrupted during my lesson. The most important rule I have is respect. I treat my kids how I want to be treated and I rarely have problems.
4. Ice breakers. Sometimes I use them and sometimes I don’t. It depends on time and the kids. If the kids are crazy, I don’t: we dive into number 5. Here are some I have used, “stolen,” and changed. Feel free to use and adapt them to your kiddos:
- What I found in the attic. Kids get up one by one and “open” an imaginary door and find an object in the attic. I start with a basketball, I dribble it, turn off the light, and shut the door. A student comes in next, opens the door, turns on the light, dribbles the basketball, and adds an object. The next student goes through dribbles the basketball, interacts with the classmates’ object, and adds their own. Go through until all students are finished. They love it.
- Music Videos. I love music as much as my kids do. I play a music video and they respond to it in various ways. I have used Brad Paisley’s “Letter to Me,” and they write a letter to themselves about last year and tell themselves advice and things they should have done. I’ve play Green Day’s “Time of Your Life,” and have them write about the “snapshots in their minds” moments that stick out to them. There are amazing songs and you can use in your class.
- President Obama’s 2009 First Day of School Speech. I LOVE this speech. I pass out copies and we watch the video together on YouTube. He speaks of how he could have gone in a different direction and he challenges the youth of America to find a mentor to help with goals. I have the kids write down their goals, hopes, and dreams so I can help them anyway I can.
- Themes. I give the students a major theme in literature. They define it in their own words, put a piece of literature they have read that represents that theme, explain why, and draw a symbol representing the theme.
5. Diagnostic test. Our district give a diagnostic test that must be given the first few weeks of school. I use this because my SLT (student learning target) is based on this. I do not want to influence the data so I give it immediately, even on the first day of school, especially if they are a little over excited.
6. Organization. Have everything together before they arrive. Extra copies, a copy of the PPT (if the computer doesn’t work), hard copies of your roll, etc. Never let them see you stressed or panicked. You got this. Spend time BEFORE they arrive and get your stuff together, do not do it on your prep or in the morning of the first day, you will be stressed. Go days before and do it, you will feel better, I promise.
First days are stressful for everyone. First impressions are important, but remember they are not the end all be all. Every day is a chance for a fresh start. Consistency is key in those first couple of weeks. You will be exhausted, but hard work now means smooth sailing later. Be brave, drink coffee, and have fun.