How to Have a Successful First Day of School

The first day of school is right around the corner! If you are anything like me, you are wrestling between wanting more summer days and being excited to start the next year of your dream job. While soaking up the sunshine, thoughts of the approaching return to school may be overwhelming. So, here are a few tips for making the first day of school successful and fun!

Welcome Students

  • Be at the door, preferably smiling.
  • Provide students with greeting options- high five/pound, hug (if comfortable) wave, or other.
  • Have students find their pre-placed nametag and take a seat. Give them a chance to tour and explore the classroom later, when there is less traffic.
  • Have something for students to do at their learning space. A student survey or other information page is not only helpful for engagement while you greet others, but it is worthwhile for you to read them later and learn more about students.

Be Prepared

  • Create an organized, inviting environment; a safe and fun place to learn. This may look like assigned areas for learning, labeled tubs for supplies, colorful decorations, etc.
  • If you have not placed or labeled student supplies in the fashion you find best, allow time for this process.
  • Think about seating- which arrangement is best for learning?
  • Have a schedule posted and printed for yourself. You may even set alarm reminders to make sure you get to lunch, recess and specials on time.
  • Create a printed list of things that must be done on the first day, and things you would like to get done on the first day. There is nothing wrong with extras prepared.
  • Have all materials set out and pages copied as needed.
  • When creating plans, use your resources. There are many lesson plans and activities to find online- whether it be TPT or other sites.

Get to Know One Another

  • Ice breakers… do a few! These activities allow students to get to know classmates and can be a lot of fun. They are also helpful for teachers as we watch how students interact and learn about them as people, too.
  • One great way to engage students is through game play. Here is a first day game that allows students to get to know one another in an effective and fun style. It can be done digitally or on paper. The escape room format is exciting and motivating. Students complete tasks getting to know classmates, including academic components. This also gives teachers an opportunity to observe learning habits and the way students interact with one another. Below is a link to this effective and fun activity!

Print and Play Back to School Escape Room (Digital Option Included!)

  • Show interest in all students as individuals. Find something kind and positive to say to each student some time throughout the day.
  • Share about yourself, too! Create a quick PowerPoint or other visual presentation to engage students and let them get to know who you are as well.

Share Expectations and Practice Routines

  • For successful days after the first, making sure students know expectations and routines and how to follow them is imperative.
  • You may want to post charts with expectations and routines somewhere around your classroom. This allows you to have students refer to them as issues arise and saves you the time of repeating yourself. J
  • Model the expectations and routines and demonstrate them in action. You can do this yourself, or have students act them out. This helps students take ownership and feel like leaders among peers.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Hearing and doing are two different things. Students will better learn and understand expectations and routines if they are involved. Whoever does the work does the learning!

Stay Positive and Have Fun

  • Though often anxiety is high for all, have a good time!
  • Set the vibe for the year with enthusiasm and optimism. We want students to go home excited to look forward to returning the next day.
  • Keep your sense of humor. When things don’t go as planned, smile, giggle and move along.
  • Remind yourself that no day is perfect, especially the first one!

Go Home Feeling Successful

  •  You survived and thrived by doing all you could to be prepared and execute your plans.
  • Don’t feel bad if not everything got done. The first day is a whirlwind; there’s so much to do! Remember, there are many days to come in which to get things accomplished.
  • Be proud of yourself. You made it and gave the students your best.
  • Celebrate yourself and relax. Let rest prepare you for a wonderful year to come!

No list is complete. There are many ways to approach the first day of school. Do what feels best to you, but make sure to visualize what you want the day to look and sound like in advance. Hopefully this list takes away some of the anxiety and worries you may be facing.

Happy teaching and have a great year!

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