My first day of school is already next week! I am getting pretty excited about starting another year, but also quite nervous. One thing that has helped me prepare for the first day is to write out a detailed plan of my first lesson. Sometimes I even teach it to an empty classroom, just to make sure I get everything right! Below, I will briefly cover what I am planning for my first day of school.

Entering the Room

I like the idea of students getting in the habit of learning when they enter the room. So, on the first day, I start with matched seating! As I welcome students to the room, I hand them a picture (last year I used different types of pokemon). There are directions on the board explaining that each seat in the room has a pokemon on it. Students need to match the pokemon in their hand to the same one on a chair – and that becomes their seat!

This has worked well for me, because it begins to build a habit for students. I am training them to think that, “When I enter the room, it’s time to learn.”

Building Community

Once we’re settled, one of my primary focuses on the first day is to build community. I do this a few different ways.

First, I give a note card to each student, and ask them to write questions they have for me. Throughout the next few days, I answer these questions. Since it is challenging for a middle school teacher to build instant and strong relationships with 200 or more students, this gives the students a direct and approachable way to communicate with me.

I also go through the entire class, and ask for names (while doing attendance). I believe it is very important to get each student’s name correct, especially pronunciation! It usually takes me a few weeks before I have all names memorized, but I have found it is hard to establish relationships if you don’t know a student’s name.

Finally, I try and get the class up and moving. This year, I will probably start with a 4 corners activity – where I ask a question, and provide 4 possible answers. Each corner of the room represents one answer, and students stand in that corner and discuss why they chose that corner. This gets students moving, helps us begin building community, and allows me to learn a bit more about my students.

Teaching Procedures

There are three procedures I try to teach on the first day of school. When students initially come into class, I am implicitly training them that they should be looking to learn when they enter the room.

The second procedure, and in my opinion the most important one, is teaching an attention getter. I explicitly explain to students how I plan on getting their attention (I generally use a simple 3-2-1 countdown, and will also use a call and response). I also explain to students what the room should look like when I’ve completed my attention getter. Then, during 4 corners, we practice. This, in my opinion, is the basis of any classroom management strategy.

The third procedure I teach, is clean up and dismissal.

The End of Class

At the end of class, I will take a few note cards that students wrote, and answer a few questions. If there is time, I will try to guess names (and sometimes even turn it into a competition). Finally, I explain to students how we exit class. Not when the bell rings – rather, when I dismiss students.

I usually dismiss by row, students push in their chair, and then line up. Once students are lined up, then they may leave when the bell rings!

Your First Day

I often see teachers – many first year teachers – asking about what lessons or activities work best on the first day of school. I felt sharing my own experience would spark some ideas, give an example, or help generate conversation. If you have any questions, comments, or are looking for more ideas, I want to empower you to join our mailing list and chat with me on twitter, or in the comments below!

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