Sunday, August 5, 2012

First Day Activities

As a teacher, what you do the first day/week really sets the tone for your classroom.  The most important thing I want to convey to my students those first few days of school is that my classroom is a fun and safe place and I am teacher with high expectations for all.  A few years ago I finally decided that the first day with my kids I was not going to talk at them all class period.  For one thing, my throat would be so dry and sore by the end of the day I could barely talk.  For another, I could just picture the thought bubble above every student's head as I droned on and on about expectations, procedures, and grading.  The video above perfectly sums up what I imagine my students' hear that first day due to information overload from seven different teachers.

I did a post about Welcoming Students to a New School.  I want my students to have a positive first day of school no matter what.  Some students come in completely confident, energized, and excited for their first day of middle school.  Others arrive nervous, upset, and overwhelmed.  I want to demonstrate to my students that my classroom is a safe place where everyone belongs.  I try to build that sense of classroom community from day one.  My teammate Linda who teaches Social Studies does the most fabulous job of creating a classroom community.  Last year she had students do bucket drops for each other.  That was a ton of extra work, but she took in and our students really enjoyed and appreciated it.

The past few years I have done this Number Activity for the First Day  in all my math classes.  Our classes that first day were always between 20-30 minutes long so my typical plan for day one was:

  • Introduce myself
  • Three part student intro:  Name, previous school, one summer memory
  • Pass out the first assignment of the year, "Getting to Know You"
  • Very quickly highlight the supply list (most important that they need a binder ASAP in addition the normal supplies)
  • Play the Number Activity
  • If there is any time left they can begin the "Getting to Know You"  which is due the first Friday of school

Another very fun and engaging activity I plan on doing this year is an activity I learned about during my initial Carnegie training called "I can relate".  Everyone stands up.  One person begins by making a statement and as they are talking someone else jumps in and says "I can relate" and explains why they can relate.  After a person speaks they get to sit down.  The person standing and talking keeps talking until someone else pops in with "I can relate".  It was a fun activity.  For example, someone said something about Spanish and I said, "I can relate because I double majored in Spanish and Eled".  At that point another teacher jumped in and said, "I can relate because I got a D in Spanish".  It just keeps going until everyone has sat down.  Some of the responses are quite comical.  People try to jump in because they do not want to be the last person standing.  I think it would be fun activity for the first day and it would get every student up on their feet and everyone would participate.  Has all the elements of a perfect icebreaker IMO!

The first days/weeks of school are all about establishing routines and procedures.  Consistency in expectations will help your students to quickly understand what you expect and value in your classroom.  It is up to you as a teacher to let your students know what your expectations are.

Linking up with Fun in First for the What's Your Favorite Back to School Activity?  link party.

Also linking up with The Caffeinated Teacher for her First Day Plans link party.


  1. Lol! Love me some Charlie Brown. I can relate activity sounds pretty cool. Should be fun.

  2. The "I Can Relate" activity would be a great one for advisory too - great icebreaker that helps kids connect. Thanks!

  3. I love this "I can relate" twist to the typical stuff you do on the first day. But it makes it much more interactive and fosters coneections between the kids. Very cool stuff. Thx for posting this idea.

  4. What a fun game :) I have done a "Stand Up" (Stand up if you.... play basketball, have siblings, etc) I think my 8th graders would like this because they already know one another and are not too shy to speak up.

  5. As I sit and brainstorm to integrate more mathematical concepts I have come up with: Stand near a prime number, a multiple of 9, a the product of 8 and 7, the difference of the two largest numbers hanging in the room. Using this strategy it will tell you more about their mathematical abilities.


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