Ten Tips for the First Day of School

Oct 26, 2023
First day of school

For teachers, there’s no day like the first day of the school year. Veterans and rookies alike are just the right mixture of nervous and excited. So are students.

With some planning, common sense, and communication, you can make the first day of school the best it can be—a springboard to a successful and rewarding school year. Here’s how to make that happen:

1. Greet every student warmly

Start building relationships with your new students by greeting them with an awesome attitude, offering a handshake or high five, and an attempt to catch their names. You won’t remember all of them but hearing how their names are pronounced can help save you and students from any embarrassing gaffes when you’re taking attendance later.

Letting students know how excited you are that they’re in your class this year sets a positive tone, making your time together smoother and creating a wonderful class culture and community.

2. Use a seating chart, at least for the first week or so

It will make it much easier for you to learn names, especially if you sort the seating alphabetically by first name.

3. Save the rules for the second day

Enjoy a fresh start by not taking yourself too seriously. Students know how to generally behave in a classroom, and incidents on the first day are rare, so the time is much better spent on building relationships.

4. Don’t be afraid to share something about yourself

Students are interested in the new person they will be spending nine months with, so prepare a short biographical talk. They are particularly interested in whether you have children and pets. Pictures earn bonus points.

5. Post the daily schedule as prominently as possible

Even if students have previously attended the school, the summer break is a difficult transition. They often get confused about timing. Making a poster will save you a lot of “When do we…?” questions. You can also hand out blank student organizers, and have your class fill-in and walk-through your class schedule together, so they have a copy handy at thier desk.

6. Explain the space

Familiarize students with how your room is organized, especially if they are bringing supplies with them or need to store things overnight. It could also be helpful to stock your classroom with plenty of grab-and-go snacks and drinks to keep everyone fueled during busy hours.

7. Find a good ice-breaking activity

Preferably, one that avoids making students share things with the whole group on the first day. Check out a few of our favorites.

8. Ask for students to notify you of any exceptionalities

You want to know as soon as possible if students have trouble with hearing or vision so that you can better plan lessons.

9. Expect the unexpected

First days rarely go according to plan. You may have to work around schedule changes and general confusion.

10. Plan the second day

Teachers often spend so much effort making sure that the first day of school is perfect that they forget to lay out the expectations for the rest of the week.

Even the most jaded teacher can get caught up in the excitement of the first day of school. Do your best to carry that infectious energy throughout the year.

Looking for more back-to-school resources? Kick off the school year with exciting icebreakers that help students connect without the usual awkwardness.

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