The first day of school is coming. Ok, it’s still a while away, but I want to do some different things this year and it begins with the first day. Three ideas beginning the first day that will change the entire year.
Do the Unexpected
1. Don’t read rules/syllabus the first day. Unless you are at the elementary level– I know administration expects this. Students expect this. Even parents expect this. So I guess that’s why I’ve decided against it. I like to do the unexpected.
Look at it this way: You have just met someone on an important interview and after the first smile and “hello” they proceed to lecture you for nearly an hour about all the rules and what will happen to you if you break one of their (sometimes arbitrary) rules. What would you think? Is this a person that you would ever want to work for?
No, and imagine now if you were a teenager. I don’t even discuss classroom rules, because after being in school for years, they know rules. They may not know the specific rules that I will use, but we can all get along for a few days. The first three weeks are very chaotic with kids changing schedules several times until everything is just right. So I am not wasting time telling my rules the first day when they could easily be in the room next door the second day.
Whether you are at the high school like I am or teaching elementary or middle school movement is important. Trust me, they know how to behave–unless they were raised by wolves and this is their first contact with humans.
Will I talk about rules? Ever? Yes, at some point–about the second week. I will even go over the syllabus and important dates for them. And require their signature and parent signature. I also post the syllabus to Google Classroom to avoid that student who says the 12th week of school that they didn’t know they were supposed to turn in work or come to class.
NO Open Seating
2. Yes, I use seating chart and it is not always popular. But it is necessary. If this were a 12 step program I would stand up and declare: “Hi, I’m Linda and I’m a CONTROL FREAK!” No seating chart means I have to get to know 180 students quickly. I will have to mispronounce a bunch of names and look silly. I will not be able to CONTROL where students are sitting, and who they are sitting next to and who they are talking to.
But, and this is a big but, I need to take attendance quickly to so I can maximize the amount of instructional time I have. And, I don’t know any of the students. So until I get to know who works well with others, who is a loner, who needs more structure, etc. I have them sit in an assigned seat. And then about once a month, I change the seating chart and students get to know a new group.
Even at middle school students were insulted by the idea of being forced to sit where they are told and to be honest I can identify with that. But, it saves time every day to have the seats assigned and have students quickly enter and sit down without deciding where they want to sit.
3. Types of Activities to Use
The first day is not the time for group activities because they don’t know anyone. Instead, try playing some games like “Would You Rather” or have students create an “All About Me” poster for the bulletin board.
Yes, I do talk, but I try to keep it to a minimum. Sometimes I post some graphs or images around the room and ask them what they notice. Or, they could play 4 corners. Hang signs in the corners with A, B, C and D. Then, ask some multiple choice questions like “The best part of back to school is: A. Meeting new people B. Learning new things C. Eating in the Cafeteria D. Getting new clothes”. Then the students silently move to the corner of the room with the answer they chose.
Throw in some odd questions just for fun, but keep it content free. If you watch students as they are engaging with others- or not- you will gain some information about your new students that may be valuable.
For more great ideas: Check out this book I have been reading. I know there is an updated version. This is the one I have been reading on Kindle. I wish it were available on Audible.
And Angela Watson always has terrific ideas on a variety of teacher subjects. I joined her 40 hour teacher workweek club to help me streamline some procedures in the classroom so I have more time for fun. https://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/blog/