What I Do on the First Day of School

Even as an experienced teacher, the first day of school can be very exciting but also very nerve-wracking. Being in a room of unfamiliar faces who don’t know anything about me, my expectations, or my routines isn’t easy. When you are new to teaching or new to a grade level, it is sometimes hard to know what you should do on the first day of school. Here’s what I do on the first day of school as a 7th grade ELA teacher.

I give them assigned seats.

I would never start the first day of school without having a seating chart. My desks are in rows, and I put the students in reverse alphabetical order. This helps me memorize the students’ names, and it also helps me avoid any behavior issues that could arise by letting students pick their seats before they know me or my expectations. I write their names directly on the desk with a sharpie, and I use a different color for each class period. Coloring over it with a dry erase marker will erase it later.

I have something for them to do immediately.

I have always provided students with something to do as soon as they come into my room on the first day of school. That way I can address any questions or issues with a student while everyone else is working. A few years ago I decided to write a letter to my students and have them respond. This helps the students get to know me better and it gives them an opportunity to share about themselves. I read the letters after school on the first day. I have had students share some very serious topics with me such as losing a parent. I put the letters that I feel I need to follow up on in a separate stack. You can sign up for my newsletter to receive a free copy of the welcome letter here!

I review expectations.

The administration at my school always provides us with some information that we need to share with students on the first day including what to do during an emergency. I also go over what students need to do if they want to ask a question or if they need to do something like sharpen their pencil.

We complete an interactive activity.

I like to include an interactive activity on the first day of school because I like talking to my students. Last year I did an emoji this or that activity that I really liked. On the first slide, students got to guess what the emojis represented, and then on the next they got to share their opinions. It gives students a chance to start opening up, but it also is a great way to review expectations for participation. You can access a FREE editable version of this activity here!

I always plan more than I can fit in.

Running out of things for my students to do on the first day is my nightmare scenario, so I always am prepared with activities for them to work on if we get through everything early. These context clues color by number activities are a fun and engaging way to fill time with a standards-based activity and are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.