Planning the first day of school can be stressful, even for an experienced teacher! You want to start the year off on the right foot, set the right tone for the year, get to know your students, let them get to know you, AND teach them a little about how the classroom will work. No wonder you’re stressed out – that’s a pretty tall order! If you keep reading, I will share my 3 favorite activities for the first day of school, which together will help you accomplish ALL of the criteria above!
Activity #1: Start by letting the students get to know a little bit about you with a quiz.
A quiz on the first day?! Don’t worry, this one’s just for fun. I give my students a 10-question matching quiz about me. Since I’m a math teacher, the statements all have a number answer, and there is an answer choice bank for them to choose the numbers from. It includes statements like, “The number of years I have been married” (6), “The number of states I traveled to this summer” (3), and “The number of the month I was born in” (12).
This is a great, low-pressure way for the students to learn a little bit about you. I usually give them 5-10 minutes to fill out their answers, and then go over the correct answers together. I give a small prize (like a piece of candy) to the person who got the most correct answers. If you’d like to check out the quiz I use in my classroom, click here! It’s completely editable so that you can make it all about you!
Activity #2: Now that they’ve learned about you, it’s time to get to know them.
I’m a very introverted person by nature and was a shy kid, so I always hated (and still do!) being put on the spot, especially on the first day of school. I know that a lot of my students feel the same way, especially in middle school! To take the pressure off, I like to use an activity I call “Numbers Around the Room.” I got the idea from Sherrie at Middle School Math Rules.
I print out the numbers 0-13 each on its own piece of colored paper and tape them up around the room in order. Then I ask questions that can be answered with a number, and students go stand by the number of their answer. I ask if anyone wants to share about their answer and call on volunteers, but I don’t make anyone speak out if they don’t want to. Here are some examples of questions that I ask:
- How old are you? (If you teach students older than 13, you will need to include bigger numbers)
- What month were you born?
- How many siblings do you have?
- How many pets do you have?
- How many extracurricular activities are you involved in?
- On a scale of 1-10, how much do you like math (or other subject)?
If you want to use this activity, I have made number signs from 0-18 that you can download for FREE by clicking here. Just print out the pages you need!
Activity #3: They’ve gotten to know you, you’ve gotten to know them – now it’s time to get to know the classroom.
I don’t usually do my procedures and expectations and rules spiel on the first day of school. I know that my students are already overwhelmed with information on the first day. However, I do want them to get an idea of what my class is going to be like and how it works. My favorite way to do that is with a Classroom Scavenger Hunt!
I prepare a worksheet with questions that can be answered just by looking around the room. For example, I have a poster about measurement in my room, so one of the questions is, “How many cups are in a pint?” I have lots of quote posters hanging up, so some of the questions ask the students to fill in the blank of a quote or find out who said the quote. I also ask questions that require students to find important places in the room, such as “Where is the lost and found?” or “Where will you turn in your work?”
This is a great way for students to begin to become comfortable with your classroom and to discover all the resources available to them in it. You didn’t spend hours hanging posters over the summer just for students to never look at them! Make sure your scavenger hunt draws attention to anything you want students to know and use in the room. I don’t allow them to ask me for help – just reiterate that they need to keep looking! You can check out the template I use by clicking here!
With these three activities, you have successfully told your students about yourself (with the Teacher Quiz), gotten to know a little about your students (with Numbers Around the Room), and introduced them to your classroom (with the Classroom Scavenger Hunt). By doing these things, you have established that your class will be engaging, full of learning, and a little bit fun – you’ve set the right tone for the year! See, I told you that I would show you how to meet all of those first-day criteria!
What are your favorite first-day-of-school activities?