Empty classroom with a blank board

Set the right tone and help get your middle and high school students engaged from the very start of the school year. Try out some of these first-day ideas from 6th grade teachers all the way through 12th.

For our teachers’ first day of school, we’ve rounded up the following tips to help ease the process. Read on for tips to:

  • introduce classroom rules
  • prepare students to learn
  • break the ice
  • make a good first impression
  • get to know your students

On Your Mark. Get Set. Let the School Year Begin!

Introduce Rules in a Way Your Students Won’t Hate

Reflective Thinker: woman sitting on a boulder overlooking a peninsula
Reflective Thinker
Teaches 6th and 7th grade

“Rules and procedures must be established on the first day, but imagine what it must be like to sit through six to seven classes where every teacher is talking nonstop about these rules. I usually mix it up and provide a more engaging way to disseminate rules and procedures. Students respond really well to my Classroom Management: ‘Get to Know You’ Game and ‘Rules and Procedures’ Game.

The remainder of the period is spent getting to know students. I use Mingle with Metaphors or ‘Get to Know You’ Movie Tickets. Both are engaging and get students up and moving!”


Ease Your Class Back Into Learning

Merry in the Middle: illustration of a woman in a lab coat, waving
Merry in the Middle
Teaches middle school Math and Science

“On the first day of school I always read The Fun They Had by Isaac Asimov. This science fiction story written in the early 1950’s predicts with remarkable accuracy the role technology would play in education in the future. I then lead a discussion around the school as a learning institution and a social institution. It kicks off my lessons on social responsibility beautifully.”


Make Class Norms Fun

Social Studies Success: illustration of a woman in front of a globe and history text books
Social Studies Success
Teaches middle school Social Studies

“The first day of 7th grade can be overwhelming for my kiddos — so many teachers, all with their own rules that they’re introducing.

Rather than just tell my students about the rules, I do a scavenger hunt. Kids have to discover for themselves where to pick up papers, where the bathroom pass is located, where the supplies are neatly tucked away, and more. They wrap up the lesson making an annotated map of the classroom and summarizing what they’ve learned. They have fun the first day of school and remember the classroom rules and procedures. You can read more about it on my blog.”


Let Students Set Goals

Misty Miller: illustration of a student and a photo of a teacher
Misty Miller
Taught 7th and 8th grade Special Education

“The first day was spent going over the handbook and class rules/procedures. I also did a Post-It note activity with the following fill-in-the-blanks:

*Our classroom should be _________ every day.

*My goal for math this year is _____________________.

*Math is important because ______________________.

Students wrote their answers (without their names) and posted them in the specified area on the white board. Very enlightening!”


Set the Tone with a Lesson

The Teaching Room: Neu Teaching Products
The Teaching Room
Teaches 9th and 12th grade English

“The first day of school includes teaching a real lesson to set the tone for the school year. I introduce myself, check schedules and rosters to make sure everyone is in the right place, deliver a syllabus, and teach a lesson that is usually associated with summer reading or grammar. Getting-to-know-each-other activities usually come at the end of the first week or beginning of the second week.”


Use Activities to Set Benchmarks

Jean Adams: Flamingo Math
Jean Adams
Teaches 10th-12th grade mathematics, Pre-Calculus and AP Calculus AB

“The first day is my only chance to make a great first impression. I want my students to know that they’re important to me and that learning is paramount. I actually have about three days of quick activities that engage my students and help me connect with them. On day one, I have my mantra of ‘Walk in Working!’ to establish, so students find a ‘First Day Placemat’ of eight pre-requisite math problems to get them started. We also do an anonymous survey on day 2 of first impressions called ‘The Teacher I Prefer.’ And on day 3, students get to complete a ‘Who I Am’ sheet so I can get to know them on a more personal level.

Teaching is people business, too! We just have to find ways to connect with our people! So excited!”


Study Your Roster Before the First Day

Madame H: illustration of a snail with French flag colors (blue, red, white)
Madame H
Teaches high school French (levels 2 through AP)

“I always make sure to spend time before the first day finding out as much information as possible about my students. I make lists about each individual and then use that information to create a seating chart that accommodates diversity in the classroom. Next, I add labels to the desks notating the student who sits in each period so students can find their seat easily. The last thing I do is memorize five to six names from each class’ seating chart and call on those students the first day. It gives the impression that I know everyone and I’ve done my ‘homework.’ It also sends a direct message to my students that I’m organized and with it. The students are also thrown for a loop because secondary teachers typically arrange students alphabetically the first few weeks to help with learning names.”

Wishing you and your students a fantastic first day — and a school year filled with discovery.

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