Liverpool Hope Logo
Find Your Course
Section Menu

Know your class through English

The first day

Like other "first days" in your life, your first day as a teacher in your own classroom will have you feeling excited and anxious in equal measures. Don't worry too much, though; even experienced teachers feel anxious about facing new students at the beginning of each school year. Just take a deep breath, look around your newly decorated classroom, double-check those lessons plans, and remind yourself of all you've done to get the year off to a successful start. These September start up tips will help you make a positive first impression.

  • Arrive early.
  • Write your name on the board so students can learn it right away.
  • Have a fun activity laid out on each student's desk so students can become engaged as they settle in. For key stage one, try dot-to-dot, matching, or drawing activities. For key stage two, consider an easy writing activity or word search game. These activities are an easy, comfortable way to start the day.
  • Greet students at the door with a smile and a pleasant "Good morning!"
  • Invite students to find their desk or table as soon as they arrive. They can wait to explore the classroom. This helps you create a good working climate right away.
  • Do some fun ice breaker activities to put everyone at ease. For older students, consider creating a class dictionary. Students write a three-part definition of themselves that includes physical characteristics, personality traits, and favourite hobbies or interests. Definitions could also include a pronunciation key to first and last names. Be sure to write a definition for yourself and then host a guessing game. For younger students, give each child a chance to share the story of a favourite experience or why they are excited about starting school.
  • Read a funny first-day-of-school story or a book about making and being a good friend to create a pleasant mood and ease students' fears and anxieties.
  • Introduce the important features of the room and the school with a tour or scavenger hunt.
  • Present the most important classroom routines in a positive way, as you would a regular lesson. Explain, discuss, and give students a chance to practice such routines and opening-of-day exercises.
  • Work with students to develop classroom rules.
  • Post a general schedule for lunch, music, physical education, recess, and class work. Emphasize and teach the routines that will help students move into these periods quickly and efficiently. Remember, they won't learn it all in a day. So, continue to emphasize and practice classroom routines for the first few weeks.
  • Post a daily schedule stating academic goals for the day. Note interruptions in the daily schedule, such as class pictures, programs, assemblies, or guest speakers.
  • Begin with simple academic activities—short reviews that guarantee a high success rate. These will boost confidence and ease fears. And they can serve as trial runs for practicing such routines as turning in completed work or asking for assistance.
  • Monitor and maintain constant contact with students. Avoid spending time on clerical work the first day. And never leave students unattended. In an emergency, get another teacher or school adult to monitor students.
  • Deal promptly with behaviour problems. Offer a lot of positive reinforcement for students picking up on routines quickly.
  • Generate interest and enthusiasm by hinting at exciting new topics you plan to begin later in the week.
  • Issue books and discuss their care.
  • Take students on a tour of the classroom and explain what is in all the cabinets and drawers. Show them what is accessible and what is off limits. Areas in which students will work independently, such as a listening centre, should remain off limits until you've had a chance to fully explain the purpose of the area and model how students will use it.

Overall, you'll make a good impression if your first-day activities involve all your students in ways that allow them to be successful and for you to be seen as a caring, organised leader who is focused on creating a stimulating and cooperative environment.

Create a Class Jigsaw Puzzle

Use a large piece of board to create a jigsaw puzzle that has as many pieces as she has students, plus one piece for you. Number each puzzle piece on the back, cuts them out, and distribute them to students on the first day of school. They could decorate their pieces with their names, pictures, and words. After sharing these as a group, reassemble the puzzle on a bulletin board to symbolize the importance of each individual's contribution to the class as a whole.

Play the Silly Name Game

On the first day, gather the children in a circle. Go around the circle and have each child pick a word to go with his or her name (either rhyming or beginning with the same letter as the name). Each child must say his or her name and repeat the names that came before ("I am Marshmallow Megan and that was Willowy Wendy and Soccer Sally and Jumping Jimmy..."). It's a fun way for young children to get to know one another and learn everybody's name.

Show-and-Tell in a Bag

Write your students a letter in which you introduce yourself and describe some of the exciting activities your class will be doing during the school year. Also give them a paper bag and ask each student to fill it with four or five items that are of some significance, perhaps a photo, an item from a collection, a souvenir from a trip, or a sports memento. In the first week of school, all sit together and open up the bags to show each other something about yourselves.

Guess Who?

On the first day, have students write three unique facts about themselves, such as a pet's name, favourite sport, talent, and so on. Collect the papers and read a description aloud to the class. The students then guess to whom you’re referring. Continue until all the descriptions have been read, including your own.

Two Truths, One Lie

Ask the children to tell the two wildest facts about themselves and one wild, but untrue fact. It is up to the class to guess which fact is untrue. For example, I water-ski frequently. I used to have pink hair. I love the Jonas Brothers. It's then up to the rest of the class to choose which "fact" is really fiction!

Detective Partners

Students are to pair up in groups of two and each group receives a sheet with pictures of a haunted house, music shop, school, supermarket, etc. There is also a circle by each picture. All around the classroom are the same pictures larger with an envelope located beneath. Inside the envelope are strips of paper with a problem on it. The groups have to take a strip and solve it before the other groups. When they solve it, they must come and check to see if it is correct. If it's correct, place a sticker in the circle by the picture that they solved. The first group to receive all 6 stickers win. They receive a certificate for becoming detectives! It's a good way to get to know each other in the process and become familiar with the new classroom.

Classroom Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt the Class and Classroom. Pairs of children are given a list of questions about their class and classroom to answer. First most accurate sheet wins. Some examples are: How many children are in this class? How many girls/boys are there? How many dictionaries are in the room? Where are the games kept? Where can you find a sharp pencil? This activity helps the children get to know each other and their new classroom.

Back to School Time Capsule

Each child completes their own ‘All About Me Poster’ including their favourite colour, book, television programme, sport, animal, school subject, etc. One the children have each completed it, they fold it up and seal it and it goes in a box labelled Time Capsule. In May, the children compete the same form and then they open the one from September and compare their answers. To their surprise many things have changed over the course of eight months. They even notice a difference in their handwriting.

The Scoop on My Summer

In the centre of a board put a large scoop of ice cream on top of a sugar cone which is easily made from construction paper !The title of the interactive board is "The Scoop on My Summer." Place photos from your holidays, summer hobbies, summer discoveries and such on the large centre ice cream cone with labels describing the summer activities. Then involve students on the first days of school by having them complete a smaller version of the cone that has 3-4 scoops of ice cream on their individual paper cut cones for them to list what they did over summer holidays. This enables students to get to know you as a real person and helps the students learn about one another as an introductory activity.

Friendship Web

Everyone sits in a circle and start with a ball of yarn. Say your name and an interesting fact and then throw the yarn to a friend. When the friend catches the yarn, he/she states his/her name and fact then throws it to another friend. It is a great way for everyone to get to know each other. Tell all the children we are building a friendship class web where we are always here to help each other.

One more thing to keep in mind: Getting-acquainted activities aren't just for the first day of school. Experienced teachers recommend sprinkling these types of icebreaker and welcome back activities throughout the first week of school. They know it's the quickest route to building a strong class community.

Origami Monster Bookmarks

Useful to promote reading for pleasure and encourage children to keep their place between reading sessions.

All the instructions are available here.

Vocabulary Word Tree or Reading Tree

Starts out bare, but by the end of the year is full of all the words they learned. Good way to review past vocabulary. Or use this idea for a "Reading Tree". Each time you read a book, write the title on a leaf and you will have a VERY full tree at the end of the year.

Playground Scrabble

Using large tiles, children are given a selection of letters and take turns to make words. A player collects points by placing words on the game board. Each letter has a different point value, so the strategy becomes to play words with high scoring letter combinations.

Rainbow Adjectives

Each child decorates a cloud with their name. Other children in the class are given the rainbow strips and are asked to write an adjective to describe the child. This activity recaps learning on using adjectives and also supports the development of relationships.

Grammatical Name Art

Write your name in bobble letter. In the first letter, write nouns that relate to you (common or proper nouns). Second letter decorate with verbs that relate to you (action or linking verbs). Third letter fill with adjectives that describe you. In the remaining letters, students can continue the pattern or nouns, verbs, adjectives or choose their own. This works well as a quick grammar review at the beginning of the year.

Wordfoto App

The children have their photograph taken then the app asks you to create a word list using words associated with the picture. Children can use their hobbies, interests, favourite book, adjectives to describe themselves, their name and so on. The resulting pictures can be used on display or as stimulus to talk about themselves.

Synonym Garden

When looking at synonyms, consider shades of meaning by using paint colour charts. Order the synonyms from mild to strong for example damp, wet, soaked, drenched. Then put each word in a colour block. Many of these together can make and eye-catching display.

Below are some great back to school stories to read with your class.

It’s Back to School We Go! By Ellen Jackson

Perfect for exploring how different the first day back at school is around the world. Included in this book are descriptions of school days in Kenya, Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, Peru, Germany, India, Russia, and the United States. On each page, there is a little story of a child from that country, and then a list of facts about school, children, or activities.

I am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child

Lola is nearly big enough to go to school. But in her opinion she is still really quite small, and has far too many important things to keep her extremely busy at home. Lola’s older brother Charlie tries to put his sister’s mind at rest that school will be friendly and fun. And when she tries it, she finds – of course – that he is right. This book splendidly encapsulates the significant points in the life of a small child. It is completely child-centred, from subject matter to illustrations, and will provide welcome reassurance for any child who is uncertain about this big step.

The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman

Miss Breakbone is a terrifying teacher. She hates kids. She confiscates her pupils' precious possessions. Like the one-eared toy cat Junkyard was planning to give his mum for her birthday. Junkyard's friend Einstein decides that the daring Dunderheads must rescue the cat. The group of friends work together brilliantly to burgle Breakbone's house and save the cat, which turns out to be much more valuable than it looks...Branded a bunch of time-squandering, mind-wandering, doodling, Dunderheads, this off-the-wall adventure shows that everyone has a talent. It's a great lesson in teamwork, friendship, bravery and collaboration, complemented by crazily comic illustrations.

Once Upon an Ordinary School Day by Colin McNaughton

An ordinary boy goes off to school and everything seems just as ordinary as ever, until a new teacher arrives in class. The new teacher is not ordinary at all and when he plays the children music and asks them to draw the pictures it inspires, the ordinary boy's imagination is unlocked and his attitude is transformed. Undoubtedly a message that anyone connected with writing for or the teaching of children will appreciate; this book tries to convey the mystery and excitement of storytelling.

Totally Wonderful Miss Plumberry by Michael Rosen

One totally wonderful day, Molly sets off for school. She's taking her grandma's crystal to show everyone. The crystal is from far away, is very special and helps her go to sleep at night. Everyone crowds to see - until Russell rushes by with his green and pink water-spurting stegosaurus. Suddenly, Molly is all alone and it has become a totally horrible day. However, Miss Plumberry soon notices the forlorn Molly and gathers everyone round to hear about the crystal. Wonderful Miss Plumberry! Rosen's text understandingly captures the roller-coaster extremes of infant emotions. Lee's use of space and page layout heartbreakingly illustrate just how alone one child can be in the space of the school classroom and how wonderful one special teacher can be.

When an Elephant Comes to School by Jan Ormerod

The first day at school can be as worrying for an elephant as it is for any child! Will they make any friends? What will they do all day? Will there be anything to eat? And what happens if they need the toilet? But elephant school is an understanding, happy sort of place, and with the help of the other pupils and helpful hints on sticky notes, a (relatively!) incident-free day is enjoyed by all. This potentially anxiety-inducing topic is explored with both humour and reassurance with a clear, repetitive layout, detailed, humorous illustrations and gentle colour tones. This elephant will strike a chord with any school first-timer.

Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg

This funny collection of poems for the 8-11 age group is all about one school. The verses cover such things as playtime, the school outing, the school nurse, French lessons, the three R's, nicknames, best friends - and a host of other topics all familiar within the school context. This book would be particularly effective to share with key stage two who would not only understand the various issues that are raised in each poem but also understand Ahlberg’s use of humour. The poems would be a good starting point to getting children keen on the idea of writing poetry that does not always need to rhyme. Also, examples such as being picked last for teams could be used as a focus for circle time, particularly during the first week of term to discuss issues and build relationships.